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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I have a 21-year-old quarter horse who has his quirks, but nothing serious that we haven't been able to work through. Although, we've been having some mounting troubles.

He had the standard walk-away-from-the-block-when-mom-gets-on like almost every other horse. I tried to nip that in the bud via different methods suggested to me by different trainers at my barn. However, that evolved into a trot-away-from-the-block before I even get a chance to swing my leg over. He is perfectly capable of standing at the block completely quiet until I put one foot in the stirrup- then he takes off.

Well, yesterday, I went to get on him and the unexpected happened.... he took off at a full speed gallop with me hanging off one side of him. He's not big at 15hh so I was able to just step to the ground and he stopped right next to me, but I'm finding it very hard to correct and the trainers I have access to are at a loss since he has neglected to respond to anything we've tried (and treats at the block just make him angry with me if I don't give him more).

I'm very desperate! He's a great horse with amazing talent. He's been tossed around between a couple of homes until he landed with me. I've worked with him immensely over the past 2 years to make him comfortable and happy. I know he's not physically uncomfortable (that's one of the first places we checked for an issue).

Please leave your suggestions!! If anyone has had experience with an ornery old quarter horse who has been through hell and back, I'd love to hear your suggestions. :sad::sad:
 

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Before you do anything training wise, this horse needs to get seen by a vet and rule everything out. Then you need to find a experienced saddle fitter and let them look to see if your saddle fits.

If all of that is ruled out and it’s not a pain issue then, I’m sorry to say, but you’ve let your horse get to that state. That gallop didn’t come out of the blue, you haven’t corrected him hard enough when he’s tested the waters in the past so he’s just pushed the boundary.

I am, first and foremost, a fan of having a trainer watch you and correct you in person. It’s better than internet advice. However for a basic response for this question I would quickly and aggressively back him halfway around the arena if he so much as started forward motion.

I recommend finding a trainer to help you though if it’s not a pain issue. I’d rather see an experienced eye help you.

But first try to see if he’s in pain and if there’s an issue with saddle for. Also if you only mount from one side, please try mounting from the other some time in the future interchangeably.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Before you do anything training wise, this horse needs to get seen by a vet and rule everything out. Then you need to find a experienced saddle fitter and let them look to see if your saddle fits.

If all of that is ruled out and it’s not a pain issue then, I’m sorry to say, but you’ve let your horse get to that state. That gallop didn’t come out of the blue, you haven’t corrected him hard enough when he’s tested the waters in the past so he’s just pushed the boundary.

I am, first and foremost, a fan of having a trainer watch you and correct you in person. It’s better than internet advice. However for a basic response for this question I would quickly and aggressively back him halfway around the arena if he so much as started forward motion.

I recommend finding a trainer to help you though if it’s not a pain issue. I’d rather see an experienced eye help you.

But first try to see if he’s in pain and if there’s an issue with saddle for. Also if you only mount from one side, please try mounting from the other some time in the future interchangeably.
Thank you!! I have had trainers in person with me helping the whole way. I am turning to internet advice PER REQUEST of my main trainer to see if anyone else educated out there has any answers/has had the same experience. She is also turning to her professional training friends.

I also mentioned in my post that I already had a vet come out and rule out any pain issues! He's seen at least once a month (more if I notice any issues) because of his age- but he's in very good shape physcially for his age. My saddle is also fit FOR him, which I didn't mention but I did say that all pain was ruled out previously :)

Now in terms of "letting him come to this point" I talked in my post about how I have corrected him in every way I can think. I have done what you suggested with backing him up (that was one of the first things we ever tried) and it resulted in rearing and pawing out. It's mainly a temperment issue, and he doesn't respond to the negative reinforcement you are suggesting. I am looking for any suggestions of positive reinforcement. He's been through a lot and has grown very thick skin- he hasn't had the best of lives and hasn't had ANY proper training and reacts very negatively (and dramatically, I might add) to any negative reinforcement training. He's just been through too much. He developed this issue BEFORE I had him (not the galloping, but the walking and trotting away from the block). I am not the only one training him- I have experienced trainers with me pretty much at all times.

