I have an 11 year old thoroughbred stallion. Whenever I ask him to stand still while I'm mounted, he sinks back onto his hind legs and springs into the air like a gazelle. He will continue to do so until I let him walk or trot forward. For him, stopping is not an option. Any advise?
Good training results in good behavior. It is natural to have wobbly knees and a flock of butterflies in your stomach before mounting a horse that exhibits what you have experienced, but that's just a case of horse trainer's stage fright. Apprehension, on your part, will probably make you pay closer attention to safety and being alert primes your nerves and prepares your muscles for the reactions that you know will happen. At the same time, too much tension can take the easiness and confidence out of your moves, which brings undesirable reactions from your horse.
The best way to make mounting just another training phase is to precede it with proper preparation. Although some of the training advice I will offer may sound familiar, the true test of your level of horsemanship is whether you can actually do these things with your horse.
Picture clearly, in your mind, what your overall goals are. Review all of the ground training you and your horse have had since you brought him home. (If you acquired a horse that hasn't had any, you have a lot of catching up to do.) Familiarize and rehearse the master plan in your mind, taking into thought the method of mounting that will best work for you, your training facilities, tack and most of all, your safety.
The ultimate goal is to reinforce your horse's trust in you. He has to overcome that inborn fear of having (as his inherent, self-protective, instinct tells him) "another animal" on his back. To make the trust solid in him, never do anything that is unfair or will hurt him. Develop a partnership where you are definitely in charge, but not one that is inhumanely dominating by rough tactics. Earning his trust and respect simultaneously is "the" basis of horse training. In order to develop 'willing' compliance, there must be impeccable fairness and consistency. To make mounting anticlimactic, re-establish this trust and respect by reviewing his ground training, honing his responses to your voice commands and body language. If he didn't seem to understand that he 'is' suppose to stand still while you are mounted or any time you have difficulty in the chain of events, stop, go back to where you and your horse were comfortable, re-establish mutual respect, and then proceed from there.
So, with this mind and with a strong training foundation in place, let's get started. Take a few minutes to stand, stroke and talk to your horse. He too, will be experiencing some apprehension, and will soon settle down. Gather the reins and a portion of his lower mane firmly in you left hand and your right hand on the saddle. Before you even begin to lift your foot to the stirrup, give him a firm "whoa." If you see him gather himself or begin to swing away or "sink back onto his hind legs," repeat the firm "whoa" and start again. Don't give him the opportunity to finish sinking and spring forward as you described. Watch him closely, learn to read his pre-reaction body language. Be prepared to stop him in his tracks! Keep repeating each phase until he has his duties inbedded deeply in his mind and he doesn't even breathe heavily in the process.
Once he stands still without thought, proceed to the phase two...placing your left foot into the stirrup and your right hand on the saddle for balance. (I prefer to use the offside swell and not the cantle or horn, it keeps you from pull the saddle off center and towards you). Make sure the toe of your left boot is not digging into his side. If he resists, start at the beginning, with constant 'whoa." When he's quite, slowly (with 3 small bounces if necessary) and a "whoa," pull up short on him, making sure your left knee is making soft contact with his body. If he throw his head up, but doesn't bolt, reassure him with a soft " whoa" but do not get off. (Repeat this only if you had to dismount for safety reasons).
Phase three, if he no longer moves when you place your foot into the stirrup, take hold of the saddles' offside swell, lift yourself up, keeping your knee straight stand up in the left stirrup, and hold. DO NOT swing your right leg up and over his back at this point. Repeat this until he stands obediently, not moving a muscle. Once he's ready then slowly, with balance in check, swing your right leg up and over his back, giving him 'whoa' commands making sure he stays still, then settle softly, not with a thud, using your thigh muscles to gradually let yourself settle deep into the saddle, making sure your leg land quietly at his ribs. Don't grope wildly for the right stirrup or lean over to find it. Keep the 'whoas' going, then and only when you feel calm and sure, give the cue to go forward.
The trick is the moment's pause between each phase, standing in left stirrup and swinging the right leg over his back. It give you the chance to keep him under control. Riders who spend less time on ground training or have broncy or spoiled horses may prefer to mount differently, more of the English way. Often, they mount facing the front of a horse, with their reins rather snug and the horse's nose tipped to the left.
Always remember that you should always enlist the assistance of another competent horse person, regardless of your horsemanship level. He or she can help you by holding, stroking and talking to your horse while you proceed through these phases. Safety First! Now that you have achieved your goal, you have an exciting opportunity beneath you. Seize it and don't be afraid to go back from time to time to reinforce and enhance your efforts.
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