Originally Posted by Dave
...the great thing is you have done it your self so when you tell them you are sure of what you have done.
OK, I'm obviously a bit naive :( I would have liked to believe that anyone who sees fit to offer advice here would do so from experience & knowledge. Suppose when I think of many responses I've seen that's a very ignorant assumption tho! :roll:
I will add to the other good advice that firstly make certain there are no real pain issues, from a back, saddle, bit problem etc. Yes, it takes lots of repetition, but it's the moment that you quit that is most important. Approach & retreat is the main key IME.
I think regardless of how well you get a horse prepared for it, there is still going to be some discomfort &/or nervousness the first number of times the girth is done up or someone mounts. A good trainer will work with the horse to desensitise them to the feel of this, so they become quickly tolerant. With the help of *well timed* positive reinforcement(something Good- a treat, scratch on the withers…), rather than just negative(removal of Bad Stuff - pressure), the horse can also learn to actively enjoy being saddled & ridden.
So... if you take a horse who is a little uncomfortable with the process in the first place, if the horse moves & you are unable to mount(which would be more pressure & discomfort on him), the behaviour has been negatively reinforced(strengthened through removal of pressure) and the more repetition, the more solid that(undesirable) behaviour gets. Doesn't matter that he gets repositioned & you try again, because he's just getting more practice being reinforced for the ‘wrong’ thing (that’s right in his eyes).
You need to be conscious of the instant you remove that pressure. You also need to work towards your goal gradually in easy steps with repetition at each stage & not ask too much, so you're in control of the negative reinforcement, not the horse.
I start with getting the horse good with standing at the mounting block/stool. Actually I teach them 'stay'(my cue for ‘ground tie’) before that, so it's just a matter of reinforcing 'stay' at the mounting block. Essentially I do this the same as you would for a dog. You put them somewhere & move away a little - just a step to begin, making it easy enough that the horse is likely to get it 'right'. If the horse stays there a second, say "Yes!"(or use a clicker, praise or whatever your 'bridging signal' of choice is) and immediately give the horse a treat. Repeat this process a number of times before going *a little* further. When the horse moves, reposition him & don't give him a treat. With consistent repetition, soon he'll twig to what you're wanting. Then you progressively repeat this process getting gradually more difficult - eg. you walk further, ask him to stand longer, walk behind him, to another horse... Just be sure that each step is easy enough for him that he's more likely to practice getting it 'right' than 'wrong'. When you can get him to stand, attach a cue to it and ask him to do this when you do up the girth, mount, etc.
Once you’ve taught him to stand on cue, start at & retreat from whatever stage he’s at – eg. If reaching under him for the girth is an issue, do lots of A&R to get him confidently standing for that before you go on to doing the girth up loosely. If he won’t even stand when you reach for the stirrup, don’t put your foot in it yet.
Whatever stage you’re at, it needs to be easy for the horse to get right, and easy enough for you to persist through the 'wrong' behaviour until you get what you want. Make the ‘wrong’ things difficult(keep the pressure on – the girth touching, the foot in the stirrup…) and the ‘right’ things easy(take the discomfort away – the instant he stands still for it, drop the girth, remove your foot…)
When he stands still, don’t continue to mount, because this is persisting with the discomfort & not reinforcing the ‘right’ responses. With practice, he’ll learn that standing still and tolerating everything is the best way to get you to desist soonest. In the meantime, he’s also becoming desensitised & if you add positive reinforcement, he’ll be learning to do it all willingly, not just choose the better of the evils.