How to Teach Your Horse to Stand at the Mounting Block
Having your horse walk away when you try to mount up isn’t a rare occurrence; I’ve seen many horses who have done this with many riders. The good thing is that this behavior can usually be corrected in just a few minutes. In this article, I’ll walk you step-by-step through how to teach your horse to stand at the mounting block.
So, how do you teach your horse to not walk off when you’re trying to mount up? Here are the steps:
- Work the horse around the mounting block to get the horse used to it
- If the horse walks away when you step onto the block, work them
- Mount up; check yourself and your position as you get on
- If your horse walks away as soon as you get on, disengage their hind-end until they stop
- Repeat the process
Having a horse walk off when you’re trying to get on them can lead to a potentially dangerous situation. I’ve also seen the habit of a horse walking off at the mounting block become one where the horse takes off at the mounting block. The sooner you can recognize your horse’s bad habits forming, the easier they will be to correct.
Desensitize Your Horse With the Mounting Block
One of the reasons your horse may be so willing to move away from the mounting block is that they are unsure of it and unsure of you standing on it. Horses, by nature, don’t like feeling crowded. As flight animals, being crowded or in a tight space means that it will be harder to flee from danger.
One reason I believe your horse may be hesitant to stand next to the mounting block is that it makes the horse feel crowded, especially when you stand on it. When you stand on the mounting block, you can immediately become intimidatingly tall. The horse feels that you are creating one less direction for them to escape from danger.
Exercises for Desensitizing Your Horse With the Mounting Block
Here are a few exercises to get your horse used to being around the mounting block and you standing on the mounting block. (See 5 Best Groundwork Exercises for Your Horse to better understand what kind of exercises you’ll be doing.) All you’ll need is a rope halter and lead rope and a lunge whip. The lunge whip is not for hitting your horse, but simply to use as an extension of your arm to communicate cues.
To help you better understand some of the techniques I’m using, check out this article Bombproof and Desensitize a Horse: The Ultimate Guide.
Work Your Horse Around the Mounting Block
One of the basic things I’ll do is just work my horse in a circle around the mounting block. I usually ask my horses to work around the block at a trot, as a trot is the most taxing gait for a horse. If the horse is trotting and working hard, the sooner they’ll realize that the block isn’t going to hurt them, and it’s easier to stand next to the block than trot around it.
Make sure you work your horse in both directions around the mounting block, with many changes of directions to keep their mind focused on you rather than the block.
Also, don’t stand on the block when you do this. The horse could easily pull you off of it which would be bad.
Get Your Horse to Move Around the Block As You Stand On It
Have you ever noticed that once you’re standing on the mounting block, your horse may refuse to move up to be mounted? This is usually because the horse is unsure of your new position on the block. You’re tall, scary, and they can’t even see all of you.
Getting your horse used to moving around the mounting block while you stand on it will help your horse become more comfortable with you standing on the block. Take time to work on this by standing on the block and encouraging the horse to move beside the block.
A great exercise for this is standing on the block with the horse facing you, then using the lunge whip to motion the horse to step its hind-end towards the block. Once the horse moves its hind-end around, it should be parallel to the mounting block.
Teach Your Horse that Walking Away From the Mounting Block Means Work
If your horse immediately starts to walk off as you step onto the mounting block to get on, it’s important to correct the behavior right away. Believe it or not, but many horses figure out that if they will simply start to walk off at the mounting block, then the rider will have to come back around, lead them back around the mounting block, and so on and so forth.
Before you know it, it’s taken the rider 20 minutes to mount up! In order to avoid having your horse pick up on this behavior, as soon as your horse goes to walk off from the mounting block, send them in a circle around you at a working trot.
The goal here is to teach the horse that doing the wrong thing is hard, i.e. walking away from the mounting block is going to get them a lot more work than standing still.
Keep your horse going around you for a good few minutes in order to get the point across. After that, simply attempt to get on again. If the horse walks away again, send the horse out on the circle.
When I use this method, the horse quickly catches on and the behavior is corrected not long into the training session.
Mount up; Check Yourself and Your Position as You Get On
Now before you blame your horse for walking off at the mounting block, I always encourage riders to assess how exactly they’re getting on the horse. Many times than not, riders are bumping the horse with their heel or wiggling their foot without even knowing that they’re doing it.
These cues tell the horse to walk forward. The next time you get on your horse, take time to examine yourself to see if you are accidentally cueing your horse forward. Make sure your lower leg is staying still and that you’re sitting down in the saddle softly. Sit with your back straight and this will communicate to your horse to stand.
I’ve also seen horses that tend to back up when being mounted since the rider would subconsciously pull on the reins. If you’re having this problem, check your hands. I recommend holding the reins in your hand and grabbing the pommel of the saddle or the horse’s mane as you get on. This will help keep your hands steady.
Teach Your Horse that Walking Away As Soon as You Sit in the Saddle Means Work
Some horses tend to walk away as soon as the rider sits in the saddle. Correcting this behavior follows the same concept of correcting the behavior of a horse walking away from the mounting block before you get on. You want to teach the horse that walking off as soon as you sit in the saddle is going to mean more work for them.
What I do specifically if a horse starts to walk off as soon as a sit in the saddle is I’ll tip their nose to one side by bringing my rein to my hip. The horse’s neck will bend so that its head should be about at my knee. I’ll then squeeze the leg that the horse’s head is being turned to behind the girth, signaling the horse to step it’s hind end around.
I’ll ask the horse to step it’s hind-end around quite a few times to communicate the point. This movement requires the horse to use its body more, so the horse will understand that this movement is work.
It will feel as if the horse is going in a tight circle. Then, I’ll ask the horse to halt and release pressure on the horse’s face. After a brief halt, I’ll ask the horse to walk on.
If the horse tries to walk out of the halt without you cueing them to, immediately go back into the tight circle.
If you’re more of a visual learner, this Youtube video of mine will break down these exercises step-by-step:
Repetition is Key to Teaching Your Horse to Stand Still at the Mounting Block
As with anything when it comes to training horses, repetition is key to success. The only way your horse will learn to stand still at the mounting block and when being mounted is by having regular training sessions that focus on this.
If your horse likes to walk away when you get on, get off and get on a lot! Give your horse to chance to learn right from wrong. If something isn’t being reinforced regularly with a horse, the horse will soon forget all about the initial training session.
Always remember to reward your horse big time when they do something good! This will help them understand right from wrong.
I hope this article will help you mount up safely! If you’re looking to try something a little more challenging with your horse, check out our article, Making Your Horse Move Sideways: Simple Training Guide.