Your foot’s in the stirrup and you have to hop alongside your already moving horse for a few steps before you can swing aboard.

Or worse, he pulls you right off the mounting block and you have to stop him, get the block, reposition everything, try again… five times.

What causes Mounting Problems?

Your horse could be associating being mounted with pain. Watch out for other behaviour signs that could indicate pain like throwing up the head, dropping the back, pinning the ears, sticking out the tongue, and switching the tail. If any of these are present, consult your vet before attempting retraining.

If you usually mount with a block, your horse has probably learned that walking off prevents being mounted, if only temporarily. This is what is rewarding the behaviour. This can be retrained.

If you usually mount and cue your horse to move off immediately, sometimes faster than a walk, your horse will learn through classical conditioning that being mounted is consistently followed by the cue to go, and the mounting itself becomes the cue. This can also be retrained, but will require changing that habit.

Retraining the horse to stand for mounting

Get a dressage whip to extend your arm. I use a dressage whip because it is thin and flexible and just long enough to be useful but not so long as to get in my way.

Make sure your horse has no reaction to being rubbed by the whip, especially on the hindquarters.

Using a series of light taps on your horse’s thigh, teach him to step away from the taps with that leg by quitting the taps as soon as he moves the leg away, crossing it underneath himself in front of the other one. Reward one step, and only accept at the most two steps. You don’t want him to start running sideways!

Teach this on both sides.

Now move your cue up to the side of his hip. When the cue was further down at first it was more obvious to the horse what was needed. He will readily trial the step-away response for the new cue.

Once this is acquired on both sides, find a sturdy mounting block that has some room for you to move around on it without falling off. Park your horse with his head near your hip. Reach over his back with the whip and tap on your ‘move over’ spot.

Because you have changed the context of the response and are now on the other side of him, he may try moving towards the pressure. Keep tapping through any wrong answers until he hits on the correct one again and steps towards you, away from the whip taps.

Done!

When this is reliable, you can add a voice cue such as ‘Over’ before tapping him and soon your horse will park himself beside the block for mounting!

Another useful exercise to teach for solving mounting problems is ‘Park’, especially if you prefer to mount from the ground. See this article for instructions.

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