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Horse Problem - Cinchy Horse & Mounting Problems  - Horse overreacts to cinching & mounting process









QUESTION: I just recently purchased a 7 yr-old Peruvian Paso mare. She is very sensitive and has a high-energy level. While I have gotten used to her gaits and enthusiasm on the trails, she is very difficult to mount. Just going to tighten the girth before getting on causes her to start moving in circles or running backwards. I don't think there are problems with the tack because the problem is not always consistent and everything seems to fit well and properly. Once you are on her back, she is eager to go and listens. Most times she will eventually start to settle down so I can mount her, but yesterday after she stood still, she spun around and sent me sprawling on the ground. It frightened her so much she took off at a full gallop to the barn, which involved running on a rather busy street. Luckily we are both OK. So my question is, where do you begin with solving this problem? Supposedly she has had a lot of training, but mounting from the ground has alluded her. Any suggestions to avoid a serious accident?
REPLY: Thanks for writing. Regarding your problems there... Glad you (or she) weren't hurt!! I get that problem coming to me a lot. And it's a little more in depth than it looks on the surface. And yes, I've got some ideas that will get you on a better track there. Actually, I can quite clearly see with my "professional eye" that your horse still has holes in her foundation and that's what this is about. I see them very clearly. And I've got some ideas that you can even do yourself without needing a professional trainer to close up those foundation holes and get the quiet, cooperative horse I know you want there.

To start off, you've got to make the right thing easy, the wrong thing hard there. But first let's talk here for a moment about proper mounting procedure, because this is what you are going to want to back up and teach your horse step by step and then I'll show you what to do if the horse moves off when you are mounting. (I'll get into cinching problems near the end here.)

When I mount the horse from the left side, I always will have mane and rein in my left hand, with that left hand planted on the horse’s neck, and I keep the horse's head tipped in my direction via a drawn-in rein, light contact with the horse’s mouth. (Note: rest assured that it does not hurt the horse to pull on the mane when using it for mounting.) I make sure sufficient slack is let out in the offside rein.

The farther you stand from your horse during mounting, the more uncomfortable pressure you will exert on the saddle and the more pain you therefore potentially create for the horse, so I stand as close to the horse’s body as I can. Improper mounting causes the girth to bind, the saddle to twist, which then causes the horse pain, and in domino effect, creates horses that want to move off to get away from that pain. So, getting this down correctly will teach the horse to better stand still and also get you up onto the horse’s back more safely.

My right hand helps the left foot get positioned into the stirrup securely; I make sure my foot is not pushed too far into the stirrup, only my toe inserted, and there is a very important safety reason for that: if a horse ever spooked or moved off quickly with only my one foot in the stirrup, I want to be able to remove my foot easily, quickly and safely. A foot jammed too far into a stirrup could translate to a rider becoming hung up there, dragged and seriously injured in such a move-off or bolting scenario, so remember: toe only in the stirrup!

Next, my right hand holds onto the saddle cantle (back of saddle) or, better yet: the offside swell of the saddle (opposite side of saddle front). With the right hand on the offside swell, the saddle twists less, though with some beginner riders, or those mounting very green horses, they may feel more balanced or secure using the cantle at first. But do work to eventually be able to mount with right hand on offside swell if you can, because this creates far less pressure and twisting on the saddle, as well as on the horse’s spine and muscles, making it far more comfortable for the horse.

Hands now in proper position, left foot in stirrup, next, with one or two hops on my right foot, I use the energy from my legs to bounce straight up into the air. (Or you can use a mounting block if the horse is too tall.) I am careful not to bump the horse’s side with the toe of my left foot during this mounting process. (Important!) If your horse chronically moves off while you mount, try having a friend hold a hand between your stirrup foot and the horse’s body to see if you are inadvertently kicking the horse’s side as you mount – happens more often than you might realize! It is also a good idea, when first learning proper mounting procedure, to have someone hold the horse, or at least remain near the horse’s head for backup help, if needed, until you (and the horse) get the full hang of it.

As I begin the mount, if the horse starts to leave with my one foot balanced in the stirrup, I simply pull the left rein in tighter with my left hand, and the horse circles into me until completely stopped. A horse generally only can move easily in the direction his head is pointing, therefore, with his head cocked into me, he can only circle. And horses do not like to make tight circles, because that is much harder for them. Make the right thing easy, and the wrong thing hard. Inevitably, after circling, the horse will halt.

        Here's a picture of proper safe mounting position –
        mane and rein in left hand; right hand holds the cantle
        or the offside swell of the saddle. With the horse’s head
        pulled to the inside, if the horse decides to leave, all he
        can do is circle to the left into you and wind down to a stop.

