When horses move while a rider is mounting, it can be annoying or even dangerous. Teaching your horse to stand still for mounting is a simple skill that even novice horse owners can teach their horse.
In this article, I’ll show you 8 ways to end this habit for good. By helping:
- reduce discomfort for your horse during mounting,
- making a simple change to your mounting routine,
- and using simple horse training hacks like flexing their neck or blocking them in,
by the end of this article, you’ll have the tools to teach your horse to stand for mounting.
Does your horse try to walk off while you are in the middle of mounting?
This happens for many riders. It becomes a bad habit when it isn’t corrected. It is also very unsafe for you as the rider. If your horse starts moving while you are only part of the way mounted, it could cause you to fall off. Even worse, if your foot is caught in the stirrup, you be dragged by your horse.
If this is a habit your horse has developed, here are some suggestions to help fix the problem.
1. Use a Mounting Block to Minimize Discomfort
A rider mounting from the ground can be uncomfortable for a horse.
The first step when your horse won’t stand still for mounting is to rule out pain or discomfort that might be bugging them. Your horse may have back or neck soreness, or their saddle doesn’t fit right. Mounting from the ground will make the pain worse for them. If they move away while you are trying to mount, it could be their way of trying to avoid more pain. Make sure the saddle is fitting them correctly, and have a vet rule out any possible soreness.
Some horses with a history of soreness in the past may also try to move away during mounting because they remember the discomfort. Try using a mounting block for a while to see if they will stand for mounting better if you use a block. The mounting block reduces torque on the saddle by raising you up so you are not putting as much pressure on your horse’s back while mounting.
MOUNTING TIP FOR LARGER RIDERS:
For those of us who are larger riders, it’s up to us to take the steps needed to make sure that we and our horses can enjoy shows, trails, or pleasure riding with comfort. If you’re a rider over 150 lbs, a mounting block is recommended.
If you’re over 175 lbs, consider a mounting block an essential for your horse. Mounting blocks aren’t just rider aids- they protect a horse’s back from uncomfortable twisting during mounting and help keep saddles stabilized over the withers.
2. Mount and Dismount in Different Spots
Some horses will walk off during mounting because they begin to expect what is coming. One way to combat this is to always mount in a different spot in the arena. This also works great for horses who expect a dismount and want the ride to end. Changing up where you get on and off will keep them engaged while waiting for your instruction. It will also help to not immediately get in the saddle when you get to the arena.
Find a spot in the arena and walk around your horse a bit, do some groundwork, or even have a conversation with another rider while standing on the mounting block. Then you can even move to another spot in the arena to actually mount up. This will help teach your horse patience and lessen the expectation that they will get to go forward right away.
3. Make it More Work to Move Around
If your horse is still moving around while you are trying to mount then put them to work:
- Start lunging them in small circles right where you are at and keep their feet moving.
- Send them around you a few times, then ask them to stand next to the mounting block again.
- Try to mount again, and if they start moving again, go back to lunging.
The idea is to make standing at the mounting block seem like the best place to be. That is where they get to rest. When they do stand still for you to mount, do not put them to work right away. Give them 10 to 20 seconds to stand after mounting, and make sure to give them lots of pets and praise. Then begin your ride.
4. Use a Wall to Block Them in
After all this, your horse may still stubbornly refuse to stand still. If this happens, try using the walls of the arena to prevent them from moving forward. Put them in a corner so there is a wall in front of them, and on the opposite side you are mounting from. Then use yourself and the mounting block as a third wall. They may still try to back out of the corner, but at least there is only one direction they can go.
5. Keep Their Head Flexed Toward You
If your horse doesn’t like to stand for mounting, it is a good idea to keep your horse’s head flexed toward you while mounting.
This is done by keeping the rein closest to you a little shorter than the other one, which will cause your horse to bend their neck. If they start to move away while you are doing this, they will most likely end up going in a small circle around you. This will be particularly helpful if your horse tends to go off in other directions and drags you along. Keeping them flexed toward you will give you more control over where their feet go.
6. Try Clicker Training Your Horse
A lot of people have had good luck with clicker training their horses. If your horse refuses to stand for mounting, click training can make them willing partners- you can even use it to train your horse to fetch or pose for photos!
This will take some work to retrain your horse to learn the new cues, but it is effective with many horses. You can train your horse to respond to cues by lining right up with the mounting block all on their own. Using positive reinforcement training, the sound of the clicker becomes the horse’s reward for doing the right thing.
The book Clicker Training for Horses is a great starting point if you are interested in training and chaining new behaviors for your horse using positive reinforcement.
7. Use Treats as a Reward
Using treats to encourage your horse to stand for mounting is an option for some horses.
Too much of a reliance on treats for training is not usually ideal; but some horses may not respond well to anything else. If your horse has a tendency to bite or be mouthy, then this is not recommended as it will only encourage that behavior more. You will also need to decide when to wean them off of the treats once they are improving. Otherwise, they will start to expect treats all of the time.
8. Consistency, Repetition, and Patience
There are three very important aspects of working with horses. The first is to be consistent with what you are asking of the horse, and how you are asking them. If you are asking them to stand still, use the same cues every time. If you don’t, they will become confused and won’t know how to respond. The next is repetition.
Since you cannot explain to the horse what you are asking of them, they have to learn from your cues. Repetition is required to learn what the proper response to your cue is. You will need to repeat the cues and reward the correct response from your horse multiple times before they learn to associate the cue with the correct action. This is especially true with clicker training.
The final aspect is the most important one. Patience is key when working with horses who won’t stand still for a rider to climb into the saddle. If you go into a lesson with the mindset that you only have a few minutes to work on something, it is highly likely to take much longer to actually accomplish it. Horses can read your emotions. If you are feeling rushed, or frustrated, they will pick up on that and they will begin to mirror it. It is better to approach each lesson like you have all the time in the world when you begin to work on something new with your horse.
Remember to stay calm while working with your horse. Getting angry and frustrated with them will only slow down your progress. Your horse will respond to you much better if you are calm and patient with them.
Horses will develop bad habits for a number of reasons. They can always be retrained with good habits if you put in the time and the work with them. It might feel like it takes forever to see improvement at first, but after a while, it will take less and less time for them to stand still while you get on.