For many horse owners, mounting their horse may seem like a simple task that requires nothing more than a little leg power and a saddle.
However, mounting your horse without the aid of a mounting block can have serious consequences for both you and your equine companion.
What are the benefits of using a mounting block, how does it promote better health for your horse, and how you can train your horse to come stand next to the mounting block?
First, let’s look at the benefits of using a mounting block.
The mounting block is an integral part of your horse’s basic training.
To prevent getting a horse that’s bucking and rearing and bolting with a rider on their back, a good place to start is the mounting block.
Because those horses that freak out with a rider on the back are often half-scared of you when you’re above them.
So, is it any wonder they’re bucking as soon as you go to mount them?
Not to mention, trying to get the horse to do anything when you’re in that position above them and over them?
Using a mounting block makes mounting your horse easier and safer for both you and your horse.
By using a mounting block, you don’t have to strain your leg muscles and back to get on your horse.
This is especially important for older or less agile riders who may have difficulty mounting their horse from the ground.
Additionally, using a mounting block ensures that you are not pulling on your horse’s mane or saddle when mounting, which can cause discomfort or pain for your horse.
Mounting from a mounting block can reduce the risk of injury to both you and your horse.
If you were to slip while mounting from the ground, you could fall and injure yourself, or worse, your horse.
Horses are powerful animals, and if they are not expecting your weight on their back, they may move suddenly, causing you to lose your balance.
By using a mounting block, you are able to maintain your balance while mounting and reduce the risk of injury.
How using a mounting block can promote better health for your horse.
When mounting from the ground, the rider’s weight is not evenly distributed on the horse’s back.
This can cause discomfort for the horse and put unnecessary strain on their back muscles.
By using a mounting block, the rider’s weight is distributed more evenly, which can reduce the risk of back pain and soreness for the horse.
Additionally, mounting from a mounting block can reduce the amount of pressure on the horse’s withers, which can be particularly sensitive for some horses.
Mounting from the ground causes a temporary but uneven distribution of weight on your horse’s back, which can lead to discomfort and unnecessary strain on their muscles.
When you mount from the ground, your weight is concentrated on one side of your horse’s back, which can cause the spine to twist and put pressure on their muscles.
This can lead to pain and soreness, especially if you are mounting frequently and always from the same side.
The repeated strain over time can cause or exacerbate existing problems.
Mounting from the ground can also put pressure on your horse’s withers, which are the bony protrusions at the base of the neck where the saddle sits.
The withers are a sensitive area for horses, and excessive pressure can cause discomfort and pain.
Using a mounting block can reduce the amount of pressure on your horse’s withers, making it a more comfortable experience for them.
By using a mounting block, your weight is distributed more evenly across your horse’s back, reducing the risk of back pain and soreness.
You’ll help your horse maintain a healthy and comfortable back, which can improve you horse’s overall well-being.
It’s important to note that mounting from the ground isn’t the only way that riders can inadvertently cause strain on their horse’s back.
Other factors such as poorly fitting saddles, incorrect riding posture, and overworking your horse can all contribute to back pain and soreness.
However, by incorporating the use of a mounting block into your riding routine, you can help minimise the risk of back problems for your horse.
How to train your horse to come stand next to the mounting block.
First and foremost, get your horse used to the mounting block itself.
If your horse is suspicious or afraid of the tool, you won’t be able to use it.
Place the mounting block in a safe, enclosed area and allow your horse to investigate it.
You can also try placing treats on the block to encourage your horse to approach it.
Practice leading your horse up to the mounting block and standing next to it or around it.
Start by standing next to the block yourself and rewarding your horse for standing calmly next to you.
At first accept just a few moments of staying calm, and gradually increase the time you require your horse to stand by the block until your horse can do so comfortably for several minutes.
You don’t want your horse to learn to come up to the mounting block for just a moment and then moving off again.
You’ll want your horse to know how to just stand and relax right next to the mounting block.
Gradually move closer to the block until your horse is standing directly next to it.
When you get your horse to stand close enough to the block, begin climbing the block.
Take it one step at a time, if your horse shows no signs of discomfort as you move higher on the block, keep climbing.
Also make your horse used to you going up and down on the block repeatedly.
This way, he’ll learn to stand and wait by the block even if you have to go up and down for some reason before mounting.
You can already begin desensitising your horse to a mounting block during grooming sessions.
Placing the block next to him and climbing onto it to groom his ears or comb his mane (first making sure he’s comfortable with the block) will help to make him used to you climbing up and down the block.
