Q: Every time I try and mount my horse, she moves backwards. If someone holds her head, she's fine, but without a helper she moves back. I do not pull on the reins and also try not to be overbearing. How can I fix this problem?
It can be dangerous if your mare moves backwards to relieve pressure. One step back is one step too many. For your safety, this problem needs to be nipped in the bud. You must be positive and determined with your mare and establish some rules. Rule number one must be that she doesn’t move backwards to relieve pressure.
Start your training in a twenty foot square yard. Saddle your mare and teach her to move around you in a small circle about five metres in diameter. You must teach her to move freely forward in both directions at the walk and trot.
When she trots three or four circles to the left, bring her to the centre of the circle and ask her to stand. Rub her head for a minute or two to give her a break, then move her to the right and repeat the process. Be positive and make sure she walks and trots when you ask.
These circles will teach your mare to move forward and also give her time to relax with the saddle. It’s a warming up process for both of you. She’ll learn it’s easy and pleasant to do as you ask and you’ll learn to be positive about what you want her to do.
Following is an outline of how to mount safely. At first, mount in the small square yard. It’s important to hold both reins as you mount and to stand as I’ve shown in the photos.
1. Lay your left hand against the mare’s neck and take the nearest rein up through the bottom of your hand. Make sure there’s a light tension on the rein.
2. Take the other side rein down through the top of your hand. There must be a light contact to the bit. Without contact on the outside rein, your mare can move at any time and you won’t be able to stop her.
3. Bring some mane down through the top of your hand. This allows you to have a steady hold when you mount. If you pull accidently, you’ll pull the mare’s mane, not her mouth.
4. Close your hand, and hold the reins and mane together. Make sure there’s no loop in the reins. As soon as your mare takes even one step back, you must twist your hand to pull her head around towards you. If she moves, you must move with her and immediately she stands, straighten your hand to relieve the pressure on the bit. You must make it easy for your mare to stand and unpleasant for her to move backwards. Spend a few lessons teaching your mare to stand when you’re in the mounting position.
5. When you have some improvement, hold the front of the saddle and prepare to mount. If the mare moves, catch her immediately by twisting your hand.
6. When you mount, make sure there’s no loop in the reins and make sure you don’t kick her as your leg comes over. By gripping the mare’s mane and the front of the saddle, you can mount without inadvertently pulling on her mouth.