I agree that I need an experienced eye to help me- I do! But, I am asking to see if there is anyone who has had this experience with their own horse.

Your suggestion of mounting from the other side is really interesting and I'll definitely be trying that out- smart! Thank's for your comment.
 

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Have you tried:
- someone holding him while you mount
- ground mounting
- mounting from something besides the mounting block

You say he gets grumpy when you give food rewards but doesn't deal well with being reprimanded. You could also try clicker training and just verbal rewards.

One thing i do with both my guys that seems to improve our rides is, once I get them lined up at the mounting block, I stand them there for a few seconds, then I walk up to their face and spend, IDK, maybe 30 seconds telling them, in a very nice and soft voice, that they are a good boy, that I love them, that I am happy with them, that I am proud of them. I also rub them a little at that time. I really think about all the good things they do, and let that come out in my voice as I tell them how good they are. It seems to make them feel good. Maybe your guy might respond to that?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Have you tried:
- someone holding him while you mount
- ground mounting
- mounting from something besides the mounting block

You say he gets grumpy when you give food rewards but doesn't deal well with being reprimanded. You could also try clicker training and just verbal rewards.

One thing i do with both my guys that seems to improve our rides is, once I get them lined up at the mounting block, I stand them there for a few seconds, then I walk up to their face and spend, IDK, maybe 30 seconds telling them, in a very nice and soft voice, that they are a good boy, that I love them, that I am happy with them, that I am proud of them. I also rub them a little at that time. I really think about all the good things they do, and let that come out in my voice as I tell them how good they are. It seems to make them feel good. Maybe your guy might respond to that?
He act's fine when someone holds him. Although, that can't happen every time obviously.

Ground mounting = the same result. I've tried mounting from a regular chair, the same result. So, I can semi-confidently say that the problem doesn't derive from the block itself.

Thank you SO MUCH for your helpful and positive suggestions! I can see your suggestion working. He gets himself worked up and stressed out way too easily. As I keep saying, he's been through so much and has experienced a lot of negative training.

Thanks for listening to my post and responding so helpfully- it means a lot. I will CERTAINLY be taking your suggestions and applying them when I go out tonight. I plan to spend time just mounting and dismounting (if I even get that far) to see if I can find where the stress comes from and how to remedy that. THANKS AGAIN!!
 

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In addition to @ATinATX excellent suggestions, practicing mounting is a good plan too.

To practice mounting, one breaks down the components into tiny steps and practice several times each.

First, stand at mounting block. Reward, walk away. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
2nd horse at mounting block, rider fiddles with stirrups, girth, whatever. Reward walk away
3rd horse at mounting block, rider puts weight on saddle or stirrup, reward walk away
4th horse at mounting block, rider sits on horse and gets right back off. Reward, walk away

Each time go through each step, like building blocks.

No "corrections", only praise for right thing. Do not EVER immediately ride off after mounting. Sit on him for a few minutes and can even give treat from saddle. Do not let horse ever walk with food in mouth, so must take time to chew first.


Do some liberty training. I really like Eva. This is video fun to watch

 

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Yes! I was going to suggest that step-by-step approach as well, and I forgot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
In addition to @ATinATX excellent suggestions, practicing mounting is a good plan too.

To practice mounting, one breaks down the components into tiny steps and practice several times each.

First, stand at mounting block. Reward, walk away. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
2nd horse at mounting block, rider fiddles with stirrups, girth, whatever. Reward walk away
3rd horse at mounting block, rider puts weight on saddle or stirrup, reward walk away
4th horse at mounting block, rider sits on horse and gets right back off. Reward, walk away

Each time go through each step, like building blocks.

No "corrections", only praise for right thing. Do not EVER immediately ride off after mounting. Sit on him for a few minutes and can even give treat from saddle. Do not let horse ever walk with food in mouth, so must take time to chew first.


Do some liberty training. I really like Eva. This is video fun to watch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u08QEYkcxN4
AH! You're amazing!! Thank you both SO MUCH! Such great and positive suggestions.
 

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For years, my jousting crew and I mounted our horses in armor, which sometimes weighed up to 70 pounds. (not me, the men--my armor never weighed that much) Our horses HAD to stand quietly while we mounted. It would be impossible to hop around swinging on a moving horse with all that weight.

