Getting on a horse that won’t stand
When my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Makana was four years old, I took her to her first gaited dressage clinic with Bucky Sparks. I was so excited to be there and soak in all I could in beginning our gaited dressage journey.
I love Bucky’s teaching philosophy, because he blends traditional dressage with practical elements of natural horsemanship.
Most of the time Makana stands perfectly still for me to get on, but not when she is nervous or tense. When my lesson time came I literally had a panic attack before the auditors, because every time I put my foot in the iron, Makana would walk off. I was so frightened.
Thanks to Bucky, he showed me a profoundly helpful tip that worked that day and has helped me every time Makana doesn’t want to stand for me to get on.
How to get on the horse that doesn’t want to stand:
1. Teach the horse to flex their nose to the side by drawing one rein to the saddle. Reward the horse by releasing as soon as the horse gives. Relaxation is what is the goal, not making the horse flex. Signs of relaxation include a lowering of the head and neck and when the horse licks its lips and chews.
If the horse has tension in the poll, neck or shoulder, address these areas individually to release the tension before expecting a soft and relaxed flex to the side.
2. Once the horse understands how to flex to the side and is soft and relaxed in doing so, then flex and release the horse a few times until the horse chews and lowers its head and neck.
3. Then flex the horse to the saddle and keep the horse flexed while repositioning the mounting block and get on. Then release the flex as a reward and encourage the horse to remain standing.
While I was at the clinic my horse kept walking off while in a flexed position. Bucky said, “You can’t make a horse stand.” Don’t punish the horse. Just remain calm to encourage relaxation, keep the horse flexed and gently follow the horse around. He said, “Pretty soon the horse will discover it is a lot easier to stand while being flexed than to walk around being flexed.” Bucky was right. It didn’t take long and as soon as my horse stopped, I repositioned the mounting block, got on, and released the flex. Then we moved on to the gaited dressage lesson.
This tip worked for me at the clinic and continues to work for me each time my horse doesn’t stand when I try to get on.