Sunday, July 15, 2012

Back to Square One

I’d like to thank everyone for their comments and advice on how to deal with Dusty’s current mounting problem.  First let me allay any fears that something is physically wrong with her.  Conventional vets with x-rays and ultra-sounds included have checked her out along with many other tests.  There is no way she could possibly have ulcers because she has 24/7 access to hay/pasture, is very laid back and doesn’t even have one iota of spookiness or worrisome behavior in her.  Basically, she acts like she doesn’t have a care in the world that she is queen of.  Dusty has also had licensed chiropractors and acupuncturists treat her.  Again, nothing is wrong there.  I also had a custom saddle made for her, so that’s not an issue either.

As for having some soreness from mounting from one side only, I don’t think that’s a problem because she doesn’t get ridden more than two or three times a week.  In the past I’ve alternated using a stirrup and not using one to mount her.  As long as someone was holding her and stuffing treats in her mouth she was just fine.  We’ve stopped giving her treats at the mounting block, so that could be a minor issue that she’s rebelling against, but it’s not likely.  I should add that Dusty has been spoiled for many years and not corrected for small misbehaviors (my fault) and this could be why she is escalating her bad behavior to another level. Just testing because she does like things her own way and she is very very opinionated.

We’ve decided that the best way to address this mounting issue once and for all is to make it uncomfortable for her to do the wrong thing and praise her when she behaves correctly. Carson from the 7MSN gave me this {link} that I had read before and it seems to be the best way to work with Dusty.  We’ve altered it a bit to fit our situation. Here’s what we did today:

We decided beforehand that no matter how long it would take we were simply going to work on Dusty standing still at the mounting block.  I wasn’t going to get on or ride her today.  We would just work on getting her to stand still.  If she moved a foot or swung a hip we would send her out on the lunge line until she wanted stop and come back in. No moving the block to accommodate her; she was positioned where we wanted her to stand.  First time she swung her hip out, so she trotted for a while then broke into a canter then took herself down to a walk and then came back to the block.  Okay.  Let’s try it again.

Next time she moved her body away from the block.  Back out again on the lunge and she did the same thing only in a different direction. And I might add that I don’t know where she got that gorgeous canter from because I’ve never seen it before.  We were both really impressed and it’s good to know she has it in her.  She came back to the mounting block and was positioned and told to “Stand.”

Guess what?  From that point on she stood like a statue and never moved a muscle, or a foot, or a hip.  I put pressure on the saddle, wiggled it, put my foot in the stirrup, lay over the saddle.  Nothing.  Dusty was Venus de Milo, stone statue, but still reigning goddess of the farm.  So we ended with that and will keep on doing this until we feel she has it down cold.  I’m sure I could have mounted today and rode her but we really wanted her to just get this lesson down about standing still and not throw too much into the mix.  It’s a good start.

Until next time

Quote for Today
A horse has so docile a nature that she would always rather do right than wrong, if only she could be taught to distinguish one from the other.


  1. AnonymousJuly 15, 2012

    Sounds like she's a horse that has to understand that you really mean it, every time. I expect the problem is going to evaporate pretty quickly - if you mean it, every time. Glad what you're doing seems to be working.

  2. My horse is OTTB and they don't mount "standing still." Jockeys are given the "leg up" as the horses are led (in post position order) from the saddling paddock. When I first got him, most of our "rides" were journeys to nowhere because I didn't do much more than what YOU are doing. Weight in the iron, leaning over the top, etc., all in an effort to get the horse to stand still.

    The error most people make is trying to get on like the jockey, horse in motion. Horse doesn't learn and some horses realize the rider is off balance and they can add a jig step and move adroitly to the side as the rider hits the ground. (Been there, done that. SEEN it done a lot, too).

    Keep up the good work. Miss Thang will figure out pretty soon the "Venus pose" is a whole lot less effort ;o)

  3. Sounds like you're taking the right approach. What she was doing to you when you tried to mount was scary at the very least!

  4. Fantastic. I didn't reply yesterday, but if I had, the method you used would have been my suggestion--only because it's exactly what Kenny Harlow does with a horse that doesn't stand. And that includes not standing for other things as well.

    The idea as that the horse is a basically lazy creature--at least where human work expectations count. That's where all the round penning exercises work. The horse finally decides that if doing what the human wants allows her to get out of working hard--like running around in a small circle--then do what the human wants.

    Kenny makes the horse move off as soon as a foot moves. Most horses I've seen him work catch on pretty quickly that standing still is the smarter option.

    So happy to hear it worked so far with Dusty. Keep it up so she doesn't revert to old behaviors, as she still may test you.

    Wondering if the problem was rooted back in her past with a saddle tree that hurt her when a rider tried to swing on??

  5. Good! Sounds like you have found something that works! Can't wait for updates.

  6. Not sure if you noticed, but in the 2009-dated comments you mentioned that you were going to try Carson's method with Dusty...
    Better late, than never!
    Hope it is as successful for you and Dusty as it was for Carson and Hank!

  7. Go figure- Ms. Dusty has a strong will, but it looks like you've come up with a way to convince her that she needs to listen to you. I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment of this adventure.

  8. It's like that saying, practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect....

  9. Oh you wily human, you've outsmarted your horse :)

  10. She may be a handful, but she is no dummy! Isn't that often the case?

    Good work with the new plan.

  11. Congrats to both of you... ;-)

  12. AnonymousJuly 16, 2012

    Hi here is a VERY QUICK way to fix this. In a round pen, secure the reins over the saddle horn so the horse cant' step on them . Pick up the mounting block ( I use a light weight plastic 2 step) and simply hold it on the side you want to mount on- low next to the girth area against her, lightly touching her side if possible where you would typically mount ( no need to be at ground level w the block just hold it low and as close to her body as possible ). As the horse moves away you stay w her keeping the block in this position . Just match her speed (this puts some pressure on her) holding the block in this position ( stay right at her girth w it- stick to her like super glue). When she stops put it down on the ground directly below where you have been holding it( I like to drop it not so gently). If she moves away again quickly pick it up and follow her again sticking w the block at her side. Repeat this until she stands still when you drop it. Praise her - give her a minute to rest then you should should be in the correct position to mount. A you mount expect that she will try to move the first few times- if so,don't get on - simply get down and follow her w the block again and repeat the dropping and resting as soon as she stops. Learned this w a great trainer- fixed this proble in five minutes! Good luck.

  13. Hope this lesson sticks =) She's very smart and opinionated mare!

  14. Yaay!! Fab news :D Looking forward to hearing more!

  15. Just goes to show that you always have to try and find the way that works for your horse. Dusty certainly likes to keep you on your toes; it's not easy to outsmart a smart horse!

  16. Maybe her name is not Dusty at all but Venus? And that's why she stood still to mount?

  17. I like your approach. And it worked. Yeah. Good lesson for Miss Dusty de Milo. (I loved the Venus de Milo comparison.)

  18. It's obvious to me you're one of those owners who would rule out physical issues. I believe you that she doesn't have ulcers. Ulcers are the new popular thing that is wrong with horses. I am so sick of if I mention a training problem, someone argues with me that my horse has whatever is the current popular ailment, syndrome or injury. Nowadays, it's ulcers.

    You are doing what I would do, except I'd do it in the round pen. Do you have one? They are soooo much easier because you can send them away and make the wrong thing harder a lot faster and smoother, and also safer. Anyway, glad you're making good progress!

  19. Debi,
    I don't have a round pen set up just now. We do have a smaller riding ring we could use but don't use it that much because I don't like the footing. I've been riding in the indoor because it's a softer landing if something happens and there's less distractions with bikes or cars from the road.


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