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Mounting
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Callie
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 Posted: Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 12:32 am
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Can we talk about mounting?  I had an accident with a horse during mounting one time (the horse was known to bolt from the block but the owner didn't see fit to tell me before I tried to get on)

So anyway, I do have some (maybe alot) of fear associated with mounting.  On the horse, no problem, off the horse no problem.  The act of mounting- not so good.

So I work with my mare at the mounting block, and she stands by the block and waits nice and still, and I can pat her all over and jump up and down on the block and I feel like she is telling me to just get on with it already, but how do you know your horse is ready to be mounted?  All the groundwork is excellent, she is feather light in the halter and very relaxed.  (she is an x-racehorse and she has had some re-training from that job to being a riding horse, so not an unstarted youngster).

My feeling is that all the anxiety is comeing from me, but is there any test to be sure?  Any way to just reset my own brain on this topic?

Thanks.

-Callie

Steve Hart
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 Posted: Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 04:40 am
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Callie,

This is a  terrific subject for discussion.  This topic is important to me because my one and only serious injury on horseback came from mounting a spooky horse.  Before I knew it he bolted and I ended up with my leg in a cast.  I am looking forward to hearing the replies from the more experienced horsemen and horsewomen in the audience.  I had the good fortune to attend a horsemanship clinic with Dr. Deb and this was one of the issues I was working on.  I still get that tingling in my gut and I'm sure my horse can feel it also.

I don't tell anyone that I have this problem so I'm grateful to you for bringing it up.  Most people will tell you to just "cowboy up" and get on.  This isn't always bad advice by the way.  So while we're waiting for answers I'll share the best mounting advice I ever got.

A rancher in Idaho watched me get on one of his geldings and as soon as my rear hit the seat I was flailing my right foot around looking for the stirrup.  He asked me "What if that horse was touchy in the flanks instead of dead-sided?"  I thought about it a lot after that.  He told me to mount quickly and smoothly,  then as I touch the seat flex the horse gently  to the left.   The horse may want to move out right away or he may just stand there.  Whatever.  Just forget about your right stirrup until it is safe and easy to get to.

Ever since that day I make it a point to watch people mount.  Granted most people know their horses well but I have seen more than one person get on an unknown horse and then actually bend over to get the stirrup.  So, just my two cents.  Thanks for listening,   Steve Hart

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 06:55 am
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Yes, Steve, and one of the people you did not tell that you had a fear problem was me. You did not tell me during the hours when we had lessons together that you had had an accident mounting, or that mounting made you feel apprehensive ("that tingle in your gut"). This is the stupidity of the way our male children are raised. It is the sin of pride, which is another way to say the stupidity and futility of pride. It is also the stupidity of the current majority horse-owning culture -- the value system there says that "the person who can just ignore or benumb his fears and 'cowboy up' and get on anyway and ride out any consequences, is the best rider." Bull hockey.

Now let me be straighter with you than you were able to be with me: and I am able to do this here in all fairness because these are things that I DID tell you during our lessons -- because you DID at least say that you wanted to work on mounting. However, it's been a number of years now and so perhaps it would be a good time for a little review. And Callie, some of these things that I told Steve when I was actually able to observe him, may also apply to you.

First: Steve, when you mount, you have your hips WAY too far away from the horse. You have your left hand on the horn (the wrong place) and your right hand on the cantle (also the wrong place), and your butt hung way out there to the side. This causes a leveraging action, or a strong sideways pull when you put weight into the stirrup. Then you feel you have to girth the horse so tight you've practically made him into a peanut, because when you mount you know that you're liable to turn the saddle.

Now, I would like to ask -- is there anything about this way of mounting, Steve, that relates to that fear thing that you have now been good enough to mention? Is there something -- some feeling of fear or perhaps disgust -- that's keeping you from snuggling right up against the horse? This is a habit that every person who hopes to succeed around horses must acquire -- without fear, without hesitation, and indeed with pleasure, to have your ribcage pressed right up against the horse's ribcage. You can do this with the horse in a halter. If you're on his left side, then you put your right arm over his back and step in there until even the inner surface of your armpit is touching his skin.

