Problem Solving: Horse Won't Stand Still For Mounting
by Parelli Professionals on Nov 01, 2023
By Ryan Pfouts, 4-Star Senior Parelli Professional — www.ryanpfouts.com
We’ve all seen the one-legged kangaroo dance; the rider jumps around with one leg in the stirrup while the horse walks away. This can be very dangerous, not only because you can get injured but because you’re teaching your horse a negative pattern and not expecting them to act like partners.
“Prior and Proper Preparation”
Start on the Ground
Play with your horse until you have them in a relaxed state of mind and want to stand still. Lots of Friendly Game is key, which involves rhythm, relaxation, and retreat:
- Tossing the lead rope over his back
- Flopping the saddle pad off and on
- Lifting your foot toward the stirrup and back down
- Even stepping up and down in the stirrup
- Try placing a Green Ball on their back and holding it for 30 seconds
Prepare the Position
Position your horse so his feet are braced for you to get on. Help your horse spread their legs and prepare for your weight by pushing and pulling on the saddle horn; rock the horn or pommel from side to side and try to unbalance your horse. You’ll feel the horse spread its legs and square up behind.
By making this a game, your horse will begin to stand solid when you rock them from side to side. This stance will put them in the best position to accept your weight. It is easy for them to inadvertently walk away because they were adjusting to your weight and just kept walking.
Assess the Situation
If you get on and they start to walk off before you’re ready, you need to determine if the horse is drifting off and sauntering away or is getting worried.
If the horse is getting worried, get off and start again. Winning the Seven Games and playing more on the ground is key. The Parelli Pre-Flight Checks checklist will also give you practical steps to prepare your horse for mounting.
If the horse is softly drifting, there’s an expression: “Lift to stop the drift.” The lift comes from the rein on whatever side you’re mounting from. Lift straight up on that rein – don’t pull back, don’t pull sideways, just lift the rein straight up.
By making the “wrong thing difficult” by lifting, you may consider bending the neck a little if they walk off too much. Just stand there until they square up. Don’t get on. Step off and repeat. Then put your foot in the stirrup and step up again. The goal is to step up and down three times before committing by swinging the leg over completely.
Stepping up and down three times teaches your horse the pattern of standing still to be mounted. Practice this:
- Step down and up, down and up, down and up.
- Stand halfway up.
- When they stand still, reach over, and rub on the far shoulder to ask “permission” to get on.
If they stand still, you have the green light to get on. Sit there for 30 seconds. Smile. Don’t go anywhere; you’ll teach the horse the habit of moving as soon as you mount.