Once your horse is comfortable standing next to the mounting block, it’s time to practice mounting.
Start by placing your foot in the stirrup and putting weight in the stirrup without actually mounting.
This will get your horse used to the sensation of your weight on the stirrup.
Reward your horse for standing calmly and not moving.
Finally, when you are ready to mount, stand next to the mounting block with your horse standing next to you.
Place your foot in the stirrup and put weight in the stirrup.
Once your foot is in the stirrup, swing your right leg over your horse’s back and settle into the saddle.
Reward your horse for standing calmly throughout the entire process.
Once you’re sitting in the saddle, sit and fuss with your tack, but don’t ask your horse to move off.
If he moves off on his own, bring him back to stand next to the mounting block.
You want to teach him that he should stand still and wait until you’re ready. You don’t want him rushing off as soon as your butt touches the saddle.
So, teach him to hang out while you get yourself settled. Give him a scratch and a cuddle or a treat if you’re using positive reinforcement.
Once you’re ready, you can ask him to move off at a calm walk.
You should also practise using the mounting block when you aren’t going to ride.
Get up on the block, ask him to come stand by the block, get on and sit for a few moments and then get off and go do something else with him instead that doesn’t involve riding.
Teaching your mount to stand still until you ask him to move is one of the basic skills he needs to be able to be in a calm, attentive mindset that allows him to be soft and responsive.
How to train your horse to come pick you up from the mounting block (optional but incredibly handy).
If you like trick training with your horse, this is an additional step you can take to train your horse to come pick you up from the mounting block.
You’ll need a whip, halter, lead rope and your mounting block.
You can also use a wall as a training aid if you feel like you or your horse need it for ease and clarity, but I’ve done this exercise successfully both with and without a wall – it just depends on the day and the horse, so keep your heart and your senses open, and you’ll find the best way for you.
I like to do this by using a long whip as a guide, but that’s just and interim tool that will eventually become my hand.
Walk over and step onto your mounting block (cue #1). Then you wait and see what happens.
If your horse naturally sidles up to you and stands there calmly, give him a scratch and a cuddle. Good job!
Some sensitive horses – and especially when you’ve been doing your groundwork – just naturally fall into place.
Rinse and repeat until they do it every time.
Pick up your whip and point it straight up in the air. Don’t do anything else with it.
This is the cue for your horse to sidle up beside the mounting block.
If nothing happens when you raise your whip, reach over your horse’s back to the off-side and softly tap on the hip until your horse takes a step towards you – then stop.
That single step towards you, is enough to begin with. Give your horse a break and a cuddle.
Lead your horse away for a bit of a walk, moving away from the mounting block, and come back.
Step up on your mounting block and wait – cue #1.
If nothing happens, raise your whip in the air – cue #2.
If your horse doesn’t know what that means yet, reach over and gently tap on the other side of your horse until she takes a step towards you – cue #3.
This time you can keep tapping until she steps closer than the last time. Once she does that, put the whip down and give him a break.
Rinse and repeat.
You keep doing this, getting your horse to step a little closer every time.
Once you see that movement towards you, give him a break and a cuddle.
Baby steps, don’t rush it, okay?
You want to instil a behaviour for life, which means taking your time and getting the basic steps right.
If you’ve got a very smart horse that learns quickly, it’s super easy to teach them the wrong thing. That’s why you’ve got to keep sharp and make sure that you reward for the small correct behaviours and get your horse to do the behaviour to your very exacting standards.
Eventually, with enough repetition, you can fine-tune this “parking” to a point where you can simply step up on the block and your horse will already come fetch you.
If you don’t want your horse to use you stepping up onto the block as a cue for coming to stand next to the mounting block, you can replace that cue with something else, such as a sound cue.
When you step up onto the block, you could say “mount”, “block” or even “taxi”. The cue should be a word that works for you, and not something you use in other contexts because that may be confusing for your horse.
Once you’ve added a voice cue that you can use to call your horse over, begin to practise with him further and further away.
Lead him to stand further away from the block and call him over with your voice cue.
If she doesn’t respond to your cue, simply go back and repeat earlier steps until she gets what you’re asking for.
Once you’ve got your horse sidling up to your mounting block on command so that him left flank is towards you, you can train him to do it with the right flank as well.
You can use different voice cues to signify which side you want him to present to you.
And once you’ve got your horse reliably and comfortably sidling up to the mounting block on command, you can begin using other things as a mounting block.
Doing this will come in handy when you need to dismount on the trail and then can find a rock or a log to remount from.