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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan. 30, 2010
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    Default Ideas needed to get horse over fear of being mounted

    Have a horse in for training. Lovely horse, Very obedient and easy to train...other than a complete and uncontrolled fear of someone being taller than him. Ponying him helped a bit, and I have spent the last two weeks just climbing up and down the mounting block (using theories of approach and retreat) to the point he now stands quitely beside the mounting block while I stand and pet him. I can also rest my head/shoulder on the saddle and drape my elbow over, but he maintains a very stiff/ridgid neck, and the slightest unexpected sound sends him sideways or foreward.

    I have worked with some nutty horses, but this one has be stymied...he is so good about other things (including being saddled) but absolutely goes in complete fear mode when I get up beside him on the mounting block. And jumping up and down anywhere near him is also an extremely frightening thing!

    I am worried for my own safety and also about ensuring that his first time being backed goes well and doesn't justify his fear.

    his back is not sore as far as I can tell.

    I am thinking of stuffing my overalls and making mr.overalls get on first...never done that though...would that be silly? I do not think it is the weight, I think it is the sight/sound.

    Ideas welcome.

    (horse has been in training for 3 weeks now and is 3.5 years old.)



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep. 28, 2001
    Location
    Kentucky
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    I had an OTTB like that. He was a wonderful, easy going guy until I got up on the mounting block. Then he would bolt and there was no stopping him. He'd run over anything in his way; it was that bad. I used positive reinforcement with treats to fix him. I gave him as much time as he needed; his only training was the mounting block for as long as it took. Once he realized the mounting block was all about eating, things got better pretty quick. I eventually got him to the point where he was wonderful about being mounted. But I then found out I had to move the mounting block around to different spots; just because he was okay with it in the corner didn't mean he was okay with it in the center of the ring. Good luck!



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec. 19, 2009
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    Pennsylvania
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    Yes definitely nip it now from the ground. Our paint mare had an irrational fear of things over/behind her head (meaning... a rider!) and from the ground we spent a good amount of time holding up objects and waving them around, followed by "reward" which was often just a pat or removal of the object if she stood still. Food is good too. Every time I passed her stall in the barn I would hold the shavings fork or whatever was in my hand up high in the air until she realized it was OK. When we first got her riding could get interesting if all you did was reach up and scratch your head, so while mounted we would flail our arms around and look certifiably insane until she conditioned out of it. So I would continue what you're doing with the mounting block and just know it doesn't happen overnight or even in 2 weeks.

    And no, the stuffed 'dummy' doesn't sound silly at all! In fact, it sounds like a great idea. How is he with tossing sheets/blankets over him? Add bags, balls, sticks, hey whatever you can toss or pass to someone over his back will help. The 'dummy' idea is great.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct. 21, 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by CHT View Post
    his back is not sore as far as I can tell.
    I would personally find out 100% without a shadow of a doubt that he does not have something bothering him in his back. Every single horse I have known that was this freaked out had back problems. Not that this one does, but before you get hurt or he has a bad experience I'd spend the money to have a vet take a look. IMO it's not normal to be that violently scared or reactive when the horse is so good about everything else.



  5. #5

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    Try feeding him while you stand on it, lean on him, etc. Works for trailers, starting gates, etc, generally works for mounting issues, too. I have one that is really weird about mounting, though not as bad as yours sounds. He gets better when I work with him regularly and ease into it (get on the block, pet him, lean on the saddle...) but as soon as I move somewhere, like to table or the other side of the ring, it starts over again. It's kind of annoying to be honest.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb. 6, 2003
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    What Perfect Pony said . . . . . . . . . . I will never, ever again think of a horse with a mounting issue the same again! I promise to try to condense my story. (I have written about this before).

    I imported at horse as a 3 yr old from Holland. He had a severe fear of being mounted, people on ladders, people on horses standing next to him, etc. At the time, I figured it was "all in his head"; that he'd had some scarey experience in his childhood.

    I eventually taught him to stand by clicker training. He was still scared, but wanted so badly to please me, and was a master at the clicker training. He was always so proud of his clicker training skills! I eventually rode him (if you could call it that), but he was a bolter. He had the most excellerated flight instinct that I have ever experienced in any horse! I eventually retired him to the pasture. It just wasn't worth it for him or for me to try riding. He was a gorgeous pasture ornament and was always my second favorite horse (out of a barn full) desite the fact that he was not rideable.

