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Mounting Anxiety

There are many MANY reasons horses do not stand still for people to mount, but they all lead back to anxiousness (whether it be excitement, pain, or worry about what happens next).

Sometimes the solution can be as simple as letting the horse stand still for a minute after you get on.  Horses learn routines, and if you always get on and go, then your horse will soon just try for the “go” and skip your getting on.

That is obviously a very simple answer.  For people who are willing to look a little deeper into their horses’ state of mind (which for your own safety I urge you to do) you want to look for signs of stress or discomfort in your horse prior to mounting.

Before you put on a saddle, check your horse for sensitivity in their back or girth area (watch their facial expressions as well as flinching in their body).  Some horses that have had a lot of unpleasant experiences with saddles flinch before you even set the saddle on their back.  For those horse you have to build new positive associations with the saddle and riding once you have thoroughly checked for any residual or current physical issues.

One thing important to remember is that just like when we don’t feel good we get grumpy or overreact to things we might normally let slide, horses also become less tolerant when they are dealing with even a low level but persistent pain.  If you have ever had a headache that won’t go away, you can understand how your ability to “deal” becomes limited.

So once you have checked and double checked that your horse is not in physical pain before getting on, you also need to take a look at how your horse feels about the work you have been asking for while you are riding.  Perhaps you went on a trail ride with some hills the horse hadn’t been physically prepared for, or you asked for way more of ______________ than you had before.  Most of us would not go run a 10k without training a few weeks for it, but we don’t often think about adequately preparing our horses for carrying us (because they are horses and we see horses carrying people in pictures all the time!).

The army, which in centuries past used horses to their physical limits, came up with the rule of not making a physically fit horse carry more than 20% of their weight.  So a 1000lb horse in regular physical training would not carry more than 200lbs (rider, tack, & everything).

Working with older horses or those who have had time off, I have noticed that any weight over 15% (of the horse’s weight) causes the horse’s back and shoulders to become sore even if the ride was just walking for 20 minutes.  And these horses were reluctant to approach the mounting block for days afterwards.

Besides physical over exertion, there can also be mental stress.  Sometimes we ask our horses to do things or go places that push them over their fear threshold and it can take days (at least) for their endocrine levels to stabilize and their emotional state to calm down.

While you work to identify and alleviate your horse’s worry, you can practice having your horse follow you at liberty to the mounting block and reward them (do they have a place they liked scratched?) and repeat until you can scratch their withers from the mounting block.  When you do finally get on, get off again without asking your horse to move (do that for a couple sessions).  Then start building up your rides slowly and keep focused on what makes your horse unwilling.  Like young children they can’t tell us why they do things, but if you watch their behaviors and gather information without prejudice, you can make positive changes that make your rides better for both horse and rider.



Positive Reinforcement and Stallions

The temperature had dropped from a muggy 90 degrees to a blustery 52 degrees in a matter of hours. The horses were all running around and leaping into the air to try to stay warm. Of course, I thought that this would be a perfect evening to work with my Andalusian stallion, Frankie (Financiero) since weeks of bronchitis had limited my time with him. For the last month, I had only had a few minutes here and there to do a little clicker training while moving him from one turnout to another.

For this cold wet evening, I had Frankie in his shed pen next to the arena. I was almost out of daylight, so I grabbed my long bamboo pole I used for training horses to lunge with R+ and my treat bag and opened Frankie’s gate and asked him to follow me. First thing I had overlooked was a big feed bucket with old mushy alfalfa pellets sitting right outside Frankie’s pen. He had not had dinner yet so went right for it.

I really didn’t want him to eat the old feed so I tried the “I have something better” game. I asked him to lift his head and gave him a good treat when he did (rather than our usual Timothy pellets). It took 3 or 4 times to finally get him to follow me away from the bucket and into the arena.
One of Frankie’s favorite things to do is to run to the other side of the arena immediately upon entering and see what horses might be hanging out on the other side. Second thing I overlooked was that I has put a mare who was always quite a flirt, in the paddock at the end of the arena. Frankie did his run to the other end, saw the mare and I figured I would have to go get him and end our session in the arena. By the time I got the arena gate latched however, Frankie was running back to my end of the arena and went to one of our stations that we had worked on a couple months ago when I was taking an online multiples class. I was thrilled so I clicked and threw some treats into the pan.

I knew Frankie was cold and wanted to move, so I asked him to target the end of the long bamboo pole. I had only worked with him and the long pole in a couple short sessions during the summer. I did not expect much tonight. But He was more willing to reach for the end of the pole than he had been in the past. The long pole can be very intimidating to horses that have experience with whips and Frankie was extremely defensive when I got him several years ago. But now Frankie followed the long pole and touched the end agreeably.

I then walked over to the platform in the middle of the arena and he got on it quickly despite it being very wobbly. After treating him for his success, I had him follow me to the horsey car wash (hanging pool noodles). The wind was blowing pretty hard so I didn’t ask him to get close enough to be hit by a flying pool noodle. That was the point I decided to try to video some of this. The camera light came on and Frankie was blinded for a more moment since it was well past sunset. I quickly figured out just to point the camera at the target and not at my horse. Sorry Frankie.

So the point of the story is that I had a great training session in the almost dark with my energetic stallion despite the cold wind, a mare and assorted other horses around the far end of the arena, and obviously no lead. Frankie did station by the mounting block as we were leaving but I decided I was too cold for anymore tests on that night;)

Upcoming Events at the Balance Point

Email us to sign up or for more information.girls3b

Clinic Series: Introduction to Training with Positive Reinforcement
I.  Saturday, November 4th, 2017 (2:30-4p)

II. Saturday, November 11th, 2017 (12-3p)
III. Saturday, November 18th, 2017 (12-3p)

Balance Point Liberty Challenge: Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Winter Class Series: Learning Theory
Evening & online group classes


Winter Break Camp: December 26-29, 2017




Sunday, March 4th, 2018: Play Day at the Balance Point


Sunday, March 11th: Advanced Liberty Clinic


November 4th, PlayDay at the Balance Point

Join us Saturday, November 4 2017,  for our Fall Festival PlayDay and Potluck at the Balance Point Equestrian Learning Center in Bastrop.
Gates open at 8am.  We will start activities by 9:30am with…
Obstacle challenge in the arena:
6 mins to go through as many trail challenges as possible, each one judged on a scale of 0-5pts.
(If your costume stays on you get extra points!)
In-hand class
Liberty class
Ridden class
NellDanessaThe Haunted Trail challenge (very short but hilly):
Short course around the property with natural as well as other SPOOKY obstacles!
Walking division

Trot divisionMajCorey

Costume Contest Judging at 11:45am, before Lunch
Group costumes, Individual costumes & children’s divisiongroup2
Potluck lunch at Noon
Potluck Lunch at 12p.  Bring a dish to share and a hearty appetite for FUN!
Courses will be left up until 3pm for anyone who wants to go back through & practice.
$40 per horse (with current Coggins) or just come & cheer everyone on!
Please let me know if you are able to attend (if you are bringing horses) & if you need directions.
It’s going to be a Spooktacular day!

rRachel:  512-718-4088

Balance Pt. Equestrian Ctr.
245 E Clearview Cemetery Rd
Bastrop, TX 78602
 AlyssaMoonie2 AngieAliya