Now, you don't do this with a horse that you don't know well. You don't do it with a horse that hasn't had any groundwork. This is what groundwork is PRIMARILY for -- to develop this mutual confidence, so you can step right in there, almost as if you were a horse in a bunch where they lay their necks over each others' backs. You'll find out when you offer this "body contact" that the horse will get calmer and be less likely to spook or push into you or bolt. As you feel this, your own fears about being close to him will turn to feelings of pleasure and confidence.

Once you can step right in there and lay your arm over his back, just hang out for a while. This is a good thing to do when the horse is grazing.

Then when you go to saddle, do the same thing again, not slapping the saddle, but just laying your arm over the seat, over his neck, over his croup.

When you girth up, just do it to a cordial amount. The girth is not a total security device; it is a friction device. What holds a person on a horse is their balance.

And it is also by means of "balance" that we mount. To mount you want to USE balance. You do this by doing two things:

a) Stand as close to the horse's ribcage as you possibly can to begin with. Assuming that you intend to mount from the ground on the horse's left side, the safest method calls for you to position yourself AHEAD OF THE STIRRUP, facing the REAR of the horse, standing as close as possible to his shoulder. You hold the reins and a hank of mane with your left hand, placing your left hand on top of the horse's crest. Your left shoulder will be touching, or nearly touching, his neck.

b) Keeping your pelvis right next to his fur -- I mean you're rubbing your left hip against his body -- you twist the stirrup 180 degrees, place it on your left foot with your right hand, reach over and grab either the horn or (better) the right side of the fork (NOT the cantle), and swing up.

A little easier, although giving you a little less protection, is to begin by standing BEHIND the stirrup facing forward. In this case, your right shoulder will be touching the saddle skirts, and it will be your right hip and thigh that rub against the horse's body as you swing up. (I think this method is just fine when the horse has had a warmup that includes a few little reminders about untracking, and when you see he has no intention to lunge forward).

Steve, what you were doing, which I tried to help you with, was what 90% of people do: you would stand so that your chest was facing the saddle, your butt stuck out to the back, then kick that left leg up into the stirrup. The instant before you made the effort to swing up, your body looked like a "V" hung out there sideways, with your butt being the point of the "V". We want to change this into being the letter "I" instead of the letter "V". In mounting like a "V", you are actually pushing the horse away from yourself and yourself away from the horse -- this is also the gesture that people who are afraid of the horse make when they turn a horse out, and it is the worst possible thing, because it not only is clumsy, it actually tells the horse "so why don't you spook away now".

When you mount like the letter "I", you will be thinking about an elevator. It goes straight up smoothly, not upward-and-forward with a lunging or lurching action. Harry Whitney, who is expert at mounting like the letter "I", often demonstrates this by mounting a saddle that has no girth at all. He puts his foot in the stirrup and steps down, and it does not turn the saddle even though it is not girthed at all. The mount is smooth, sure, and quiet. When he sits down (Steve, this is something else that I mentioned to you), he does not sit down on his buttocks with a big "plop" -- instead, he sits first with his right thigh, then with both buttocks. If the right stirrup is not right there handy to slip his foot into as his leg swings over, then yes, he waits quite a while before picking it up. If the horse is going to buck or bolt, you probably don't want your feet in EITHER stirrup. By fishing around for the right stirrup, you are telling the horse to move when in fact you want him quiet. There's never a hurry to pick up either stirrup.

Now Callie, all of this applies exactly the same to mounting from a block. There's no difference. You want to get the horse as close as it is safe to do to the block (too close and some horses start thinking you want them to climb up on the block). So you have him close, and then you complete the closeness by getting your right hip as close as possible to the saddle before you put your left foot in the stirrup. You adjust the reins so that you have control of the horse -- which really means "so that you feel it early if he starts to go forward and can thus inhibit any tendency to move forward equally early." You will be ready with both reins held in your left hand to stop the horse immediately if he moves forward. On the other hand, you must do this with some tact -- you're not cramming him to a stop or doing anything too strong there.

