Positioning your horse to easily mount from a block or other object
Why move the mounting block to your horse when you can easily train your horse to position himself for mounting at any platform?
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   Positioning Your Horse at a Mounting Place

Why keep moving your mounting block to your horse when you can easily train him to sidle up to any platform you may want to mount from including float mudguards, bumper bars, tree stumps, boulders, fence rails, etc?

The procedure I am about to describe is a classic demonstration of how a horse learns through trial and error and the importance of feel and timing in the application of the cue or aids.

One of the reasons horses are so trainable is that they like doing nothing at all the best of all. They will take what they perceive to be the easiest path every time. Therefore, all we have to do is to set it up so that what we want the horse to do becomes the easiest thing he can do. The often used but very apt cliché is "Make the desired thing easy and the undesireable thing difficult." Easy to say but this often takes considerable lateral thinking on our part.

Ok, so how do we put this into practice? Very basically, we must first decide on a cue for whatever action we are endeavouring to teach the horse. This cue is the pressure we apply so that, when the horse does what we want, we can reward him by releasing that pressure. In this way we cause what we want the horse to do to be the easiest thing he can do.

Timing of this release of pressure is of prime importance. We must initially release the pressure immediately the horse shows the slightest hint of doing what we want, including even a shift in balance in the right direction. If we release too late or at the wrong time altogether we are rewarding the horse for something other than what we want. After a few repetitions of the perfectly timed release, the horse will begin realise that he can release the pressure and thus take the easy road to the place of less pressure. Remember this, every time we release the pressure we have just rewarded the horse for whatever was on his mind at that time. This applies to anything we want to teach our horse.

Ok enough theorising. I am using T. Schwaigers "Blake" here and I want to teach him to sidepass up to whatever his handler is standing on. I have found the easiest cue for this is upward pressure on the rein or lead rope. This is an example of some lateral thinking. The direct line thinking might indicate that the cue to use would be something that would put pressure on the opposite side of the horse, such as a whip, to drive the quarters around towards the fence. That is fine if you want to always carry a long enough whip but lateral thinking tells me that my cue applied with feel and timing can gain a more cooperative result and I will most always have a rein or lead rope if I want to mount my horse.

In Photo 1 I am sitting on a high fence for two reasons. It is initially easier for me to apply vertical pressure if I am above the horse and the fence assists the horse in assuming the correct orientation. I have applied the vertical pressure and the horse first responded by raising his head and backing but I held the pressure and he has just started to take a step forward. I immediately released the pressure for a few moments and started again. After a few well timed repetitions (Photos 2-3), the horse now has the idea that he can avert the vertical pressure by moving his hind end around to stand parallel to the fence. The horse had not the slightest prior inkling that upward pressure on the lead meant that he should move parallel to the fence but correct application of the cue and release only when he moved in the right direction taught the horse that standing parallel to the fence was the place of least pressure. In other words, I have taught the horse how to release my pressure and standing beneath me and parallel to the fence becomes the easiest thing he can do so he does it every time. Those first three photos spanned only 4-5 minutes.

When I had the horse to where he was freely and reliably moving into position at a very slight application of the cue I moved down to a box in front of the fence and repeated the exercise. You will notice in Photo 5 that I have both arms held parallel to the fence. This is so that the horse gets accustomed to 'lining up with my arms" for when I move away from the fence and he no longer has it for guidance. When the horse was again moving freely and reliably into position here, I moved the box away from the fence a metre or so and repeated the exercise.

In Photos 6-10 the mounting box is well away from the fence. I am using the bridle rein and the horse is responding to my cue from well on the "wrong' side of me. Notice my arms outstretched to give the horse guidance on where to line up. When these last photos were taken, less than 35 minutes had elapsed from Photo 1 and that is about an average time for most horses to get good at this. Photos 10 and 11 were taken immediately after to indicate that you can then apply this anywhere including tree stumps, vehicle bumper bars and what have you.

Some final tips:

  • Apply pressure and hold that pressure until you get a desired response, however slight. (pressure can include rythmic jiggling of the lead) There is rarely any need to increase the pressure beyond the jiggling mentioned above.
  • When in doubt hold pressure rather than increase.
  • Release pressure at the slightest try from the horse, even a weight shift in the right direction.
  • Don't be in a hurry to mount. Let the horse get to where he freely and reliably moves into position at the slightest cue. In other words, let the habit form before he finds out that it means work for him.

A further tip - with a bit more lateral thinking, you can develop this into having your horse sidepass towards you (see photo gallery). Good luck and have fun with it.

The hi-tech approach
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