We practiced many ways of training our horses to stand quietly while being mounted. What worked best for us (and seems doesn't work so well for you), was giving the horse a treat when it stood quietly to be mounted. For some of the horses, it was a gradual thing--the horse got a treat if it stood for only a few seconds, and we slowly increased the time. If a horse got mad because it thought it should have more treats, oh well, we were mounted and we got on with the business of riding. I think the idea of clicker training is a really good one. The horse will associate the clicker with the treat.

My next door neighbor is 76 years old and in the last 3 years has started having difficulty mounting. There is no shame in having someone hold your horse while you train him. It might take 6 months or a year, but everybody is safe. If you have people around, nobody minds holding a horse to help somebody out.

My neighbor has been riding his whole life, and he doesn't like depending on others to hold his horse. Here are some ideas that other elderly riders have done that have been successful. One man keeps the halter on under the bridle. He slips the leadrope through a ring on his trailer and holds the rope as he mounts with the horse "attached" to the trailer. This needs to be practiced some before attempting to mount because a squirrelly horse is not going to stand quietly, and elderly riders have to have a rock steady horse to mount. So, practice first with the horse on the rope "attached" to the trailer.

One person hangs a bucket with some feed on a post or on the trailer. While the horse happily eats, the rider swings up.

I know another elderly rider who slips the rope through a ring on a snubbing post. It takes a bit of practice to get this to happen smoothly, especially with a horse that already doesn't want to stand quietly to be mounted. I think clicker training would come in handy in this situation.

Another elderly man clips the leadrope to the trailer ring, mounts, and reaches forward to unclip after mounted.

I've never been a fan of backing up a horse that doesn't stand to be mounted. I've found it just causes the horse to back up when you try to mount.

I also am not a fan of making the horse "work", moving the feet etc. when they don't stand to be mounted. It has been my experience that in this case, "moving the feet" makes the horse anxious and angry, and less inclined to stand quietly.

I really like the idea of going in front of the horse, praising him, petting him, getting yourself in a positive, grateful, accepting frame of mind.

Having a horse holder is the best solution in my opinion. The horse holder can have some treats. I have found that horses learn fairly quickly to anticipate a treat when coming to the mounting block. Once again, if the horse is mad when the treats end, well, you're on the horse, ride off. Good luck. I've had a lot of experience with teaching horses to stand quietly to be mounted. With patience . . . treats . . . and time, they come around.
 

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AH! You're amazing!! Thank you both SO MUCH! Such great and positive suggestions.
Don't even ride for the first few days. Let the horse really understand that all you are going to do is stand and practice mounting. This will help him relax.

Once you are able to ride again, make sure the first bit is at walk. Do some lateral work or a few circles, changes of direction. Just to get his brain engaged.

Always end with walk too. The horse remembers what the last thing was.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
For years, my jousting crew and I mounted our horses in armor, which sometimes weighed up to 70 pounds. (not me, the men--my armor never weighed that much) Our horses HAD to stand quietly while we mounted. It would be impossible to hop around swinging on a moving horse with all that weight.

We practiced many ways of training our horses to stand quietly while being mounted. What worked best for us (and seems doesn't work so well for you), was giving the horse a treat when it stood quietly to be mounted. For some of the horses, it was a gradual thing--the horse got a treat if it stood for only a few seconds, and we slowly increased the time. If a horse got mad because it thought it should have more treats, oh well, we were mounted and we got on with the business of riding. I think the idea of clicker training is a really good one. The horse will associate the clicker with the treat.

My next door neighbor is 76 years old and in the last 3 years has started having difficulty mounting. There is no shame in having someone hold your horse while you train him. It might take 6 months or a year, but everybody is safe. If you have people around, nobody minds holding a horse to help somebody out.

My neighbor has been riding his whole life, and he doesn't like depending on others to hold his horse. Here are some ideas that other elderly riders have done that have been successful. One man keeps the halter on under the bridle. He slips the leadrope through a ring on his trailer and holds the rope as he mounts with the horse "attached" to the trailer. This needs to be practiced some before attempting to mount because a squirrelly horse is not going to stand quietly, and elderly riders have to have a rock steady horse to mount. So, practice first with the horse on the rope "attached" to the trailer.

