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Starting a horse, do many of you teach lateral flexion before mounting/riding?

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    Original Poster

    Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
    I wouldn't think of getting on a horse that hadn't learned to stand and wait, and then I'd be sure he was able to stand while I leaned over him on the mounting block. I think stand and wait is pretty much the first step in your basic groundwork as well.

    It is normal for a horse to maybe take one step to rebalance as you mount. I would want that behaviour minimized as soon as possible though.

    I can visualize someone running a horse in circles while they mount but other than at the chuck wagon races it's unnecessary and dangerous and bad horsemanship.
    Hiya, yes he waits happily at the block and while I lay over him, it's when I'm settled he tends to drift off until I stop him, thinking I wont be using the flexing atall after the advice iv had on here. I agree, can see it would be unnecessary!


      Original Poster

      Originally posted by Bluey View Post

      We never did, but watched many mount like that, not only on colts, but all the time and grown horses.

      It doesn't make sense, as you are pulling the horse in and if unbalanced, it's behind will swing away from you, making getting on harder than if, as in standard English mounting, the outside rein is a bit shorter and so, if the horse moves, it will be into you, making your mounting effort easier, not harder.

      I think whatever you are used to doing, if you are the kind that manages more on cruise control for some behaviors, that is what works best for you.

      We try with colts, since they will have other handlers and riders over a lifetime, to teach them to listen and respond to any we may ask.
      This way horses also learn not to anticipate, but really listen when doing things with humans.

      While repetition helps with some behaviors, we should also teach to be flexible to other.

      Flexing with a horse standing there is not really a good idea, as you are disuniting the horse, teaching it to move it's head only, not in concert with it's body, something you may rarely need a horse to do in the ways we use horses.
      Is ok to teach that rarely, but in general, you don't want a horse to figure that and make it an evasion.
      You can see how easy that moving the neck and not the body can become such watching school horses, beginners pulling on one rein, horse moving head around nicely but not turning, keep going straight.

      When we used to work on the ground, we would gently teach a colt to "double".
      We were teaching it to respond to any light tug, not pull, much less steady pull, just a little asking light tug and release of the rein or leadrope in such a way the horse would respond by lifting it's back, getting it's hindered planted or moving a bit forward and using it's whole body to turn around.

      That taught them to any hint of a tug meaning you collect and move critical skill for a riding horse that is to become an athlete.
      Flexing by only turning it's head around with a horse standing there defeats that purpose, why it was done very rarely and for a special purpose, like if a horse was easily learning to give but resisting, generally the handler's fault that, was not asking correctly for that horse to understand.

      Hope that is clear, not too muddled.
      Great advice, thank you


        Original Poster

        Originally posted by tabula rashah View Post
        I don't. I HATE that practice!!! It is not that hard to teach a horse to stand for mounting. My babies learn how to stand long before I get on them the first time
        Hiya, thanks, yes I agree, it's very important and he does, so perhaps its completely unnecessary to flex them?!


          Original Poster

          Originally posted by EmilyM View Post
          I don’t. I personally find it hard to get “flexion” without some forward momentum
          I agree and he didnt seem to enjoy it either the one time I tried the excersise,


            Original Poster

            Originally posted by ASB Stars View Post
            I want a horse to stand straight to be mounted. That said, I also want to have someone experienced head a young/green horse when they are being mounted.

            I do A LOT of long lining. In the method that I use for lining a horse, I want them to bend in the direction they are going, from nose to tail. I am not lining the horse's head, which is what happens with some approaches. I also want them to move from pressure, so that turns on the forehand, etc. are easy to teach once under saddle. I basically build what I will be riding from the ground, and when I get on , I expect most of the buttons to be installed, or easily accessed.
            Thank you, ah yes I like your approach to long lining and teaching to move away from pressure. Hes grasping it well so far, thinking il definitely have a knowledgeable helper at his head in the beginning your right!


              Original Poster

              Originally posted by McGurk View Post
              I am closest to EventerAJ's method. With baby race horses when they're standing in tack in the stall, I face them and hook my thumbs in the bit and apply gentle pressure; immediately release and praise when they give. Then I stand by their shoulder, facing forward, apply gentle pressure on one rein and immediately release and praise when they give to the side. I don't care it they take a step toward me, and if they get stuck, I'll ask them to walk forward and repeat the exercise. I'm not looking for anything complicated, I just want them to understand giving to pressure. I pretty much use the same methods with non race horses - anything more sophisticated than I've just described is best done from the saddle so you can include forward motion and leg/seat/weight aids.

              I made an exception once when I was leasing a beautiful facility without a ring, had a 3 year old breaker and an OTTB to restart and only a 20 acre pasture to work in. I long lined the heck out of those two; because I *really* wanted to make sure I had brakes and steering installed before getting on. But I was *just* worried about basic brakes and steering; I didn't worry about lateral flexion until I was riding them.

              Just my 02; your mileage may vary.
              Hello, thank you, excellent advice. (If I post in the UK forum horse and hound you barely get a reply from anyone. Iv noticed it's all constructive on here too which is a nice change!)


                Original Poster

                Originally posted by Abbie.S View Post
                No. It's overused and nowadays an abused practice.

                I spend a little bit of time teaching the horse how to soften to the bit laterally before I go and get on for the first time, but it's a far cry different from lateral flexions for the sake of lateral flexions. You'll see a lot of NH guys swinging their horse's necks around back and forth when they are young - it's a bastardized version of teaching the horse to yield to pressure and usually taken to the excess.

                I want my horse *thinking* about me when I go to get on, but I don't need his nose turned towards me. If anything, this tends to put the horse off balance to the point where when you do go to swing on, they have the kick their hind end away to stay standing...and then we thinking we need to keep their nose to us every time we mount because the horse "won't stand". *facepalm*
                Thank you, an eye opener!. I'm glad iv only tried one session of this!.


                  Original Poster

                  Originally posted by exvet View Post
                  Well OP I just bought (yesterday) an unstarted 3 year old. He's had a little work in hand but that's it. We'll see if my methods still hold true He's a pretty sensible, people-oriented cookie so I think we'll be good (......better be it's a B'day present to myself and I'll be turning 57 in two weeks). I don't bounce like I used to but fortunately for me I've not been challenged too often if I put the time into the appropriate ground work and build their confidence and trust. I've owned two who had past demons that did test my limits; but out of the number I've started that's not too bad. Turning will be installed before mounting but no lateral flexions until way on down the road and I insist that they stand and be straight and still when mounted. To be honest this guy is no where near done filling out and he's currently a bit narrow. I wouldn't want for him to be turning (as in lateral flexions), bracing or, worse, questioning his own balance until his growthy phase is a bit more 'finished'. A one rein stop for safety is an entirely different thing and should be used/employed when needed but I don't find I need it often if they're sensible and I don't over face them. Good luck with your project.
                  Thank you! Really helpful, definitely learned alot on here. I feel alot clearer and wont be using the method, mines just 3 too, good luck too, you obviously have the experience to make a great one, happy birthday


                    Original Poster

                    Originally posted by Texel View Post

                    This is my practice as well, and I'm 95% sure the kind of flexions Scribbler and I do aren't quite the same as the nose to boot style that most people here envision when they hear "flexion."

                    Never would use them in conjunction with mounting though. It's not hard to teach a horse that mounting is no big deal, so long as you've got the right energy when you're getting on.
                    Thanks, Yeah I'm annoyed with myself for trying to teach it atall now! Especially given hes learned to stand quietly at the block


                      Do I teach them lateral flexion specifically for mounting? No. I do teach it though. I just don’t drill lit like some of the western/ NH/ colt starter folks do. I like it because that serves as my breaks foe the first few rides.


                        Original Poster

                        Originally posted by Equkelly View Post
                        Do I teach them lateral flexion specifically for mounting? No. I do teach it though. I just don’t drill lit like some of the western/ NH/ colt starter folks do. I like it because that serves as my breaks foe the first few rides.
                        Yeah some drill it dont they, i was wondering how it wouldnt be really off putting to him if I continued


                          Originally posted by Rosie8888 View Post

                          Thanks, yes I can see what you mean, it is helpful to people who think the horse will bolt off etc, but better not to get on one in the first place who you think will!. I do alot of laying over him, without trying to flex his head or hang tight and he will now stand quietly at the block to let me on, however I have, let him walk forward slowly when im settled over him as I was advised it helps in order to stop them feeling "trapped" in the initial stages? Hes good with long lining, waiting at the block, tying, ground excersises like yielding the hid quarters, backing up, change of direction from a suggestion etc. Totally see how it would put him off balance to flex while getting on,
                          In your case (and mine), I'd be happy to teach the colt to flex only so that if I have one rein and he starts to feel trapped, he knows what he can to in order to have it let go. I wouldn't hold a colt's head around while mounting just to be safe. But if I found myself starting to get a little worry and speed from the colt that I thought I needed to shut down, I'd like him to already know how to give to one rein held short.

                          I guess I'd want him to know the one-rein stop before I got on the first time, but that's the extent of the lateral work and the reason I'd teach it. Otherwise, I just need whoa, go, left, right and follow the bit. And I do do lots on the ground and with long-lines before I get on.
                          The armchair saddler
                          Politically Pro-Cat


                            I do teach a horse to follow the feel of a lead and flex to each side while standing at their shoulder. But it's not something that's drilled. I make sure they get the concept and then we're done.

                            I live in ranching country. When I've seen people start horses here they do tip the nose to the inside when mounting the first few times. This isn't a crank-the-head-around kind of deal or a rubber necky thing. It's a tip of the nose. Then you step into the stirrup and stand there without swinging your leg over. If the horse stands quiet, you swing the leg over. If it decides it needs to move its feet, you simply keep standing in the stirrup and let it track around in a circle, disengaging its hind end, until it stops. When it stops, you step off, wait a few beats and try again. Chances are, on the second or third try, the horse will stand quiet.

                            Note that this tipping of the nose is done only the first few times the horse is mounted and ridden. After that handful of times, it doesn't happen again.


                              I just got on my 4 year old warmblood for the first time yesterday. I did more in hand flexions and bending with her than I have with other horses. I'll say that I audited a Buck Brannaman colt starting clinic last year, and also use some of Tristan Tucker's methods. Both of them teach the horse to give to a light touch of the lead or bit, and yield the body, then this is transferred into a tool for safety and relaxation when the rider is mounted. Along with this, I adapted Jim Masterson's cervical flexion method for use with a bit because my horse would beat me to death with her head when I tried it with a halter. This taught her to feel relaxation when flexing and giving to the bit. Coupled with some long line work, she had a good understanding of the basic rein aids from the first ride, and could calmly turn her head and then move her feet when she stopped and got a little stuck to the ground. I also liked knowing that she had the ability to bend both ways and maintain balance in case I needed to do a one-rein stop if she got upset and tried to buck or bolt. If I ever start another horse, I will be likely to use similar methods because I think it has helped my mare form a positive, trusting relationship with the bit from the beginning, and I also have a tool to defuse situations that tend to happen with green horses.


                                If by lateral flexion, you mean that slinky neck nonsense where they pull the horse's head all the way around to the body, no I would never mess up a horse like that. It can backfire big time down the road when you're trying to teach the horse to use itself properly. Lateral flexion is simply a release of the jaw. The head should never break the plane of the shoulders.That being said, yes I did teach it on the ground first. I stood at my horse's shoulder and asked for a simple release of the rein. As soon as I felt the slack. I released the rein. It's also very easy to teach while mounted too. At the standstill, just ask for softening on one side and then the other. As soon as you see the eyelashes, release. All you're doing is asking for the horse to soften the jaw. Be very slow and smooth when asking for it mounted. Use no leg at all. Most horses will initially take a few steps each time you ask while they are trying to figure out what you want, but most figure it out very quickly. Just be patient and reward big time when he gets the right answer.
                                "Do what you can't do"