    Dr. Barry Grant (did basket surgery twice on Seattle Slew, and is the father of basket surgery for equines) came into town. I decided to have this expert look at him. Turns out he had NOT ONE, but THREE THINGS WRONG with him!! He had:
    1) Wobblers
    2) Kissing Spines
    3) Something wrong in the coccyx region

    After that diagnosis, I felt just HORRIBLE for ever trying to ride the poor guy! He was always so happy, so possitive, and always tried his heart out for me. Sadly, I eventually had to put him down.

    Like I said, I will never, ever think of horses with mounting issues the same again. Let's hope that there is nothing wrong with your horse, but save yourself the heart ache, time, and money, and find out if there is truely an issue or not.



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb. 6, 2003
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    Just re-read your post. A few more things:

    My guy did not have a sore back from what I could tell either.

    Nice to see there are other creative people out there: I also had the "stuff the overalls" idea! Also tried: a bunch of milk jugs suspended from the ceiling so they could touch his back, lowering large stuffed animals onto his back, mylar balloons bobbing above his head and touching his back, pool noodles tied to the saddle, pool noodles sacking out his entire body. Let me think if there was anything else I tried! Funny thing was, he was pretty darn good with all of these "props".

    Too bad they didn't solve the problem.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct. 29, 1999
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    14,496

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    With one like this, we stomp up and down the mounting block, keep moving it and dropping it to make noise, and jump off repeatedly next to the horse until they become relaxed. We shake the saddle, slap the saddle, and pat the horse all around it, and wave over their backs as high as we can reach. Slap stirrup leathers, bump with the irons, etc. You can even wave a broom over their heads. The trainer does not mount until the horse is totally comfortable. This can take a few weeks. Then at first, we have a helper leg the rider up to lay across several times, and take a few steps like that.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 30, 2010
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    Alberta
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    Default

    The reason I do not think it is pain related as he was afraid of me on the mounting block before I had ever even thought of putting any weight on him and he came supposedly untrained. I have since felt for soreness and found none. During ground work he backs up fine, does lateral work fine, turns little circles fine, and lunges over poles/cavelletti fine. He is not my horse.

    I did wave a broom over him last week. I should do that again. He did ok with that.

    I do move the mounting block a fair bit, and try to tap dance on it, but jumping on it (or even on the ground near him) sends him into extreme flight mode. I know this is something his owners did with him as they noticed this fear previously, but I am wondering if their doing it sensitized him rather than desensitizing. I think my legs would give out before he relaxed.

    I use crunchies as reward and he knows to drop his head/nose or turn to the side to get the crunchy. This is the best way I have found to difuse the tension in his neck. I also use the crunchies to monitor how tense he is....if he is really tense he won't take one, or if he does he will just suck on it.

    Interestingly he could care less when I brush my arm/hand over his bum while I am on the mounting block, and is ok with me waving my arms over the saddle...as long as I don't make a sound.

    I suppose I was hoping someone would have a magic bullet, but my gut is telling me time is the solution, just not sure the owners will have the patience.

    As an aside, do you think if a horse has been roped it could cause issues like this? And if so, does this help come up with a fix?



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar. 17, 2008
    Location
    SE PA
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    Are you saying he has never been backed? If that is absolutely true, no weight or saddle on his back ever, then it can't be pain related. If he has had weight or a saddle on him before coming to you, for your own safety as much as his comfort, it would be good to have him checked by an equine osteopath, chiropractor or massage therapist. The dummy is a great training idea, but if your weight causes the pain, you could still get hurt when you step on. Stay safe and would love to read updates.



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct. 4, 2003
    Location
    Clinton, BC
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    Default

    This horse needs blinkers. Get a set from the racetrack. Start with "full cup" blinkers, which only allow the horse to see a small amount of what is in front of him. This gets you onto his back, and riding him. The blinkers are a band aid solution, but the plan is to get him "well broke", that is... responding to your leg, weight and hand cues, and relaxed being ridden in EVERY way, other than the sight of the rider on his back. Then, when all the rest of the training is in place, the blinkers are cut back to smaller blinkers, french cup, then cheaters, which will give him a bit more chance to see the rider up there for a moment, should he turn his head some. THEN to no blinkers, or "no see backs" on the bridle. Once he is accustomed to every other element of being ridden, his fear of sight of the rider is easier to deal with.

    The dummy system ("Herman the German", or "Mr. Greenjeans") can be an option to try, but it WILL scare the crap outta the horse, which may not be in your best interest. Like shutting an arachnophobe in a small room with a spider. The blinkers work WELL on one like this. THey RELAX when they can't see what scares them.

