Mounting: Your Horse Will Not Stand Still

There are basic fundamental manners horses should use while being handled. However, there are also some that must be observed when riding. Standing still while the rider mounts is one of these “good manners”. Many horses will squirm, fuss and snooze when the rider tries to get in the saddle. Even if they stand for mounting, many horses move away before the rider can settle in the saddle or organize the reins. Horses sometimes back up, rather than moving forward.

This bad behavior can lead to serious consequences, including the possibility of the horse running away from the rider before they are safe. This can happen for a variety of reasons. As with all “horse problems”, you need to understand why it is happening before trying to fix it. This will help you avoid making your horse feel more upset or uncomfortable, and it will also reduce the time required to change this behavior.

These are the reasons horses won’t mount if they don’t want to move:

  • Sore backs due to saddle sores
  • Comfortable saddle pad (English and Western)
  • Horses are not balanced
  • The rider pulls the horse off balance
  • Horse anticipates discomfort when rider “hits the saddle”.
  • A rider accidentally kicks the horse in its ribs while mounting
  • Horse supports rider, who hangs on to the reins during mounting
  • Horse tries to avoid work
  • Rider’s laziness
  • Inconsistent or insufficient training for riders

Sore Backs

A sore back can lead to many problems under saddle. There are many reasons for sore backs, from skin problems to sore feet to dental problems. Sometimes it takes careful troubleshooting and investigation to determine the cause. Although it may not be obvious, hoof or leg problems can cause horses to travel differently. This can lead to tensing muscles and eventually, tiredness. Unfit horses may experience temporary back pain until they become conditioned for their work. Badly fitted saddles can cause soreness in the back, either while you are riding or when you are mounting. Sometimes, horses may need chiropractic adjustments to relieve back pain. Back pain can be caused by muscle strain from playing or working.

You can check for back pain by using your fingertips to explore your horse’s back and feel the muscles along the spine. Any skin conditions should be treated and healed before you can ride again. Sore muscles can be stiff and painful. The horse may become more difficult to find if it has been suffering from sore muscles for a while. A chiropractor, an equine massage therapist or your vet can help diagnose back pain. You might also consider riding naked.

Blankets and Saddle Pads

If blankets and pads become lumpy or have grass haws or burrs embedded, they can cause problems. Your blankets and pads should be clean. After you have put on the saddle, pull the blanket or pad off the horse’s back so that it doesn’t dig into its withers.

Horse Is Unbalanced

This is common for young horses. It will improve as the horse learns how to balance with a rider, and gains coordination and fitness.

Horse is pulled off balance by rider

If the rider is heavy or awkward, any horse can be pulled to balance and will squirm around to regain its equilibrium. To make it easier for both you and your horse, learn how to lift yourself into the saddle.

Rider hits the saddle too hard

You should not just lay down, but gently settle into the saddle. As you get into the saddle, your horse might squirm in anticipation. Once you are up, use a mounting block to lower yourself into the saddle.

Horse accidentally kicked by a rider

If the rider doesn’t watch out for the horse’s reaction when they put their foot in the stirrup, with their toes pointed either forwards or backwards, they could dig their toes into their horse’s ribs. This could be taken by the horse as a signal to move forward. To make it easier to get on, use a mounting block.

Rider hangs on reins

As you mount, make sure your reins don’t serve as anchors. While you should contact the horse’s mouth, the reins must be loose enough to not cause the horse to back up.

Evading Work

Horses can sometimes anticipate what they are doing and make it difficult for riders to mount. Retraining may be necessary if all other causes have been eliminated. To prevent horses from backing up or swinging, an assistant is helpful. When the horse is in your hand, it should remain still. Be ready to stop the horse from moving forward if it moves. You should not allow the horse to circle around you. It is possible to get help from another person to command the horse to stay still. As you place your toes in the stirrup, make the horse sit still. After the horse has stood, you can start to put weight into the stirrup. Next, lift your weight straight up and place it in the stirrup. Each step should be completed with your horse standing still. Do not rush through the steps. Before you move on, make sure your horse is completely obedient. You should be able sit comfortably in the saddle. If your horse is inclined to move after you get on, you should gently check his forward motion.

Rider Laziness

It is easy to fall into the trap of letting your horse go before you have a good system in place. You’ll reinforce a bad habit by letting your horse move off the moment your back is in the saddle. Make sure to ask your horse to stop and sit quietly before you start riding. It’s easy for you both to fall back into old habits.

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