You have both reins in your left hand, you place your left hand on the horse's crest about halfway up, and with a horse that's not too likely to move, it's good to grab a hank of mane, too. Then, still with your right hip as close as possible to the saddle, so that it is touching the saddle, you put your right hand across and grasp the right side of the front fork (NOT the cantle). You then put your left foot in the stirrup, and put about 50% of your weight in the stirrup and the other 50% on both hands. Then swing your right leg over.

Again, sit down on your right thigh before you sit down on your buttocks, and don't be fishing for that right stirrup. Once you are seated, don't wiggle or adjust -- you will have time to pull the wrinkles out of your undies later. Just sit quietly and pet the horse on the neck.

Now, Callie, you have also asked "how do you tell when your horse is ready". This is a subtle matter that relates to your ability to "read" a horse. And yet you have answered your own question within your own post: because, very clearly, you can hear your horse saying, "so get on with it and get on already!"

When you hear a horse saying that, that is what he is saying, Callie. You can check the eyes and the ears -- are they soft and relaxed? You can also observe the horse's legs -- does he make an "A" frame or at least a square frame, in anticipation of receiving your weight and the resultant shift in balance that it will cause him to have to take care of? To reduce a horse's desire to move when being mounted, it is helpful to place his feet at the mounting block so that they're not in some wierd, off-balance configuration. You want to encourage him to walk up there calm and slow, and then when he gets there see to it that he's taken that last little step of the walk so that he's pretty square. Then, when you climb the block, you can use your right hand to lightly push the pommel away from you or pull it toward you, which will induce him to adjust the front feet into an "A" frame if he hasn't already. When you see him do this, you'll notice it and then from there on out you will look for him to do this, and if he does not you will help him before attempting to mount.

There's a fair amount of grist here, so what would now be good I think is for both of you to go out and try to put some of this into practice for a day or two, and then write back with further questions or comments.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

 

Callie
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 Posted: Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 06:59 pm
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Thanks Dr. Deb!  (and Steve for coming out of the closet with me!)

So I thought lots about what you said about the act of mounting, and I thought through what I do in relation to that, since my block is high enough that my feet are level with the stirup, so I can just swing my leg over.  I am doing the main points from the checklist though, keeping my hips near the horse and my body upright, so that is ok. (the horse is 17 hands, so mounting from the ground for me is out, sometimes good things come in giant packages!)  I also practiced rib cage to rib cage with her on the ground and it was really nice.

The big DUH! moment I had was as I was thinking about what you said, basically "When you hear a horse saying that, that is what he is saying, Callie".  I live that on the ground, and once I'm in the saddle, so what I finally figured out to ask myself was "self, why are the lies you tell yoursef about mounting more important that the truths the horse is telling you?"  And of course, what I realized is, of course they aren't important. 

So today, (after our groundwork) I asked her next to the block, climed up, stroked her on the off side shoulder and hip, looked up at her ears and heard her very clearly say, all's well, whenever you're ready, and instead of doubting her, and listing to my own lies, I swung my leg over and she stepped lightly off.  Now I prefer she stand still and wait, but I also felt like she needed to move her feet a bit as it had been quite a while since I had ridden her.  As it was, she walked once around the round pen and then stopped and was ready to work.

We did about 15 minutes of walk work and I put her up.  She did great! (and so did I if I do say so myself) It was like having my mojo back when I figured out how to handle that little voice in my own head.

Now sometimes people want to hold the horse when you mount, and I really don't like it, because I feel pressured to get on the horse right away because they are holding it, and I feel like the horse isn't getting a chance to tell me she's ready, that she is forced to allow me mount because someone is holding her.  Am I just overly touchy about mounting?

Thanks.

