When a horse walks off as you get on, it’s annoying! It’s also a cross between poor manners and unsafe behavior. And of course, the horse is on his own program … not yours.
On the reverse side of things, it’s such a sweet, simple pleasure to get on a horse who stands quietly. He knows his job is to stand still and he remains patient and relaxed until you ask him for the next step.
If your horse does not stand still consider these ideas:
1. First, ask yourself what you do after you get on? Make sure YOU are tuned into the process of getting on and standing still. Be sure you are not getting on and walking off. If you do, perhaps without realizing it, you are teaching your horse to do the same.
When you get on, stand still until your horse completely relaxes and exhales. Stand still until he is expecting nothing else but standing still. If your horse has been walking off, it may take a number of times of standing motionless until he exhales to condition the new behavior.
2. Another exercise I love to do when I get on is flex my horse’s nose from side to side. For the sake of consistency, I like to think of my horse’s chin touching the point of his shoulder. That way I am always flexing him in exactly the same way every time on both sides. Consistency in your work results in calm and clear responses. Inconsistency yields random results.
Also, when you get on and flex your horse from side to side … and then you release the reins … and stand still until your horse exhales before you ask him to walk forward … you will have a horse who never expects to go anywhere when you get on.
3. To correct a horse who walks off, back him up first on the ground and then be still until he relaxes. The moment he even begins to think about moving forward again, in a firm way, stop what you are doing and back your horse up. Now stand quietly by the fender of your saddle until he relaxes. You can also do this as you are mounting or as you are landing in the saddle. If at any point he begins to move, repeat the back up in a methodical manner and stand still until he relaxes.
The idea here is to respond to his moving forward behavior by getting him to do some “work”. Moving his feet by backing him up is his consequence to his incorrect behavior. If you are consistent … no matter how many times you need to back him up … he will find the release from his backing up work by standing still. He will want to relax and remain motionless.
When you pair the backing up exercise (when needed) with always flexing him and waiting for him to exhale after you get on, you will have a wonderfully mannered, safe horse who stands quietly when you mount.