When you mount a horse, the saddle twists on the horse’s back, toward you. This can be very uncomfortable and sometimes painful to the horse because the saddle presses into the muscles on the rider’s side and also presses against the spine on the opposite side. For many mounting misbehaviors this is the cause.
This includes misbehaviors such as shifting weight from front to back and side to side, stepping forward (not standing still), and arching of the back. If the rider does not know how to mount properly, the horse will react to the uncomfortable pressures and will try to adjust his stance and position in order to stand the process.
If you have read both of our other articles on mounting a horse, and have practiced the proper mounting techniques explained in them, you have most likely already seen a difference in your horse’s ability to deal with the mounting process. In addition to the techniques explained in the other articles, I will explain a few more here.
1. Mount With Loose Reins
I know that mounting with loose reins may not be “traditional”, but I’d like you to take a second to think about what really matters…is it your horse’s comfort or is it tradition? Many other riders who mount with pressure on the reins don’t do it because it may be traditional, they do it as a quick-fix “solution” to get their horse to stand still. However, they continue to use this method to force the horse to stand still in a situation where he may not have any option but to move.
Since it is easier to pull a horse over side-by-side than end-over-end, mounting from the side already creates a major imbalance that the horse must try to make up for by shifting his weight. The horse’s head and neck play a huge role in balancing their entire body. When you mount with pressure on the reins, you are not only telling the horse to respond to that pressure (by moving), you are also restricting his ability to re-balance himself.
Horses who have been subject to the rider’s improper mounting practices over a period of time, will begin to move not only from discomfort, but also from habit. This is why it is important to break the habit of bad mounting right now, and begin mounting in a way that is most comfortable for your horse.
What if the horse always moves off when you don’t have pressure on the reins? The horse has not been properly taught to stand still in any situation. This is not a mounting problem, it is a ground-training problem that the rider/owner must overcome by teaching the horse to stand still on a loose rein. Read about how to accomplish this in our Standing Still While Mounting article.
2. Stand Close – Mount Straight Up
From now on, when you mount your horse, stand as close to his body as you can, and use the energy from your legs to bounce straight up into the air. The further you stand from your horse, the more pressure you exert on the twisting saddle, therefore, the more pain you create.
3. Do Not Hold the Cantle
Most riders mount by holding the reins in their left hand while grasping the pommel (front of the saddle), with their right hand on the cantle of the saddle (back of the saddle). By mounting in this way, you create much more twisting on the horse’s back from the saddle. All of your weight that is being pulled up against gravity is pulling the the saddle. The saddle’s panels are, in turn, digging into the horse’s spine and muscles.
The less stressful way to mount is to place the reins in your left hand while grasping the horse’s mane. Then, you may hold the pommel (front of the saddle) with your right hand. This creates significantly less pressure and twisting on the saddle, spine and muscles, making it more comfortable for the horse.
These misbehaviors can become very dangerous to the rider. Once you put your foot in the stirrup and lift off the ground, any movement from the horse can leave you hopping or dragging on the ground. This is why it is most important to find the underlying source of the mounting misbehavior and fix it from there.
If you are making your best effort to make the mounting process easier on your horse, but he is still exhibiting bad behaviors such as not standing still and turning his hindquarters away from you, the cause may be from improper or inadequate training.
A. Race Horses
If your horse has come from the race track, he has most likely never learned how to stand still during the mounting process. This is because most jockeys get thrown up on the horse’s back while the horse is walking or trotting off. In this situation, you will need to start from scratch and work patiently with the horse on standing still while mounting.
B. Young or Green Horses
If your horse is young and/or green, problems with mounting are very common. Young horses are not yet accustomed to the feel of the twisting saddle on their backs while mounting. To get over this type of situation, be slow and patient and re-introduce your young horse to mounting, making sure that you are also utilizing proper mounting techniques.
C. Spirited or Eager Horses
Some horses are just very spirited or eager to start the work they so enjoy. These types of horses are usually fed grain and are on stall board with minimal turnout. If your horse is like this, try lungeing him just before practicing standing still for mounting. This will remove the excess energy that has built up from environmental factors. When you begin working on standing still for mounting, be very slow and patient. It is important that your horse learns that he cannot get out to do the work he likes to do until he first stands still.
Taking this information into account, you should be able to recognize the source of your horse’s misbehavior and decide on a training solution to fix it.
To learn why the mounting process is so stressful for the horse, view this article: Physics of Mounting
To learn how you can make the mounting process less stressful on your horse, view this article: Easier Mounting