    Good luck.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    May. 21, 2004
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    N. TX...just N.East of paradise...
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    Try ponying him.....then you're taller, you can make noise and do silly scary stuff, but he's still in control and has a buddy to show him it's ok....soon as you can do all that without him fussing, and tuacked up, then try the mounting block again, in between ponying sessions. Maybe even have someone on the pony standing with him at the mounting block when you get on....
    "As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use."- William James
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Proud member of the Wheat Loss Clique.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul. 14, 2003
    Location
    Charlotte, NC, USA
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    I have a pony that was poorly started by some big rednecks. He was sold to me as "greenbroke-you get on him and he run off with ya". I do think he had some serious back pain as 1. he is a tank and 2. when I restarted him he would "drop" his back when you went to put a pad/saddle on him. He also hated/still hates things taller than him. I have no real advice as a lot of what you are already doing is what I did. The clicker training was the ticket with mine as he was also starved when I got him. He would sale his soul for a cookie. I actually started mounting him in his large stall while he was eating his dinner (grain in a tub high up and his hay in a hay bag). I did that for about a month and then moved to the round pen. 4.5 years later you can get on him any where/any situation he will stand like a rock. He still hates things taller than him. He gets a bit bug eyed but will tolerate it.
    I know this is no help just wanted to let you know to hang in there and take your time. Horse is lucky to have you.
    Pamela Ellis



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct. 29, 1999
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    14,496

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    Quote Originally Posted by CHT View Post
    I do move the mounting block a fair bit, and try to tap dance on it, but jumping on it (or even on the ground near him) sends him into extreme flight mode. I know this is something his owners did with him as they noticed this fear previously, but I am wondering if their doing it sensitized him rather than desensitizing. I think my legs would give out before he relaxed.
    That is why you do a bit at a time, increasing the noise, and speed of movement. Usually we are on a horse about 5-8 days from their first longeing or tacking, but one it took about 20-30 sessions, a bit of the mounting block stuff at the end of each longe session.



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug. 28, 2007
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    Triangle Area, NC
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    video of a session would tell me a lot.
    why do you suspect the horse was roped in the past? is it a BLM or "redneck" rescue? Dealing with a feral horse would change a ton of how you approach this, and the owner's expectations may need tweaking.
    Mounting is scary to a horse, they are instinctively hard wired not to let things get on their back, with of course the exception of courtship. So unless there is trust at the base of your foundation, there's no way the horse is going to be hunky dory about standing quiet and free of tension while mounting. It sounds to me like you know this.
    the crunchies are good, but if he won't take the crunchies he's going too far into adrenaline mode. you either need more powerful crunchies or more time to do this right. Need to figure out how to keep him in his happy place.
    My gut is saying this is not a physical or physics issue but a relationship issue. I get the impression you are on a time limit with this horse's owner to "fix" him. A lot of time when trainers are under the gun I've noticed they don't take the time to bond and build a trusting relationship.
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb. 17, 2010
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    Purcellville, VA
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    Quote Originally Posted by CHT View Post
    Have a horse in for training. Lovely horse, Very obedient and easy to train...other than a complete and uncontrolled fear of someone being taller than him. Ponying him helped a bit, and I have spent the last two weeks just climbing up and down the mounting block (using theories of approach and retreat) to the point he now stands quitely beside the mounting block while I stand and pet him. I can also rest my head/shoulder on the saddle and drape my elbow over, but he maintains a very stiff/ridgid neck, and the slightest unexpected sound sends him sideways or foreward.

    I have worked with some nutty horses, but this one has be stymied...he is so good about other things (including being saddled) but absolutely goes in complete fear mode when I get up beside him on the mounting block. And jumping up and down anywhere near him is also an extremely frightening thing!

    I am worried for my own safety and also about ensuring that his first time being backed goes well and doesn't justify his fear.

    his back is not sore as far as I can tell.

    I am thinking of stuffing my overalls and making mr.overalls get on first...never done that though...would that be silly? I do not think it is the weight, I think it is the sight/sound.

    Ideas welcome.

    (horse has been in training for 3 weeks now and is 3.5 years old.)
    This is freaky. My mare does the same thing. I thought I was the only one.

    Sent you a PM.