One person hangs a bucket with some feed on a post or on the trailer. While the horse happily eats, the rider swings up.

I know another elderly rider who slips the rope through a ring on a snubbing post. It takes a bit of practice to get this to happen smoothly, especially with a horse that already doesn't want to stand quietly to be mounted. I think clicker training would come in handy in this situation.

Another elderly man clips the leadrope to the trailer ring, mounts, and reaches forward to unclip after mounted.

I've never been a fan of backing up a horse that doesn't stand to be mounted. I've found it just causes the horse to back up when you try to mount.

I also am not a fan of making the horse "work", moving the feet etc. when they don't stand to be mounted. It has been my experience that in this case, "moving the feet" makes the horse anxious and angry, and less inclined to stand quietly.

I really like the idea of going in front of the horse, praising him, petting him, getting yourself in a positive, grateful, accepting frame of mind.

Having a horse holder is the best solution in my opinion. The horse holder can have some treats. I have found that horses learn fairly quickly to anticipate a treat when coming to the mounting block. Once again, if the horse is mad when the treats end, well, you're on the horse, ride off. Good luck. I've had a lot of experience with teaching horses to stand quietly to be mounted. With patience . . . treats . . . and time, they come around.
Thank you!

Yeah, exactly like you said, I don't plan on backing him or anything. He's stressed very very easily and you said it perfectly- it would just make him anxious.

Thanks for your awesome response! It's very nice to see how positive most of my responses have been.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Don't even ride for the first few days. Let the horse really understand that all you are going to do is stand and practice mounting. This will help him relax.

Once you are able to ride again, make sure the first bit is at walk. Do some lateral work or a few circles, changes of direction. Just to get his brain engaged.

Always end with walk too. The horse remembers what the last thing was.
Yes!! That's one thing I found out very early works WONDERS on my Bear. I have a veryyyyy long walk at the beginning and end of our ride, bending and circling and changing direction, never on the rail. It gets his mind engaged, focused, relaxed, and ready to listen. If he feels he doesn't have a job (like, if he's just walking on the rail) he gets rather worked up. All of my work is done off of the rail. He had lots of negative experience with the rail (when I went to look at him the first time I watched the "trainer" repeatedly yank his bit harshly to the outside when he wouldn't stay on the rail). Your suggestions are spot on- thank you so much!
 

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To practice mounting, one breaks down the components into tiny steps and practice several times each.

First, stand at mounting block. Reward, walk away. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
2nd horse at mounting block, rider fiddles with stirrups, girth, whatever. Reward walk away
3rd horse at mounting block, rider puts weight on saddle or stirrup, reward walk away
4th horse at mounting block, rider sits on horse and gets right back off. Reward, walk away

Each time go through each step, like building blocks.
A similar process to this was very helpful to me with my mare, who wasn't really trying to completely run away, but she would not stand still to be mounted and then had a bad habit of trying to walk off while I was still trying to get my right foot in the stirrup, which for me was an unacceptable combo because I'm a newbie and it just made me more and more nervous, which in turn made her more and more nervous.

I combined this process with clicker training.

First I taught her to associate a specific sound I make with getting a treat. Then when I'd ask her to do something really simple, (like stop or back up when walking her, lower her head while I had the bridle in my hand, stand still to put the saddle on, etc. stuff she already knew how to do) and she did those things right, I'd make the sound and give her a treat. So that she knew to associate that sound with giving the correct answer and with being rewarded.

Then I moved on to putting weight in the stirrup with my hand, and when she would stand still, clicker noise and treat. After being able to repeat that successfully a number of times, I'd put my toe on the stirrup and if she stood still, clicker noise and treat. Then on to putting weight in the stirrup, springing up like I was going to mount, and so forth until I could put myself belly-over the saddle and she would stand still then I'd make the noise, get down and give her a treat.

