Standing Still for Mounting
I have a seven-year-old Tennessee Walker gelding. I have only had him for two weeks, so we are still getting to know one another. He is a gentle, lovable horse. Very well behaved but I can’t get him to stand still to mount. I have been backing him up, everytime he moves and this helps at the time, but we go through this every time I ride.
Also, he has buddied up with a two-year-old walker, where I board. All the horses are turned out 24/7. Whenever I try to ride by myself, he doesn’t want to go past a certain point because he is afraid of getting too far away from his buddy. What can I do for both of these problems?
Thank you, Pat Mosely
Dear Pat: Well, you have two problems that need to be addressed — separation anxiety and lack of focus.
Since you know that your horse is a herd animal it’s only reasonable that he would be concerned when he’s out of site of the herd. This tells you how your horse thinks about you in the herd thought too! If he were trusting and secure with you as the herd leader, then he would look to you for support. He doesn’t feel that way so he’s looking to the horse he left behind for that support. Separation anxiety is not something you are going to “fix” in a day. But you can make big progress over a short time frame if you attack the problem in a way that the horse understands.
I would practice taking the horse in and out of the pasture so that he can see that he’s coming back and nothing bad happened while he was gone. Do this in small increments. Start by just going out the gate, standing for a few minutes, rewarding the horse and then take him back. Progress to going out of site, standing for a few minutes, rewarding, and then going back. Work up to going off the property for a short period of time. It takes a long time to do this but you may have to work up to a point where the horse is not sweating head to toe from nervous energy.
Not standing still is something that is likely caused by the horse wanting to move its feet because he’s not comfortable with the situation. You should first check the obvious things i.e. saddle fit, pain/discomfort/, your mounting technique, etc. Assuming that all of these things are OK, then you need to address your horse’s ability to focus on you. When you go to ride, are you all business? By this I mean do you grab the tack, throw it on the horse and go ride every time? Do you ever just go get your horse and groom and ask him to stand still for this? Maybe this is how the previous owner dealt with the horse – who knows! Your job is to make the horse comfortable with just standing still. This is one of my favorite things to do with a horse because it doesn’t take a lot of thought or energy on my part. I like to either sit on the horse or just stand next to him and scratch/groom the withers – just like another horse would do. When the horse moves his feet, I make him work – usually lateral movement. Don’t make the work into punishment, you are just trying to get the horse focused on you. When the horse stands still, I reward with more scratching and grooming. It doesn’t take the horse long to figure out what the good deal is! Be consistent and you’ll have this down in no time.
You have very high expectations for a horse than you have only owned for two weeks. He’s also relatively young and may not have any training that would give him the foundation for being a good horse. Give him some time and be patient. You’ll work through these issues and even more that you didn’t realize where there.
Good Luck, Rhett
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