  17. #17
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    Oct. 29, 1999
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    Quote Originally Posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
    So unless there is trust at the base of your foundation, there's no way the horse is going to be hunky dory about standing quiet and free of tension while mounting. ...My gut is saying this is not a physical or physics issue but a relationship issue. .
    This is totally about developing the horse's trust in the rider, and some horses get it fast. Others are really slow. Don't climb on until you get that trust, or you will be in for an old style western breaking session.



  18. #18
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    Oct. 21, 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowdenfarm View Post
    Are you saying he has never been backed? If that is absolutely true, no weight or saddle on his back ever, then it can't be pain related. If he has had weight or a saddle on him before coming to you, for your own safety as much as his comfort, it would be good to have him checked by an equine osteopath, chiropractor or massage therapist. The dummy is a great training idea, but if your weight causes the pain, you could still get hurt when you step on. Stay safe and would love to read updates.
    This horse IS wearing a saddle. I assume also when lunging/working?

    Like Fantastic, after my experiences I ALWAYS give a good horse the benefit of the doubt. IMO this horse is screaming at the OP pretty loudly that he does to want to be mounted, there is, IMO, a reason for it. I spent enough hours and days and weeks at a University hospital with my mare, and have through my experiences ran into enough people with similar problems to think that 99% of the horses are pretty damn smart and are trying desperately to communicate with us about their pain/discomfort. We just have to listen.

    I would have this horse thoroughly checked out for back/neck problems, and if you and the vets really think he is 100% okay, back off for a while and concentrate on gaining trust and continuing ground work and ponying.



  19. #19
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    Jan. 30, 2010
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    Alberta
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    -Not in a position to get a vet out...not my horse and no real indication to warrant a vet bill. I can do basic massage and feel for indications of tension/soreness, and do not find any when he is not being stressed. He shows even development.
    -He has worn a surcingle before coming, but I don't think he wore a saddle. He has worn a dressage and western saddle since coming here.
    - Horse's breeding indicates that he should be quiet and trainable. he is well bred for his breed.
    - Tried Mr.Overalls. Stuffed the legs and body. He spooked a little when I climbed the mounting block with it, but did not care at all when I put Mr. Overalls on the saddle, on his neck, on his bum or drapped over the saddle from either side. This leads me to think it is not that he is afraid of something on his back, but rather that he is suspect of my intentions.
    - Was able to get to the point where I had all my weight in the left stirrup and was leaning into the saddle...just barely leaning across. he was willing to drop his head and take a cookie while I was on his back. Decided not to push my luck by drapping all the way over...perhaps tomorrow. Would love to have someone leg me up onto him, but worry that would just create more for him to worry about and I only have one assistant who is the one holding him and feeding him cookies.

    Petstorejunkie; what would you want a video of? I have video of him lunging i could PM, but not sure it would show anything of use.

    Melelio, I have ponied him (read OP). Didn't care when I was leading him. Did get nervous when I moved up beside him, but got better (had to have someone hold him). My pony horse is 8 inches shorter than he is though.

    I have worked with fearful horses many times, but this one is unique in that his fear is very isolated.

    I think I will just keep moving ahead one small step a day, keep the owner up to date, and stop worrying about their timelines. Might also have him hang out with me in the arena for a while when I am teaching...maybe that will help him realize I am a non-threatening entity and get bored with me.



  20. #20
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    Apr. 14, 2006
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    We had this very same problem with a horse we bred, raised and trained!!! All the best handling in the world...we were there when he was born and every day of his life. He had all the best ground work - lunging, ground driving all around the farm. Saddling was not a problem and he seemed DEAD quiet...until one fine day when DH said "today's a good day to get on him". "Sure" says me. I lunged him, bellied up on him - he was perfect as usual. I raised myself up in the left stirrup and gently swung over his back....WAMMO!!! That sucker threw me harder and farther than I've ever been thrown. Long story shorter...We NEVER were able to keep a rider on him...even with a heavy dose of Ace...until we put full cup blinkers on him!!! (Like NancyM said) Fortunately our horse was bred to be a race horse where blinkers are allowed. The horse NEVER once had an issue while he was wearing blinkers except once when a jockey patted his neck and allowed him to reach around and sniff his boot....the horse blew apart! He actually won a big race on the fourth start of his life. When he went into the winner's circle to have his picture taken they jerked the blinkers off...DH and I almost died, but for one brief moment when the camera snapped he was distracted enough..and tired too, so he didn't blow. We gave him away to a pasture ornament home when he finished racing. Ours never got over his fear!!! Good luck OP!!!
    www.crosscreeksporthorses.com
    Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma



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