He won't stand still - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 10-12-2014, 03:09 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Missoula, Montana
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He won't stand still

So my 5 year old thoroughbred gelding refuses to stand still when I try and mount him. He's getting smarter about keeping me off too.
Any advice on getting him to stand still?
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post #2 of 15 Old 10-12-2014, 03:36 PM
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There are a lot of methods to getting your horse to stand still, and it's important to note that each method may or may not work for your horse. So I will outline the few that I have in my toolbox.

1. When your horse moves when you try and mount, make them move faster and harder. This is your typical "make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard" response. You can make them back up, or spin them in small, tight circles quickly.

This method has only worked on one horse I have owned - after a while, they started to turn and spin or back up even more when I tried to mount. I believe they learned that mounting was "back up and spin time", they anticipated this and this made it worse. I'm sure it works for some people and their horses, but it never has for the majority of mine.

2. Flex your horse. You can flex their neck in either direction, I find it normally doesn't matter. I tend to flex them right, since I mount on the left, and then this way if they try to move sideways they move into you instead of away and this works in your favour since they can't win this way. But I find flexing is usually enough to keep them still anyway.

Method #2 has always worked for me.
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post #3 of 15 Old 10-12-2014, 03:37 PM
Green Broke
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Flex his head towards you when you mount.


If he continues to do this, try mounting and if he moves forward swing on quickly and make him back up whether he likes it or not. Then get off and repeat. If you can't make it on, then make him back up from the ground.


Put him in the corner of somewhere, arena, barn, etc., so he really can't move off.
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Keep going, keep moving forward. You'll get it together someday.
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post #4 of 15 Old 10-12-2014, 04:23 PM
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WillowNightWind, PLEASE read my post, especially the part regarding flexing your horse to the right. That piece of advice is very dangerous.

Pick your mounting apart piece by piece. For my method, it's best to do this in a rope halter with a 12-14 foot lead, do NOT tie your lead rope like reins. You can use split reins if you horse lunges extremelly well. If you use split reins, half hitch your right rein over your saddle horn a couple times to secure it.

Flex his head slightly to the left as you prepare to mount. By flexing to the left, if he does move, his hindquarters will move away from you. If you flex to the right ( away from you), it is a matter of time before you try it on a horse that you are very seriously injured on. If your horse moves, the option that is left to them is to run over the top of you, or if you're trying to mount on a rank horse, get kicked. If a horse pulls any attitude, you want to be able to drive their hindquarters AWAY from you. If they really try to move, that rein will be snatch out of your hand as well. Do NOT flex to the opposite side to mount.

Then find at what point does he move. Can get you up next to him? Can you place your left hand on his mane and the right on your saddle horn? Can you raise your left leg? Can you put your foot in the stirrup etc? When he stands still, retreat for a moment and give him a rub on the neck. By retreating and giving a rub, you are reinforcing that is what you want.Then try again and go a bit farther.

You will come across the time where he is no longer wanting to stand still. At this point, send him off pretty darn firmly. Point to the left and with your right hand, use the tail end of your lead rope to pop him on the shoulder to get him moving around you, then on his hindquarters to drive him forward faster. After a couple cirlces, ask him to stop and try again. You HAVE to get him moving ASAP. If more than a couple seconds pass, he will not connect the two behaviors.

Effective horse training is all about letting your horse make choices and then making those choices easy or difficult depending on what you want from him. He wants to move around and go forward, so let him. Really drive him forward and let him commit to that choice. "Do you really want to move around? Awesome, moving around is fun, lets do it!" The fact of the matter is that he doesn't really want to move forward with that much energy. So you then give him that opportunity to stand still again and rub on him. You really want to make standing a pretty good option.

NEVER get on him if he's so much as thinking about moving. Only mount if he's standing calmly. If you mount while he's moving, you aren't really teaching anything. After you mount, stand still for a few moments. The biggest reason that horses move when mounting is because they anticipate moving off as soon as you're up there. If they anticipate standing still, that works out great. The next biggest reason is riders not mounting well. If you pull on him to mount and make him unbalanced, of course he is going to wiggle around.

Horses get this after just a couple of tries because it's ridiculously easy for them to understand. The important thing to remember is that you have to make the option that you want, standing, the better option. If you just run your horse around, or lunge them for more than a couple of circles, they won't get it. They'll only know what you get next to them and then all of a sudden expect them to run around you. If you only flex a horse that's really wanting to move, you aren't really teaching that horse to decide to WANT to stand still.
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post #5 of 15 Old 10-12-2014, 04:28 PM
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Have you checked his saddle fit? TBs can be tricky to fit as many of them have large withers, so adequate wither clearance can be a challenge. I've known several "hard to mount" TBs who were really just objecting to the weight in the stirrup pulling the saddle down directly on their withers.

