Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

Dusty and I are still working on her mounting block issues.  The good news is she is picking up on what I want/need from her.  It’s become apparent that the more I work on her position at the mounting block without getting in the saddle, the better she comprehends the lesson.

Once she’s in the correct location, I pet her and speak very softly to her to let her know what a good girl she is.  If she moves and I can’t correct her hind end from the mounting block, we calmly walk a circle and come back to it.  This only takes two or three tries before she stands like a statue.  Then I use my hands to put weight on the saddle; if that goes well then I put my foot in the stirrup and weight it on and off.  It’s almost like working with a green horse that is being introduced for the first time to the whole mounting process.

This time when she finally stood quietly for a few minutes I got on expecting her to shoot off as usual once I was in the saddle.  Color me surprised when she simply stood there and waited for me to ask her to walk.  I really think she’s starting to get the whole concept and it hasn’t taken that long.  All it takes is patience and understanding on our parts to try and figure out what is right for a particular horse.  With Dusty it seems if I’m soft, relaxed, and speak quietly to her she will in turn unwind and treat this process as if it’s no big deal.

I admit rather sheepishly that most of her problem at the mounting block has probably been my fault.  For years I’ve been a little tense while mounting.  Not just her but any horse (except Erik--he stood like a rock; it was his best gait.)  I’ve always been anxious that a horse would move off while I was halfway on (Dusty did this a lot) or I would somehow fall in-between the mounting block and the horse and get trampled.  There’s no sense telling someone not to be fearful if they’ve got it in their head that something could go wrong.  I know it’s an unfounded and foolish fear, but there you have it.  Once I’m on I can usually deal with any antic a horse can throw at me, including ducking out at jumps or galloping around during a spook.  I’m not an apprehensive rider, but that whole mounting process has me tense and nervous.  Go figure.  Maybe if that’s the worst thing I have to deal with it’s not so bad.  So while Dusty is getting over her issues, I’m working on getting over mine.  Actually, I’m feeling pretty good about both of us after this last session. 

Oh, and we had a nice softening walk around the arena, too.  Seems when neither of us is tense at the mounting block and walk off calmly she takes a lot less time to soften at the walk.  I’m thinking I might be onto something good here.  Wish us luck.

Until next time

Quote for Today
Riding is a partnership. The horse lends you his strength, speed and grace, which are greater than yours. For your part you give him your guidance, intelligence and understanding, which are greater than his. Together you can achieve a richness that alone neither can. 
    - Lucy Rees-


  1. I understand your mounting trepidation. I never gave it a second thought until I got thrown from a green horse before I even had my leg over. After that I felt like *every* horse I got on was going to take off on me. Rationally I know it's silly but it didn't change the fact of nervous tension every time I was getting on. It's gotten better over the years but a horse moving off during mounting is still one of my least favorite behaviors. Luckily Coro is a real gentleman about it. What a lovely, patient approach you are taking with Dusty.

  2. AnonymousMay 01, 2012

    Sounds very good - I think little things like standing when mounting bleed right over into lots of other things and give a good start to a ride.

  3. Not at all strange. Once you get an image in your head of some disaster or other striking at some moment, it's hard to put it aside and be totally relaxed. Sounds as if both you and Dusty are giving each other some much needed confidence in your quiet and soft approach.

  4. We do it, horses do it. It is hard to let go of past bad experiences. Sounds like you both are on the road to recovery. :)

  5. I like your technique and clearly Dusty does, too. She is a pretty girl.

    Your fear is not unfounded. Mounting and dismounting are the most dangerous parts of therapeutic lessons. I have held my breath many a time as a very compromised rider teetered between on and off the horse during the mounting or dismounting process.

  6. You get the Blue Ribbon for patience with Dusty and with yourself. Looks like you are helping each other climb over your fears--which is what we are all here for in this life!

  7. I'm glad to hear it's working so well, for both of you ;)! It's funny how the act of calming the horse can calm the rider, too.

    Everyone has a fear of something. It's how you react to your fear that counts, not the fear itself. You've got the right idea and you'll have this fixed in no time!

  8. Well done and good luck! Dusty is perhaps more sensitive than sensible sometimes ;-) Ah well... life is a learning process for all of us.

  9. Arlene, I did a similar thing to Keil Bay and turned his rock-solid mounting routine into one where he, mirroring my own antsiness, would take steps forward, back, etc. while I fidgeted on the top of the block.

    It took me some time to sort it back out and the main thing was to address my own body/thoughts first. If I went out and just got on w/o thinking he stood as still as a statue!

    This all happened after I fell several years ago (down the stairs, not off a horse, even) and injured my back. My caution about my body and falls went sky-high and transferred to mounting.

    Anyway, glad you and Dusty are working through this. It sounds like you are almost to that place where it can become a non-issue!

  10. There's wisdom at the root of most of our fears--we all have them about something. Mine is having a horse fall backwards on me. It's never even closely happened to me before, but I've seen it and can't get it out of my mind. You're doing the absolute best thing to get over this obstacle with both you and Dusty--building up confidence with calm repetition. I'm always amazed at how well and how fast it works, too. I had to laught about Erik's "best gait." ;) hilarious!

  11. I have mounting block fears too. I had a mounting block tip over on me getting on my spooky little girl. Talk about the worst horse to have that happen with!

    Sounds like Dusty is really getting it though, knew she would!

  12. Good girl Dusty! I just knew when I first saw your post title that this was going to be about Dusty. She is becoming a real lady at the mounting block. I use a mounting block all the time (can't get on Misty without something to stand on). It is always a precarious moment when that second foot leaves the mounting block.

  13. Just goes to show us that horses make dreams come true.

    Even the bad ones. Lol. Glad this is on its way to being fixed.

  14. " There’s no sense telling someone not to be fearful if they’ve got it in their head that something could go wrong. "

    This is so true. Especially with horses. There always seems to be a hot spot that we are trying to work through.

    The last time my Windy was at a trainer, I asked her to work with her on standing while mounting and she did. That one item was worth the entire 30 days training fees. I can scootch (sp) her up to anything from the mounting block to the running board of the trailer and she STANDS for me to mount.

    Been enjoying the pictures, including the foxes

  15. Fabulously done..and still doing! Dusty seems to be a willing partner... just keep up the calm. mine is like that too.

    Though my fears are founded on prior happenings..I too must remain in check of myself, so as not to give my mount her reasons to follow through.


  16. We all have our things. One time something spooked Harley and he jumped sideways when I was mounting or dismounting--I can't quite remember now--and ever since then, I'm a little nervous about that part. I better remind Kurt that I want the emergency release stirrups for my birthday. Then I'll feel better. Because you're right; you can't just TELL someone not to be scared.

  17. Yes it is so easy to have a fixed idea (usually without foundation) just there ready for our horse to pick up on. By slowing down for Dusty you are slowing down for yourself. Can't it sometimes be hard to tell which part of an issue is you and which part is your horse?


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