From there, being able to be laying over the saddle with her standing still, I taught her that when I made the noise she could turn her head to the right to receive a treat while I was on her back. Once she could do that, it was a fairly short transition to being able to put my leg over and sit in the saddle and when I would give the noise cue she would bend her head to the right and take a treat while I put my right foot in the stirrup.

Now we are working on being rewarded when she stops and stands still when asked.

We worked on this for months and have been very successful so far, but the first thing was teaching her the noise associated with the treat.

If you have a horse that gets pushy over treats, a good way to deal with that is to ONLY give them the positive clicker noise and a treat when they aren't trying to mug you for a treat. For example, when I was teaching her what the noise meant I would ONLY make the noise and give her a treat once she had stopped nosing me for treats and put her head back in her own space. I was doubtful at the beginning that it was going to work because she used to be so pushy about treats, but using that method also made her less pushy about treats and food in general.
 

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My mare is a drama queen about punishment and also a glutton for treats. She is a tester as well so she keeps inventing new ways to ask who’s in charge all the time. At one point she decided that walking/trotting off after mounting was a great thing to do.

These are the things I tried:

- Punishment - loud voice. Didn’t work, she got scared of approaching the mounting block.

- Treats. Very much didn’t work. She gets overly excited about food and most definitely doesn’t stand. Keeps going backwards to sniff/look for treats. She doesn’t get in my space but gets incredibly fidgety and her brain stops working. I can’t use treats in training at all.

- Keep her feet moving. Didn’t work as she doesn’t mind moving in tight circles or laterally. She just learned to move around the mounting block as soon as she approached it. She would never stop on her own, so I didn’t get a chance to re-inforce. This approach only works for horses who don’t like moving as that is a reward. Standing still isn’t a reward for a horse which likes moving.

What worked:

Mounting in a corner and making it a non event. I would place her facing a corner and fiddle with tack, scratch her itchy spots, talk to people - or even just stand there until she visibly relaxed. If she raised her energy as I started to prepare to mount, I would go back to other things. Until she just ignored my fiddling and kept her relaxed state while I was mounting. I don’t look at her head while mounting. Surprisingly, this takes less time than any other method I tried.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
My mare is a drama queen about punishment and also a glutton for treats. She is a tester as well so she keeps inventing new ways to ask who’s in charge all the time. At one point she decided that walking/trotting off after mounting was a great thing to do.

These are the things I tried:

- Punishment - loud voice. Didn’t work, she got scared of approaching the mounting block.

- Treats. Very much didn’t work. She gets overly excited about food and most definitely doesn’t stand. Keeps going backwards to sniff/look for treats. She doesn’t get in my space but gets incredibly fidgety and her brain stops working. I can’t use treats in training at all.

- Keep her feet moving. Didn’t work as she doesn’t mind moving in tight circles or laterally. She just learned to move around the mounting block as soon as she approached it. She would never stop on her own, so I didn’t get a chance to re-inforce. This approach only works for horses who don’t like moving as that is a reward. Standing still isn’t a reward for a horse which likes moving.

What worked:

Mounting in a corner and making it a non event. I would place her facing a corner and fiddle with tack, scratch her itchy spots, talk to people - or even just stand there until she visibly relaxed. If she raised her energy as I started to prepare to mount, I would go back to other things. Until she just ignored my fiddling and kept her relaxed state while I was mounting. I don’t look at her head while mounting. Surprisingly, this takes less time than any other method I tried.
Seems like we have VERY similar horses! Thanks so much!! This was helpful to hear as it seems our horses have similar quirks.
 

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Clinton Anderson has a video about a horse that does similar. I am not a CA fan, and some of the handling of that horse in the video was atrocious, in my opinion. But, the concept of letting the horse move his feet, nae, in fact if he chooses to move his feet when you want him to stand still, you MAKE him do it. Then, you allow him to rest next to the mounting block. That concept is a tried and true one.


There is some real anxiety in him when he feels you getting on. My guess is that in his past, he was taught to get busy and MOVE! the minute a person was in the saddle, so he is very anxious about it. For that reason, I think the harshness of CA's approach may really overface him.