-Callie

shade of bay
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 Posted: Tue Jun 19th, 2007 10:57 pm
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I've been working on this mounting thing a lot lately, just to try to make it all a better experience.  I want him to move in closer to me when I'm on a mounting device (stump, knoll, rock), and also stand willingly for a mount from the ground.  Luckily, he's 15hh so on the uphill side it's an easy mount.  And he does stand nicely now for a ground mount doing as DD suggests.  But to move in closer to me when I'm on a device, I need help here.  Do you try to put your pressure on the outside hip to move it in closer?  How do I ask for that hind end to move in towards me?

We're all psyching up for our next HW clinic in July here in MN.  Just Can Hardly Wait!!

shade of bay (aka miriam who can't take the time to log in while at work)

Bill
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 Posted: Wed Jun 20th, 2007 02:37 am
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The first time I saw someone mount from the fence was at a clinic. Someone ask him to show how you get this done. He said I've never tried this. He climed up on the fence and sat there. He lifted on the lead rope and the horse started to look for the release. As soon as the horse gave him a try in the direction he wanted release. It took about three minutes and he sliped into the saddle. I have used this method my self sence then and have never worried about the off side. I just wait until they respond in the right direction, works real slick, they even like it better then being mounted from the ground. Bill I

Joe
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 Posted: Wed Jun 20th, 2007 06:24 am
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Dr. Deb, in reading this thread, I really focused for the first time on the number of people who must have trouble mounting. 

The question is begged -- if a person requires a block or other mountng device, and a very calm horse, can that person safely ride outside a confined area like an arena?  I am thinking here if the number of reasons why a rider in the field will dismount, to pick things up,  open  or close gates,  walk across a dangerous area where prudence dictates leading rather that riding and so forth.  Of course, there are also the occasional rapid involuntary dismounts.  I can also think of lots of reasons why a horse in a given place and time will not be calm, yet still must be mounted.

Any thoughts?

Joe Sullivan

miriam
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 Posted: Wed Jun 20th, 2007 09:06 pm
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Hi Joe and Bill,

Good questions. I think I recall Bill Dorrance's book talking about preparing the horse for mounting by grasping the saddle with both hands and rocking it back and forth a bit to unbalance the horse and cause him to take a wider stance. I like to think that my horse is ready for me to mount b/c he knows that saddling usually means riding, and also b/c he's mentally with me as I contemplate the action.

A summer ago, I might not have been so polite to prepare him for my intentions as I am now. Last year he even swung his head around a couple times when I mounted, almost like he was gonna bite. He didn't though, but I had to ready myself for that possibility by having an elbow there - but this year I've not seen that and have decided to take TONS of time on the ground before even saddling. It's paid off, we're a better team this year b/c of my efforts at and keeping him from angst.

Bill thanks, I'll try your suggestion tonight.

 

miriam
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 Posted: Thu Jul 19th, 2007 02:52 pm
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How do you feel about teaching the horse to bow down for us to mount? It this roough physically for the horse?

 

Sam
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 Posted: Sun Jul 22nd, 2007 07:12 am
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Hi Miriam,

This last question really got me thinking and wondering.  I really like teaching my horse to pick me up off a drum or a fence, as its indicates to me my horse is quite happy to help me mount and maybe it doesn't hurt his back as much as it might if I get on from the ground.  The idea of the horse  bowing to pick up a person could be an ultimate form of helping the rider mount, but after a bit of thought, and getting very imaginative I think it would be better for the horse to sit and the rider get on sitting horse than the bowing horse.  When we did Dr Debs orthapedics class she answered a question I had for ages, why does a cow get up bum first and a horse gets up front end first.....I asked my dad years ago and he said a cow would stomp on her udder if she got up front end first!!!!!!  Made sense to me at that time!  It would seem a horses hind limb joints are on a spiral so ( I am really hoping I have this right here and hope Dr Deb will correct me if I put you crook)that is why he has to get up front end first.  So I kind of wonder if picking up extra weight on his front half as in collecting a person from a bow might just be a bit hard for him to manage.  I have a vague idea of how to teach a horse to pick me up in such a way, from sitting, it would be a fun thing to teach but my horses have a long way to go before they would be okay with this.  Its been a thought to keep me occuipied while the weather here is awful!!

Best Wishes

Sam the first.


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