It might look presumptuous from me to talk about mounting a horse, yet I saw some so-called riders having quite disturbing habits: pulling hard on the mouth, or actually breaking their horse’s back to the point that it was about to fall down… Hopefully, most people are more careful, yet a few tips might be helpful.
In my opinion, your first preoccupation should be to make sure your horse stands still. Why would you like to mount on a horse that starts to walk around as soon as you put your foot in the stirrup? It is not comfortable and it can be dangerous. So, the first thing I teach a horse before I get on board is to stand still and wait for me.
The perfect lateral flexion puts the head at an horizontal angle of 90°C, ears line parallel to the ground.
I use the following image of Buck Brannaman, by ‘the7msnranch’ that illustrated perfectly this lateral flexion.
At the beginning, your horse will start to turn on and on, so be ready to walk. Next, it will start to slow down, finally stop. As soon as your horse stops, the head in the good position, release the rein or the rope and rub it. Leave it a few minutes to soak up the exercise and start again. Pretty soon, a light touch on the rein will be enough to flex the head softly, all feet on the ground. A horse having the head flexed can not buck, its hindquarters being pushed away.
Once your horse is taught this lateral flexion, it will stand still everywhen you pull the rein.
Prepare for success. If your horse walks one step forward when you get ready to mount, back it up ten steps. If it backs up one step without your asking, make it yield its hindquarters for a couple of circles.
Basically, every move done by your horse without your consent should be followed by an uncomfortable second-deal: be firm and consistent, your horse will understand quickly that it should stand still unless you ask for anything else.
Quite soon, when you come to your horse’s flank to mount it, it will know better than moving around and will wait for you.
Grab the mane and your reins in your left hand, the saddle in your right hand and put your foot in the stirrup. From here, consider your horse when you will put your extra kilos on its back:
- make sure your horse is standing firmly on its four legs;
- push on your left leg to propel yourself instead of pulling on your arms;
- raise your right leg above its hind, beware not to hit it or scratch it;
- land gently on the saddle, you should seat down as light as a feather.
And don’t forget: if everything went well, rub your horse!
Some horses are reputed to be problem horses because they start to walk as soon as the rider is on the saddle. Usually, riders have taught their horses to do so: they get on and BANG they hit the flanks to move forward. Pretty soon, if the horse does not want to be squeezed at once or to receive spurs in the flanks, it just starts to move as soon as possible.
Take the good habit, once you mounted your horse, to flex it. Same thing as from the ground: pull lightly the rein until your horse bends the head and neck, then release. Do this a few times on each side. After a couple of sessions, your horse will know that it has to wait on you before moving forward.
What if my horse starts to walk around?
Walk with your horse, keep the pressure until it stops an gets relaxed. That is when you should release the rein and rub your horse. So, be ready before you start: you may have to walk for a few minutes!
What if my horse does not stand still when I mount?
Process is the same as before, although you might hop on your right leg instead of walking. With colts or dominant horses, or if you do not think you have the good condition to follow up your horse, just do not try to mount on your horse until it is really relaxed with the lateral flexion.
Then, if it moves when you prepare to mount, take your foot out of the stirrup and back your horse up over ten meters. Do that every time it moves when you want to mount and it will soon understand that it is less exhausting to wait for you than to avoid you.
What if my horse starts to move as soon as I sit?
One more time, the process is the same, just operate it from the saddle. You should have your reins ready in your hands when you mount, so you just have to pull lightly the rein so your horse will flex its head and stop. If you have correctly done your groundwork, it will gives its head lightly and softly.
After a few sessions of work, it will just stand still and wait for your cues.