I suggest , if you are a good enough rider you can do this, or if not, have a really confident rider do this . . . Get up by hook or by crook, then , when he starts to move his feet. let him. in fact, go with him. Get him moving, and moveing and moving and when he asks to slow down, you ask him to keep cantering. after a bit, you point him toward the mounting block , and walk over there. If he walks past the mounting block, you pick up the pace, work fast! come to a walk, point horse at mounting block . . . you sit quiet in the saddle as he approaches. If he walks past, put him to work.



You offer the chance to stand near the mounting block, if he chooses to keep moving, you make him move a bit more than he'd like. Keep occasionally approaching the mounting block and doing nothing to see if he may tell you that he'd like to stand by it.

When he finally does stand by it, let him rest a bit, get off him. praise him , stand a bit, then reposition him for remounting.


rinse and repeat. The first time he just stands when the rider gets on, the rider gets off, and horse gets put away.
 

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Some good suggestions here and I have done some of them too.
Another thing I do with a horse that doesn't stand well for mounting is spend some time after the ride at the mounting block, they are quieter then and more reasonable to your suggestions.
I will just stand on the block and scratch or pet the horse talking to it and after a few times the horse will stand quietly and then I hang over him and put my weight on him then when that is going well, start putting my foot in the stirrup then take it our and just progressively work on this til the horse is standing quietly for all and keep expanding on it until you are getting on with him standing, then get right off.
He will soon learn that he can stand while you get on and off. A treat might help with this, I guess you can use your judgement on this as I have never given treats at times like this.

the above suggestions are also what I do with a young horse when I start training it and getting it ready to ride and learning about the mounting block and proper "mounting block behavior"

If this horse is older and it's an established behaviour it might take a little longer for him to get used to the "new way of mounting"

I might also add that there are what is called a cold backed horse and if this should be the case, put the saddle on and give him time to get used to it and do the cinch up gradually as you walk him around. Apparently these horses should be allowed to walk off right after mounting. The operative word here is WALK
I have never had any experience with a cold backed horse so don't know much about it
 

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Another thought I had, are you jabbing him at all when you mount? I know a lot of people will jab a horse in the elbow with the stirrup or toe of their shoe when they get on. Many don't even know that this is happening.
I had a friend out to ride with me, she is a western rider, and she rode my mare who stands very well for mounting. I asked if she wanted to use the stool to get on and she said no she could do it from the ground with no problem. When she put her foot in the stirrup it went forward and gave the mare a good jab right in the elbow. The mare laid her ears back and walked off.
My friend mentioned that she would have thought my horse would stand better and I replied that she did except when she got a good jab in the side. My friend was positive that she did no such thing but I knew she did because I saw it happen.

You mentioned that you had a trainer watch, maybe you could do this again and they could tell you if this is happening.
 

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Aside from what has already been said, which I think has been excellent advice. I wanted to ask if your horse shows signs of tension at the mounting block, you say he gets stressed/ anxious easily? I worked with a horse similar to this a few summers ago, although not as extreme as your case seems. I found that making the mounting block his 'calm zone' worked the best, but he was a horse who particularly became tense at mounting. Similarly to what Woodhaven has described. For a while, I just attempted to mount/ put weight over the back or stirrup etc and if he showed some relaxation or just stood, then I would end it there and do no more. Later, I would even chose that spot to rest the horse in between work.

I would definitely have your trainer help, as this has become a safety issue as well. I would go back to basics, like your breaking in a new horse and treat it all like a new experience by rewarding small improvements.

I have had some experience with cold backed horses. We've always lunged before mounting and have found the back on track saddle pads do work a bit.
 

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Please don't be offended, but a lot of folks mount in a motion that is perpendicular to the horse's back. This pulls the saddle sideways and can cause pain when it hits the spine. I find it goes much better if I have a handful of mane in my reins hand and make it a "back to front" motion....which just happens to let me toss a leg over as I move "forward" on the horse. On my most recent rides, I've been mounting with one hand free...just don't NEED my right hand when mounting. Seems to help me and my horse.

Not saying you are doing anything wrong. Just something to check. A couple of videos I found helpful:



With the right technique, the cinch isn't needed for mounting. That suggests a lot of us are less than optimum in how we mount.
 
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