Are you mounting from the ground or from a mounting block? If he's tall and you can't easily swing into the saddle from the ground, consider using a mounting block. It will reduce the stress and pressure on your horse's back.

Was he a racehorse? Or racetrained at anytime? If so, he likely never learned to stand still for mounting. Exercise riders and jockeys are legged up while the horse is walking or in some cases, jogging.

The way I taught my OTTB to stand politely for mounting was to use treats. I fed him one when he stood politely next to the mounting block and after I got on and stopped him (he'd usually step forward a step or two), I'd have him turn his head to the off (right) side and give him another treat. Within a week, he would stand politely until I got on and then turn his head for his treat. Once he was reliable, I swapped out the treat for a nice scratch of an itchy place (withers or side of his face once he turned his head back to me) and now just give him a treat every now and then.

Other tactics will work too, I'm sure but because my horse had never been taught to stand in the first place and I wanted to keep it a positive experience for him, giving him the reward of a small treat (I used sugar cubes) worked well for us and also had the added benefit of encouraging him to salivate and gently mouth the bit before our ride had even started.

ETA: I hardly ever use or would recommend treats in training, but this is one specific instance where it worked really well for me.
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post #6 of 15 Old 10-12-2014, 06:29 PM
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I used treats to get my horse to stand still. Worked like a charm.

Have someone help you the first couple times. The friend holds his bridle to keep him still, you get on, you give him a treat from the saddle. I say the word, "Snack?" just before I treat, so it has become a signal. She hears, "Snack?" and she stops everything and turns her head to get it from me.

Then mount yourself, and if he moves, keep trying and trying until he lets you on, and then treat from the saddle once you're up there.

My mare pretty quickly learned that when I got in the saddle, she'd get a treat. She stopped moving around.

Then I started making her wait until I was very comfy and ready to go before I treated.

Just ask for a little more each time you train (don't expect anything near perfection right away), don't ask for more until the thing you're working on is learned, and you should see progress.
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post #7 of 15 Old 10-17-2014, 07:58 AM
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Is he respectful on the ground? you could try doing some leading exercises with him. walk along and then stop and if he doesn't stop when you stop, back him up afew steps. And any other time that you are standing still if he starts to walk off back him up a few steps. This is what I have done in the past when a horse has started to walk off on me.
and I agree with what breakablerider said.
Reverse psychology works great with horses :)
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post #8 of 15 Old 10-17-2014, 08:17 AM
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Generally horses will start to walk off when mounting because most riders will mount than walk off. So the horse will start thinking ahead. In long run it is better to get on and than flex the horses neck to either side so the horse doesn't automatically assume you are going to start walking once mounted.

If the horse is moving when getting on I would give the horse the benefit of the doubt and get on in steps but with a loose contact. So I would stand at side of the horse if the horse started moving I would than start moving the horses feet by either backing up or moving hindquarters so at any point while mounting if the horse moved I would move horses feet. If horse moves when I put my foot in stirrup I would get off move horses feet if horse moves when I lift my body up into the saddle I would dismount move horses feet
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post #9 of 15 Old 10-17-2014, 10:21 AM
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This is a video on mounting by a fellow forum member. Some horses are more sensitive than others about mounting/dismounting. The video uses western tack, but the principles are the same. There are things we can do to help the horse, such as squaring the horse up, having a good fitting saddle, mounting technique etc to help the horse relax while mounting.


I've tended to try to make things easiest for the horse when mounting, but some of it was a mistake. The sooner your center of gravity is over the horse's, the easier it is for the horse's back. But do it too fast, and your center of gravity will be over the horse's before you can stay on if he moves. That leaves the human vulnerable. The video is better because it leaves you the option of stepping down if the horse starts to move, and then treating it as a ground handling problem. You can then use the advice in the above posts.

As a side benefit: if you are using a strange horse, then how you pick his feet, tack him up & mount are part of how he evaluates you before your butt is in the saddle. If you make things easy for him, he tends to respond by being easier to ride.

Assuming you already do the stuff in the video, then I found it helped a lot to plan on spending 30-60 seconds standing still after mounting. It gives me a chance to relax aging legs, maybe pull the back of my thighs to get my legs positioned right, scratch the withers, sigh, and let the horse know mounting is a low stress moment of rest.
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post #10 of 15 Old 10-17-2014, 11:40 AM
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Try and stay with him whenever he moves away. Also, dismounting can be a big reward for a horse, so just practice getting on and when he stands still, get off. Just keep repeating it and eventually he'll get the idea :) worked with my horse
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