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Teaching a Horse to Stand Still while Being Mounted

By: Galadriel Billington

10:26AM Apr 8, 2004

Many horses are mischevious at mounting time; they won't stand still, they wiggle, they move away. Usually this is because no one has ever properly taught them to stand still--they're not misbehaving, it's just that no one has ever really "sat down" with them and explained what is expected at mounting time.

So what you need to do is to teach them to just stand still when you are mounting. It isn't particularly hard.

First teach the horse to "stand." Don't assume he knows it-start all over and make sure. I usually do this by walking the horse, stopping, using the lead to ask for a stop, and saying "whoa." Eventually, you use the lead less and less until he is responding entirely to the verbal command, and does not need you to use the lead rope to get the idea across.
I have an additional page on teaching "stand," and another on teaching voice commands, both of which go into this concept in more depth.

Once you have taught him to stand while you are moving around his body, and even walking away, you can begin to work on teaching him to stand while you are mounting. This works best with a second person to help you, although it can be done alone if your horse responds very well to "stand."

You start off, as usual, by leading him at a walk and asking for a whoa several times. Now, you go to mount. Your second person holds the horse. You say, "Whoa" (or "Stand") and walk around. You say "Whoa," and mess with the girth. You say "Whoa," and fiddle with the stirrup. Say "Whoa" and put weight in the stirrup. Finally, say "Whoa" and attempt to mount.

If he stood still, congratulations. Reward him! Put him away. He was *good* and deserves a treat. That was all he needed to really understand the concept. If not, you simply repeat the exercise, and keep asking him to stay whoa'd. He will eventually understand that you want him to stand still to be mounted. When he does, remember to reward him well and let him be done for the day.

After a few sessions with a helper, then you attempt to mount on your own. Tell him, "whoa" and climb on. Voila!

Don't forget to teach him to continue standing still after you have mounted. It's terribly bad manners to walk away before he has been asked; so make sure after you mount, you remind him to "whoa" until you specifically ask him to move on.

You may still encounter difficulties after you have made sure he really does understand "whoa." In such cases, it is usually a good idea to have your horse's saddle, back, and teeth checked out; if he is obediently standing for other exercises, but continues to squirm away from being mounted, he may well be hurting.

If a horse is in serious pain of one kind or another, he may be literally unable to take the weight of a rider without flinching. If you have gone through all these steps and your horse still moves away from being mounted, then I urge you to have him checked from nose to hooves. Have a saddle fitter check your saddle; have a vet check him for soundness; have your vet or an equine dentist check his teeth; have him evaluated by an equine sports massage therapist or a chiropractor. Check all your tack for fit; you never know what might be the problem. Check even down to the browband; a too-tight browband can cause terrible headaches! DON'T just decide that he is being ornery, because you know he isn't; you taught him better, and he is still afraid.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.