Does your horse hate the mounting block? Does he or she step away when you go to mount, or even worse still act as if they are an imminent threat to life? Then help is at hand! In this article, ex-racehorse retraining Victoria Bax helps out a reader who was struggling to get their horse stood quietly and safely next to a mounting block.
Emma Louise Gallagher wrote:
My 18hh ex-racer is petrified of mounting blocks! I’ve been trying for 4 years now!? plus he hates people stood on the block next to him, then freaks when you try to get on him! He’s currently a field ornament?”
Getting on your horse using a mounting block offers many benefits to you both. From preventing a pull and twist on the saddle, and the horse’s spine, to assisting the rider with balance, especially with a taller horse. An older horse with a weaker back will benefit from a rider slowly getting on using a mounting block, than having to pull themselves up on the ground. A nervous horse will be reassured with a quieter mounting process than trying to jump from the ground, or having a leg up – this can always come later in training. The positives far outway the negatives of teaching or re-training a horse to use one.
The team at Everything Horse turned to professional event and ex-racehorse trainer, Victoria Bax to help out.
“Race horses are used to having their rider “legged up” as they walk along, so it is not surprising they do not know about standing still or mounting blocks. You need to be calm and patient and build their confidence step by step.
Find someone to help you. Walk him in hand past the mounting block little and often until he will do this calmly. Then do the same but include some halting in and around the mounting block too. Reward the horse with a treat when he stands calmly. Don’t stand for too long to start with as they can be impatient, so start with a small time period. Gradually build this up until he eventually will stand near it for a longer period of time.
Then introduce someone standing on the ground, and build up to someone then sitting on the mounting block. Again reward and treat for good behaviour.
Ask your helper to step on the mounting block but squat, reward and treat.
Next ask your helper to stand on the mounting block and walk past then eventually stand next to it. Reward and treat good behaviour.
None of his can be rushed, it will take some time to get this far but once the horse realises there is nothing to be scared of he should stand happily by the block.”
Everything Horse Concludes
Once your horse is comfortable with someone standing on the mounting block, with a handler to the side, the next step is to actually mount. Since the horse has been triggered by this in the past, start by leaning over and getting off – then reward. Walk the horse around in a large circle and back to the mounting block and repeat the same process a few times.
As time goes by this can be gradually increased. Take it one step at a time, once the horse is happy with leaning over, then you can slowly sit on board, get off – reward. Again, then repeat it a few times and end the session. Do this (again a few times), and gradually move to a few strides of walk, then halt and get off. Repeating processes in short sequences will help your horse overcome his fear in time. It will not overface the horse and will provide minimum risk to the rider.
When placing your weight in the saddle be aware of how you sit down. Don’t sit down with a thud. Slowly lower your weight into the seat and talk to your horse. If it helps, lean forward for the first few times.
By taking your time, your horse will eventually come around. Once the message you are trying to instil works, repeat the steps over and over. Don’t become confident too soon and presume the situation is fixed. Repetition is key to everything you do with your horse. It’s important to have your horse stand still after mounting too. This is easier with younger horses during their training, however, those who are older should also be retrained too. Not only is it good manners, and shows the horse has respect for you, but it also minimises the risk of an accident. The horse’s focus should be on you both, not something that’s going on in the distance.
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