BEHAVIOUR ADAPTATION TO MOUNTING ISSUES:
I have just been reading a NZ horsemanship website, and cringed with what I read regarding mounting and respect. There was a particular bug bear expressed from a horse trainer on there, going on to say that she hated it when a horse walks off when being mounted as it's , and I quote "DISRESPECTFUL".
Now that is a term I really don't like to use, and I've written a lot about respect surrounding equines on many occasions, and can assure every horse owner out there that this behaviour is not done as a disrespectful behaviour from any horse, which sort of implies that the horse is doing it on purpose, and is being "naughty" doesn't it, which I can assure you is not the case, and even if it was, it has nothing to do with respect.....This is simply a horse who hasn't been correctly trained on how to stand for his rider.....or has learned that s/he gets out of being ridden if they move away etc..., or perhaps he is moving off for other reasons that make perfect sense to him......however he is not plotting to simply annoy you with this behaviour, as this is not a battle where someone wins........the question we really need to ask is why is he walking off?
Is it anything to do with that he doesn't understand what is required of him, or that he doesn't want to be ridden??? And if so, it's not ok or ethical to force him to be ridden, and WHY is he resisting the rider etc...? As these would be questions I was looking to answer from a horse that did that....before continuing to try to get in the saddle, as it should be about understanding.So after checking for saddle fit, and feet, and leg placements, and back and muscle/skeleton fitness, or if he was suffering from pain or soreness, sometimes due to grass toxins or mineral deficiencies or over-doses etc.....then after all this checked out ok, I would then teach him how to stand by playing with him on the ground first as to develop some ground rules and show him I had respect for him by my responses towards him before wading on in there with sleeves rolled up, as I sadly see so many doing this "I will sort this horse out" approach which again is not what this horse actually needs, and scolding him will either scare him or make him defensive which is setting this up for a battle we can't hope to win.
Horses that don't comply should not be made to feel wrong for negative behaviours......no, they actually needs things spelling out for them in a way they understand......and the way to do that for this particular issue would be to politely ask the horse to stand by a mounting block or by the rider etc....and if he remained calm and happy to stand there for me, I would reward him with kindness, including perhaps a mini break to show him he has done the right thing for me, or strokes and scratches if he likes that, or even a tidbit, depending on his personality, and what would motivate him.....try all 3 if you have to.....
Now if he moved away I would not get mean or mad but simply put him to a lot of physical work, and asked for a few circles from him, or a speedy back up, or a long range sideways manoeuvre , or again all 3 to keep him busy....which is about making the undesirable behaviour into being physical hard work for the horse, then I would ask him to stand again to be mounted whilst repeating the rewards to show him that the desired behaviour was chocked full of goodness for him, and that it was the easiest, least energetic option, repeating as many times as needed to show that the undesired behaviour was really hard work.With horses being so smart, it doesn't take long for them to catch onto this and before you know it you have a well-trained horse who is happy to stand politely to be mounted because he is treated with respect and kindness, and wants to do the right thing for you because you made him feel right, as well as asked him nicely to comply...plus you have proved to him you are a benevolent and kind leader that he can trust, in a language which he understands.
This same method can be used to teach your horse how to ground tie too....all without an inch of disrespect ever coming into the equation.
Other tips surrounding mounting is to stand in the stirrup whilst looking into your horses eye to ask for permission to get on….the horses eye will tell you if you have that permission or not, as after all who wants to ride a horse who doesn’t want to be ridden…..apart from it being no fun, it could also be very dangerous, so try to get used to doing that to check behaviour and mood before riding off.If he says no, you need to do more ground work to re connect before asking for his permission again, until he says yes.
And once you do get up there in the saddle please try to sit for a few minutes before heading off, as it's getting on and riding off straight away that teaches walking off at mounting in the first place.
Tracy from www.naturalhorse.co.nz