I also easily can jump off at this point, if wished, since only my toe will be in the stirrup. I will not swing a leg over a horse’s back until I have the animal standing quietly and patiently waiting for me! If a horse will not stand still, compliantly for mounting, then we slow down and work on just this problem alone. Repetitions of the horse circling as such will find him before long choosing the easier route of standing still. Since I plant into the foundation of every horse I train the one-rein stop, first on the ground, we have practiced the one-rein stops already thoroughly before even getting into saddle, so the horse is familiar with bringing the head around to the side to stop. If a horse still continues to walk off during mounting, however, usually increasing pressure annoyingly, bumping with the left rein along with a disciplining “Shhhhh!” sound will stop most walk-offs quickly.

When the horse remains still, I then swing my right leg over the horse’s back in one smooth straight-legged motion. It is important to be smooth here, not sloppy. It is also critical not to bump the horse’s croup/rear end with that right leg as it crosses over, as this sometimes upsets horses or triggers a move-off, especially in green beginner or jumpy horses. I sit down softly in the saddle. Flopping down too hard onto a horse’s back at this point can create a “cold-backed” horse or even one who bucks, so it is important to always ease ourselves gently down into the saddle. However, remember to be confident at the same time when mounting; don’t approach this stage apprehensively or the horse will pick up on that tension. Don’t hold your breath either, as this will automatically tense you up. Breathe deeply and regularly, and this automatically will help relax your body, and that relaxation will translate over to the horse.

When I do swing my leg over the horse, I will still maintain a feel through the rein on that left side with the horse’s head tipped inward; i.e., the rein is still held fast in the drawn-in position. This allows me to safely find the stirrup on the offside and get myself arranged. If the horse becomes upset, I will simply circle to the left, perform a one-rein stop, bring the horse’s head to the side for bonding/stroking, taking the horse back to that safe, loving place we already established on the ground in the earlier steps – the safety zone. There are no large learning leaps. It all made perfect sense to the horse on the ground earlier. Now it is simply being transferred to the same expectation in the saddle.

If a worst case scenario ever happens and a horse threatened a buck at this point, right after you have mounted, keep his head up and over to the side, and sit deeply in the saddle to keep your body more secure. Generally, before a horse can buck, he will try to drop his head so he can gain the momentum he needs to raise his back upward to institute the buck. Head to the side and head up he cannot buck as easily. The tendency for many beginning riders at this point, when a horse potentially threatens a buck, is to lean forward, but that only makes it easier for the horse to buck you off! Instead, sit up straight, keep the horse’s head up and tipped to the side, circle the horse into the one-rein stop, remain sitting deeply into the saddle and you will more quickly regain full control. Generally, if you baby-stepped the horse in this mounting procedure, getting on and off the horse a few times if necessary (especially with beginning green/reschooling horses do this repeatedly), you will never have to go there. But it is good to know what to do if you are ever faced with that situation some day!

After my offside foot is securely in the stirrup, and before asking the horse to move off anywhere, I will draw in a little more left rein to bring the already-tilted-to-the-left head even closer to me. With the horse in this bent position, I quickly reach down to stroke on the horse’s face and neck, warmly reassuring the horse that all is okay. Bonding from the saddle to reinforce that I will still take care of the horse is the name of the game here. Then I gently ask for the head to yield to the right to keep the horse from developing a habit of walking off unasked, and again I bond on the horse from the right now to give equal-sided reassurance. No surprises here. We have already practiced this on the ground, so it is familiar territory for both the horse and me. And now we are ready to ride!

For overall laying down of a horse's ground foundation in general, here's where I would suggest applying horse whispering/natural horsemanship training techniques in a very clear step by step program, which you can learn more about in my DVD set, the Whispering Way 12-Step Total Training System, and you can order that here: CLICK HERE

After watching the videos, and after learning and applying the methods, you, as the horse's primary teacher will have taught the horse:

  • How to be bonded to you more deeply so that he trusts you to the max and he will be far more willing to do whatever you ask, even when he is in doubt;
  • That you both have a "bonding place" (a "safety zone") to come back to always, from then on, if he's ever upset or afraid, on the ground (or later, in the saddle); we plant a one-rein stop in the foundation of every horse, on the ground first, so that in the saddle, it is automatic. This keeps you safer and the horse more rational, and feeling supported, bonded, connected more deeply emotionally to you.
  • How to relax him when he is tense about something before he is called upon to react negatively.
  • How to have him yield easily, in any direction when asked -- he'll learn how to yield properly to pressure to receive the release of pressure. All horses learn from the release of pressure what it is you want, not from the pressure itself;
  • How to progress bonding to even deeper levels to the point of downright intimacy; makes a horse feel like he never had it so good being with his owner!
  • How to move him from the rear, and him learning to do that rationally, which is so important to teach a horse to do before you ever ride them, and which you'll be using for a lot of other things like trailer loading, going in and out of a gate, into a stall, and so many other places/situations; this also teaches a horse that you are in charge of their feet.
  • How to address effectively any fears (and his reactions to them) that you flush out in his behavior at any given time; my program focuses greatly on finding the fears before they find you and fixing them -- safely on the ground first! Even lay folks can do this. It's all about: safety. This then builds a far more rational, confident, happy horse, because, in essence, you have effectively raised his "fear/anxiety bar." And you will have taught him simultaneously in the process, how to turn to you for nurturance support when/if he is ever afraid or upset.
  • How to do all this first on the ground, then later in the saddle, in that order.
  • How to keep you safe and the horse safe at all times, throughout all of this --- always my biggest training focus.

This video set will help you to lay down an even stronger, more solid and trusting foundation under your horse there that will then serve you well, tremendously, actually, when you do step up into the saddle. By the time you complete the steps, you will have a transformed horse. The final steps are in the saddle and those exercises will more deeply plant into your horse's foundation the one-rein stop/the "safety zone," and more, that will turn him into a far, far more rational, trusting, happier -- and safer -- horse in saddle as well.

And you can do this yourself if you just back up and learn a few things yourself there. This video set will get you there the fastest with your horse, which is why I'm recommending this route. It's designed for anyone on any level, horse or human, to get professional trainer-like results.

And Whispering Way Complete Training Package contains all my videos and training tools that you need to train or retrain your horse yourself the natural horsemanship Whispering Way. You can check out/order the Whispering Way Complete Training Package on my web site here: CLICK HERE

I'm a very strong believer that every horse owner is their horse's primary teacher/trainer whether they realize it or not. Every time you are with your horse, he is learning something. You just want to make sure he's learning what you want him to learn, not what you don't want him to learn! Natural horsemanship training techniques are gentle, effective, and powerful. Works with every horse every time!

But it's real important to back up and break down all teaching steps in a way that you are releasing baby-gives, allowing the horse to feel the release for the right answers incrementally, so that they learn that's really what you want.

After you have returned to this ground work to close all foundation holes, I would then reschool her on the saddling/cinching process, but I would break it down into smaller baby steps. For one, I would cinch in increments. After each cinch baby-step, I would ask her to take a few steps forward. Never cinch a tied horse, especially a cinchy horse, or you could have a very serious accident there which could injure the horse if she explodes, or anyone around her; always untie them first and hang onto the lead rope so you have full control and can help them there as well if they react. If at any point the horse gets jumpy even with the baby steps cinching there, I would put her to work moving circles around me, asking for the turn, giving her a rational job to do (work!) to replace the irrational behavior, also making the right thing easy (standing still) and the wrong thing hard (moving, which I direct, taking over there with "a directed structured job"). And I would wind her down to a one-rein stop so she would see that: she ended up being where I wanted her in the first place: at a standstill, head over to the side awaiting the mount or continued cinching process. Horses as a rule will choose the "easy spot" to be in, in life. Giving them the choice to work hard or stand still to rest, they invariably will choose the stand still.

But be empathetic to the cinchy problem there as you re-desensitize/reschool her there. Cinchy horses are usually created by humans who cinched too hard/too much/too fast somewhere along the lines in the horse's life. It's like: someone tightening a belt around you real tight, all in one big swoop. You can imagine your surprise and discomfort at that! I always (always always!) cinch a horse in stages. First loosely, then move the horse forward a few steps. Stop the horse (use relaxation techniques in between if needed), cinch again slightly, move the horse again. 3-6 stages of cinching is the most humane way to do it. This allows also for any accidentally pinched skin to become unpinched via their stepping forward. Especially with a cinchy problem horse I will do this. You can also lift a horse's front leg forward, one at a time, bending it at the knee, raising it high, and this allows any pinched skin caught in the cinch to become uncaught. Cinchy horses move off because it hurts/pinches or because in the past it hurt. You're going to have to break it down, do it this new/humane way and show her over time that it will not hurt any longer.

Incidentally, I do teach all this in my DVD set I pointed you toward!

I hope all this helps, and let me know if I can be of any further help to you there. Good luck to ya! Stay safe. And thanks again for writing.

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