Issue with Mounting - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 03-07-2012, 04:06 PM Thread Starter
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Issue with Mounting

I have had Izzy for a month now. She is a 13 year old retired polo horse. She is a great horse...super ground manners and nothing spooks or fazes her out on the trail.

I have recently discovered an issue with mounting. When I rode her the three times before I bought her, I always had someone standing at her head, gently holding the bridle. I just feel more comfortable when mounting a new horse to have someone else standing there. So when I first moved her to my boarding facilty, the first couple of times, I mounted her with someone standing there as well.

Last week, I mounted by myself and as soon as my foot went in the stirrup, her head whipped back as if she was going to bite. Her mouth wasn't open
and she quickly put her head forward again but the motion was there.

The next time I mounted, I used a mounting block and her ears were pinned the moment I stepped on it and her head came back like she was going to bite when I stepped on.

After that, I mounted with someone standing at her head...and all was good. No ear head movement, not flinching.

I met with a trainer yesterday and we are in the process of ruling out pain, saddle fit, etc. We discovered that she swings her head back if you just raise your leg off the ground, mimicing the movement of putting a foot in the stirrup, even if she doesn't have a saddle on her back.

I suspect this is a habit she developed during her years in polo. Of course, we are definitely going to rule out pain but I wonder if the fact that she does it even if there is a saddle nowhere near her, points to habit.

I wish I knew if she has been doing this for a long time...because if it is just a recent thing, I would know it is related to pain or that she is testing me. Once I am in the saddle, she is fine and during ground work she is is only the actual mounting (with no one standing at her head) that is the issue.

Any thoughts?
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post #2 of 15 Old 03-07-2012, 04:12 PM
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Have you tried mounting her from both sides and if so does she do this on both sides?
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post #3 of 15 Old 03-07-2012, 04:33 PM
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Check out Julie Goodnight's videos on backing a horse for the first time. (no, not a typo)
I've had to retrain my 5yo (almost 5yo), 16'3hh KMHSA gelding to mounting bc he gets nervous, moves out 4 strides, gives a small buck, and generally has a problem with it. It isn't pain, just some bad experiences.
I am taking him back to basic training. I am starting in April--WAAAYYY too windy in March, you see--with my 15yo helpers, to start with grabbing the reins, walking away numerous times, putting a foot in the stirrup, then down, numerous times, swinging up and laying across the saddle numerous times~
breaking it down into steps to desensitize and reassure him that he can trust the rider.
Julie's rationale is that every time you approach then retreat, then approach again equals 2 riding sessions to the horse. I'd never thought about it in that way before. She does this with a 3yo horse who has been lunged, working with a lunging surcingle and on the bit, and prepared for backing. She said that ~40 x approach and retreat=~40 rides to the horse's mind.
Julie has a holder for the horse throughout the initial backing and weans the young horse from listening to the holder, then to the holder and trainer to just listening to the trainer.
The whole time all of them are reassuring the young horse.
You must go back and retrain your horse. Her mounting problem was probably WHY she was sold.
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post #4 of 15 Old 03-07-2012, 04:44 PM
Green Broke
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Kissing spine comes to mind, which would be a vet problem to figure out.

Kissing Spines SmartPak Equine Blog

Lots of information on this, also called Bastrup's disease, and found in humans, dogs, vertebrates period.

But sure if something to consider, and very painful too, as spinous processes are rubbing against each other basically.

Horse is an older one, although not painfully so, but the sport was in would have taken toll on her back I am sure.

Not sure if you are using a mounting block or not? But that might help, but getting a vet to rule out Kissing Spine and other things too that would cause pain, would be first.

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post #5 of 15 Old 03-07-2012, 04:50 PM
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Might just be a habit that she has developed over time if it isn't a pain/medical issue. The father in laws horse has the same reaction when you cinch up his saddle. If you don't know the horse it sure does look like hes going to bite you and it made me jump a bit when I first saddled him but its not a big deal for me now!
If you rule everything else out why not just shorten your offside rein a bit so he can't get his head around towards you? Might take a bit of practice but it could fix the problem a bit. Don't blame you for being nervous but I have seen a few horses that have had this type of habit and now I just ignore them ore give them a swat on the neck or nose and they don't tend to bother.
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post #6 of 15 Old 03-07-2012, 06:47 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the input everyone. And to answer some questions, she reacts even worse if I use a mounting block ( which is strange to would think she would prefer a mounting block). And yes, she reacts the same with both sides...we tried that out yesterday.

But to give an update....we discovered today that she is "off" at the trot....quite noticeably. She is fine at a walk, but we lunged her and she is really off on the right rear. The trainer spent quite a bit of time with her today and didn't feel any heat in her feet and could not detect any swelling anywhere.

It is awfully muddy out there in her field and since she is the new horse on the block, she has been chased around a bit and could have slipped and hurt herself and she could have even been kicked.

I am hoping it is something that rest can fix. She is usually out 24/7 but they are going to put her on stall rest for a few days...or even just at night so she can get some rest and maybe give some bute to see if she improves. We will see what happens.

And it will be interesting to see if the mounting issue improves when her pain improves. I sure hope so. I hope I didn't buy a lame horse that also has unrelated mounting issues!!
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post #7 of 15 Old 03-07-2012, 07:21 PM
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Certainly hope you didn't get a lame cranky horse. If she is sore in the back end she may just be acting protectively of the area. I know I sure would be if someone had kicked me! Best of luck with her and keep us updated.
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post #8 of 15 Old 03-07-2012, 08:10 PM
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Any time my horse has dared to throw his head up or start to walk off without me on him I immediately jump down and back him up until I want him to stop. He didn't realize I wanted him to stand still the second time I tried mounting him, so I backed him up again and then the third time mounting he was fine. Repetitive movements always pound into my horses head and he always remembers what I want him to do.

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post #9 of 15 Old 03-08-2012, 06:48 PM
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I think its awesome that you are getting it checked to make sure it isn't pain because many people wouldn't do that :) My pony had the same habit as well as attempting to walk away as I mounted. I tried a few things at the same time so I don't know which really worked the best:
1. Holding the reins on the other side. ( I stopped doing this because I realized it was a bandaid and not actually solving the issue.)
2. Having my elbow or leg or whatever in a position so that when she turned to bite me (instead of horrid alternatives like me hitting her or her biting me
) she would run into me and go ouch. Not because I hit her but because it was her fault for running into me.
3. Holding pressure on her head until she moved away from it and realized that she was not to do that. (This is very difficult to do when you are half way up and I'm not sure how much it helped.

I did all of these after checking for pain as well. I hope that the issue is resolved and keep us updated :) I'm curious. I hope one of these helps.

Ask not what your horse can do for you, but what you can do for your horse.
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post #10 of 15 Old 03-09-2012, 10:51 AM Thread Starter
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Yep....the poor girl was trying to tell me she hurt. :(

She is still on stall rest but I am hopeful that we will see improvement by the end of the weekend.

This really shows me how important it is to first rule out pain. She wasn't limping at a walk so I assumed she was fine. Luckily, I am surrounded by experienced people. Hopefully, my well mannered girl will appear again once she is sound. I will let everyone know.
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