It can be aggravating when you’re just setting down into the saddle and your horse moves off before you’ve even slid your feet into the stirrups. If that’s the case, your reaction might be to pull back on the reins and say something in a harsh voice. That can set the tone for the whole ride.
You’d much rather be able to get on an immobile horse who moves off eagerly when asked (and only when asked.) This takes training.
But what if your well-mannered horse’s mounting block behavior deteriorates? That was the case with Cider, who is an amenable older gelding. I give his owner, Trina, riding lessons. She’s been annoyed at Cider because he’s been moving off before her leg is fully swung over his back. It’s winter. It’s cold. You’re not so nimble when it’s 25° F; it’s truly irritating when your horse shifts out from under you before you can adjust your gloves and coat. When it’s that cold, it’s as hard to change emotions as it is to warm up, so even when you do get settled in, your mood stays grim.
Trina had read my blogpost about how I’ve taught Tonka to halt square and quietly. That made us look critically at how Cider was standing at the mounting block. He was camped out behind (so easy to observe, and yet so easy to not notice!) Because of this stance, when Trina got on, Cider had to move in order to get comfortable. He wasn’t misbehaving, he was doing what he had to in order not to hurt.
Cider’s posture is something we’ve worked on under saddle to help keep this horse sound into his old age (I wrote about that here.) But we hadn’t paid attention to the very first moment of the ride.
So, for our lesson last week, Trina asked Cider to stand at the mounting block with all four legs plumb under him. She got on. He didn’t budge. That’s all it took.
Sometimes the fix is easy.