Just wondering, is it a bad thing to hold on to the saddle as opposed to some mane when mounting?
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Not unless you don't mind your saddle slipping over to the side when you mount, lol. Personally I ALWAYS have my left hand grab mane to mount. I used to teach equitation and I started my students by having them mount a fence. Your trajectory to mount is a parabela ( of sorts ) from the ground and at a 45 degree angle to the horse's neck. If you shoot for the off side of the horse you could vault OVER the horse.
Practice with a fence to make sure that YOUR mounting is secure. This is how to mount quickly: Grab some mane with your left hand, face to the rear, use your right hand to help get your foot in the stirrup, then grab the cantle, bounce 3 times--this will move you in position--get your right hip next to the horse, bend your knee to your chin, leg tucked next to you, then bounce to stand, both feet together, quietly swing your right leg over as you release the cantle and gently sit down in the saddle.
You horse is either:
--frightened of a person mounting
--has practiced a bad habit
To fix frightened, you need a horse holder (I use broken carrots as rewards) and you need to have NUMEROUS approach and retreat practice sessions. (I know this bc my almost 6yo gelding is getting this problem fixed at my house.) This is ONE session.
The rider approaches and just grabs the reins, drops and walks away (10-20x).
The rider approaches, grabs the reins, puts a foot in the stirrup, drops the stirrup, and walks away. (10-20x)
The rider approaches, grabs the reins, puts a foot in the stirrup, bounces up and puts weight on the back, then dismounts and walks away. 910-20x)
You get the picture.
The handler rewards the horse with a piece of carrot every time the horse relaxes, licks lips, chews, shows signs of relaxing. (You may
have to buy a 3lb or 5 lb bag of carrots for this.)
THE WHOLE TIME THE HANDLER AND THE RIDER PET AND SOOTHE THE HORSE.
If the problem is a bad habit, get your horse in the arena in a corner, where the off side is next to the wall and the head is stopped by a corner. Pull the left rein towards you as your mount. Praise and dismount. Repeat maybe 10x in a session. NOTE: Both fixes may take a couple of months to become a good habit.
I intend to practice this with MY gelding all summer. He has the makings of a VERY good trail horse and I'm tired of the problem.
(You can do these exercises with a mounting block, if you prefer, but eventually you need to do them mounting from the ground, so you horse's habits won't desert you on the trail.)