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Mounting Powered By Docstoc
					                                          Better Mounting

                                                    Darcie Litwicki

Ah, time to take a nice ride. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and you have all
day to enjoy an outing with your horse. Old Faithful is groomed up, saddled, and ready
to go. You just put your foot in the stirrup and begin to swing up and all of a sudden you
are spinning in circles while hopping up and down on one leg. Can you hop along on one
leg to keep up with Old Faithful with the hopes of springing up towards the general
direction of your saddle? Some of you will be able to say, “Yes,” while others haven’t a
chance. So, what happened to that great horse that used to stand still or maybe only
move an inch or two? Better yet, how do we find a way out of our mounting mayhem
dilemma? Read on to discover how to get your mount to stand still using an easy step by
step lesson that requires only time and patience.

During my horse training adventures, there are several problems people have that surface
time and time again. I would place standing still while mounting in the top five. To
understand why your horse moves when you try to mount, you need to understand the
underlying problem(s). First, horses may move in anticipation of pain. The pain may
come from an ill fitting saddle, uncomfortable pad, pinching cinch, or a sore back. It is
important to carefully check out your equipment to ensure it fits right and feels good to
your horse. Pain can also come from poor mounting practices so be sure to practice
mounting with a mounting block, fence, or on a more reliable mount to get it down better.
A back problem should be diagnosed by your veterinarian. Let’s say after careful
checking, there seems to be no pain issue. The next possible problem may be
anticipation of the ride. Your horse may be overly eager to get going and is in an excited
state. However, the most common problem is that your horse has not been trained to
stand still. Sometimes we even make this problem worse by allowing a horse to take a
step or two when we mount. The step or two becomes three or four and so on.

Before beginning this lesson, you must make sure that you and your horse are able to do
all of the following: (answer yes or no for each item)
   1. Basic ground control which means that your horse respects you when you are
   leading him and will stand quietly for things such as grooming and saddling.
   2. Your horse is not easily frightened when touched by various objects and will not
   bolt when startled.
   3. You are able to sit on your horse while he stands quietly with a loose rein.
   4. You can remain calm even if your horse becomes startled or fidgety.
   5. You have plenty of time set aside to work on the mounting lesson.
If you are not able to answer yes to each of the above items, you and your horse are not
ready to begin this lesson. I recommend that you take time to establish good ground
control, sack your horse out well, teach your horse to stand still while you are mounted,
work to develop your patience, and set aside enough time to do this lesson which could
take up to 100 or more repetitions ( over time) but will be well worth the work. If you do
not know how to teach your horse the above lessons, seek the help of a knowledgeable
friend or professional trainer.

For this lesson you will need a bridle, well fitting saddle pad and saddle, and a safe
enclosure such as a round pen or arena. It’s a good idea to either ride or work your horse
on the ground for a bit to help him take the edge off. A fresh horse will have difficulty
standing still. Once your horse has been worked and will stand still willingly on a loose
rein, begin dismounting systematically. First, take your right foot out of the stirrup. This
will cause your weight to shift. If the horse moves, put your foot back into the stirrup.
Continue doing this until your horse will stand still. Next, slowly and gradually slide
your right leg back as you would if dismounting. If your horse moves, immediately let
your right leg hang down straight or place your foot back in the stirrup and work your
horse with the stand still exercises you have taught him. Once he is still, begin again by
slowly sliding your leg back a little at a time with the goal of having him stand still the
entire time. When you have mastered this, it is time to begin swinging your leg over his
back. Do this step until he does not move at all. Immediately work on the stand still
exercises until he stands still. Now, swing your leg over until you are standing in the
stirrup on your horse’s left side. Place your left hand on the saddle cantle, pommel, or
your horse’s neck to stabilize your weight. If your horse moves, swing back on, and
begin again. Lastly, step down to the ground with your right foot. You are now ready to
mount by reversing the steps outlined in this paragraph.

Be prepared to do each step in this process many times. One hundred or more times are
not too many. Make sure that each step of this process is completed by your horse
standing perfectly still. Since there is no cue for standing still, it is important that you
follow up with stand still exercises your horse understands each time he moves. Standing
still for mounting/dismounting should be made easy for your horse, while it should be
made difficult for him if he does not stand still by having him perform exercises such as
disengages, moving his shoulders, backing up and so forth. If having your horse perform
specific exercises does not work (it usually works with about 98% of horses), you can try
having him canter out on a circle under saddle if you are already mounted or on the
ground if you are not mounted. For cantering on a circle from the ground, you will need
to have a mecate rein or a lead rope snapped to your snaffle bit. Sometimes horses just
need to have a bit of a canter to help them feel as though they are not being trapped.
Once your horse makes several circles in each direction at the canter, ask him again to
stand still for mounting and/or dismounting. Horses usually understand this idea fairly
easily as long as you are consistent.
You can also work this lesson in reverse of the way I have described it by mounting step
by step, sitting in the saddle while your horse willingly stands still on a loose rein, and
then dismounting step by step. Do not allow your-self to lose patience or become upset.
Take breaks when you need them and stop for the day if you become frustrated. Your
horse will only become more apprehensive about you mounting if you have strong
emotions attached to the lesson. It may take minutes, days or even weeks to master this
lesson but you know you have it when your horse stands still while your left foot is in the
stirrup and your right is on the ground. It’s a good idea to teach your horse these steps
while mounting and dismounting on his right side too. Once my horse stands still for
mounting on both sides, I like to just sit on them for a minute or two before asking them
to walk off. I may even ask them for a couple of lateral bends or vertical flexion during
this stand still time. This seems to establish the idea that we are not in a hurry and it
gives me time to get my body centered and make sure all is well before our ride. By
using this system, your mounting mayhem will soon be at an end and your horse will
stand still every time you ask. Enjoy your horse!

Darcie Litwicki is a horse trainer, clinician, and was a certified K-8 Teacher located in Vail, Arizona. She
has a life-time of horse experience, competed for three years in National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association
and in 2005 completed a 240 hour horse training apprenticeship with Steve Sikora who is a John Lyon’s
Certified Select Trainer. She is currently working through the process of becoming certified with the
Certified Horsemanship Association. Darcie is available for private training, working with problem
horses, instructing private or small group lessons, and teaching clinics/demonstrations. Feel free to
contact her with training questions or to book training, lessons, clinics, or demonstrations at 370-8093, or by web-site at: