For those of you non-horsey folks out there, this video requires some explanation. This little maneuver is actually one of the things I’m most proud of my ponies doing. The mounting block is something of a gateway and holds a lot of meaning. It is the place where your horse is supposed to allow you, a red-blooded predator, to climb aboard it’s back just as a mountain lion would mount a horse before sinking its claws and teeth into the caught horse’s neck. It is also the start of a ride, which may or may not be something the horse is interested in doing. Saddles can fit in painful ways and all sorts of devices that use pain to cause submission are used to control horses while being ridden. Riders can be dreadfully unbalanced or rough in the way they attempt to communicate. Surprisingly, many horses tolerate this procedure and will stand still while the rider climbs on. Many horses, however, will not. There are the horses who refuse to stand still at all, ones who will walk away while the rider is in mid-air, and the subtle protestors who will wait until the rider is about to mount and just take one small step to position themselves out of reach. This can drive the human to distraction. Over the years I have seen riders respond to these situations in various ways, from trying to reposition over and over to actually kicking the horse in the stomach out of supreme frustration.
I like liberty work with horses because it gives you an honest idea of what your horse is thinking. If I am too abrupt, too pushy, or just too boring my horses can choose to leave when they are at liberty. I was very influenced by a clinic I did with Robin Gates of Liberty Horse Training on this type of work. She teaches you to consider the horse’s perspective in the most profound and respectful way. I came home thinking through why my horses would want to do anything for me. How often are they just avoiding discomfort? In this context, training my horses to allow me to mount at liberty was a big priority. Allowing me to mount without restraints lets me know that they are interested in being close to me, wanting to move their bodies precisely where I am asking (walk with me, then come sideways towards me), and inviting me to come for a ride. I really like having that kind of permission from my horses before I start a ride. There is also no better feeling than the times I have climbed up on the mounting block in the paddock and had both horses speed walk over to try to get into place so I will get on.
BTW- I always ride with a helmet. This was just a quick on and off.