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Safety Lesson: Using a Mounting Block, by Lynn Palm



LynnPalmandDog  A horse that does not stand still for mounting can be a safety problem!  If he jigs around when you want to mount, he may be thinking too fast and walking away in anticipation of your cue to go forward once you are mounted.   More likely, however, he is trying to catch his balance because you are not mounting properly.

I suggest you start using a mounting block.   These are inexpensive, plastic step-like platforms made to give a rider an elevated surface from which to mount.  Because the mounting block will put you higher off the ground, it will be easier to swing your leg over the horse to mount.    Mounting blocks also decrease the stress put upon the horses back from riders who pull themselves up into the saddle.   They also are helpful for smaller riders when they are mounting a large horse.

To reinforce the mounting lesson, mount your horse in the same location every time you ride.   Choose a spot where you can position the horse between a fence and the mounting block.   The fence will help him stay straight and focused.   Ask him to stand “square.“   This means positioning him so that his weight is equally distributed on all four legs and his hooves are like the four corners of a rectangle.

Ask your horse to “whoa,” and step up on the mounting block as if you were going to get up on him, but do not mount.    Position him in the mounting spot and ask him to “whoa” by putting a slight tension on the reins.  Place the reins over his neck, being careful to maintain the same amount of tension in each rein.  Riders have a tendency to pull on the left rein while mounting, causing their horse to circle towards them.   This makes getting on even more difficult.

To prevent pulling on the reins, keep your hands in front of the saddle.   If the horse wants to move as you attempt to mount, avoid walking him in a circle to get back into position as this will only reinforce that mounting means it is okay to move forward.   Instead, stop him and back him up to the block or reposition the block next to him.

Once your horse is in position, step up on the block and gather up the reins by sliding your left hand on the horse, starting at the buckle and moving up on the horses neck.   While holding the reins, move your left hand so it is grasping the front of the saddle as you place your right hand on the saddles cantle.   Put your left foot in the stirrup and start to mount, but just swing your leg halfway over his back, and then dismount.   Praise your horse when he stands still.   Do this several times.   You may need to repeat this lesson over several days or weeks until he understands that mounting does not mean for him to move forward.

When your horse shows that he is willing to stand perfectly still for the half mount, swing your leg over his back.   As you do, transfer your   right hand from the cantle to the saddles pommel to help you balance.   Then, sit down on his back as softly as possible.    Mounting in this manner, without pulling the saddle across his back, will encourage him to stand still.

Use the mounting block until you build up the strength in your arms and legs that will allow you to mount from the ground.   Most mounting blocks have two steps.  Practice mounting from the top step and then graduate to the lower step as your strength improves.  Eventually, you will be able to mount from the ground, but continue to use the same mounting spot so that your horse understands to stand still.

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[published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 1, Issue 12.]


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1 Comment

  1. Karla

    January 11, 2014 at 3:30 am

    This is a well written post about mounting. It is this type of patience that will instill a long time GOOD habit in your horse. I would just like to add that while it is very important to be able to mount from the ground in case you find yourself someplace without somewhere to step up from, I believe it is always best to use a mounting block if it is available. Each time you mount you are pulling all your weight in one stirrup from one side of the horse. This can pull their spine out of alignment, particularly over time. If you can make mounting easier on your horse why not do so? 🙂

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