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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Mounting Block - Revisited

I have mentioned my mounting block fears on the blog before.  A few months ago I felt that I had conquered them because I honestly didn’t think about it anymore. 

And then Apollo dumped me twice after bolting at the mounting block (once I landed on my side and once I landed on my head). 



Hello darkness, my old friend....





I worried that setback would turn into a downhill spiral of me not being able to mount any of my horses.  But it didn’t.  Henry is like the most chill dude ever at the mounting block.  Mystic is very good too.  Mighty Mare (my usual lesson horse at Coach D’s) has a habit of walking off right away.... which does make me a little nervous but I am getting better at correcting her and it doesn’t unnerve me as much as it did right after my two falls.  



But I do not trust Apollo.  I sometimes get these weird flashbacks of my recent falls as I’m about to get on and it can be very difficult to manage.  Sometimes he has been a bit bolty and rude but mostly he’s been fine.  I find the more nervous I am... the worse he is.  



One of the things I discovered as part of the “root” of this problem is grabbing mane when I get on.  I never used to do this but I got into the habit of it with the young horses.  I wanted to make sure I didn’t catch them in the mouth if I lost my balance getting on.  Out of habit I started doing that with Apollo too.  And I noticed he started to get a bit rude at the mounting block sometimes (and it gradually got worse...) and so grabbing mane made even more sense.  Both times after I fell off he was shaking his head a lot.  And one of the first rides back when he bolted and I didn’t fall (and I had a clenched fistful of mane) he shook his head a lot too.

So as an experiment, I mounted him without grabbing mane.  And he stood like a rock.  Huh.

That experiment was very difficult for me haha!  Being already kind of afraid and getting without my mane “safety net” was not easy.  



So I’ve been doing my best not to grab mane now when I mount up.  I’m kind of clumsy (especially when I’m really nervous -  my coordination goes out the window) so sometimes I still end up grabbing mane... and the results are mixed.  I really love riding Apollo but this mounting hurdle has been a challenge.  

It’s also a super embarrassing problem to have.  Like “Oh hello, I ride my two green beans horses on trail rides alone all the time.... but I am terrified to mount my 17 year old horse who I’ve ridden for 9 years.”  

Like WTF?!

These are my current interim measures until I feel like Apollo and I are a safer pair at the mounting block again... perhaps in another 9 years? :(  

1)      I don’t grab mane*
2)       I don’t ride bareback. (no stirrups = less balance when mounting...which makes me sad because I love riding him bareback)
3)      I try to get on fairly quickly and not stand on the mounting block working myself into a panic.
4)      I try to remember to breathe.
5)      I give him a ton of praise when he stands quietly.
6)      If possible I will ask Coach D or my husband to hold him (but I am usually alone).

*unless I think I may die.

Anyone have any other suggestions for me?  I’m hoping after a few months of good behaviour I will feel more relaxed again and we will have rebuilt our trust bank.  



To be honest (I feel like a horrible horse owner saying this) there are some days where I could ride him but I don’t...because I don’t want to deal with the mounting block stuff.  He’s a bit pudgy (although I have been riding a fair bit) and more rides/exercise would help both of us.

30 comments:

  1. Can you put a grab strap on your saddle and use that instead of mane? Also if he is food motivated give him a treat from the saddle when he stands at the block. Another trick I use when I'm nervous is I repeat "I'm calm cool and collected" over and over and it helps me to calm myself down.

    Fear is such a tricky thing. Hopefully you can find a combination of things that will work for you.

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    1. I like the grab strap idea! Apollo would love the treat idea too I bet. Thanks for the suggestions :) I hope we can get things going a bit better.

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  2. Seconding the grab strap, even an old stirrup leather around the neck. Fear is so weird, I was scared of everything in my ride last night, where I've been great for months/years now. Love your cute but angry mounting block drawing:)

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    1. Fear is soooo weird! I wish I could understand it. Gotta love my MS paint skills :P

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  3. That drawing is great!...Another vote for the neck/grab strap, it is useful for so many situations, I never really foxhunt or trail ride without mine!

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    1. MS paint for the win! I am definitely going to figure out some kind of strap, I think that will help a lot :)

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  4. As someone else with fear issues while mounting (though mine stem from 'eek the saddle might roll!') - can you buy/build a bigger mounting block? Or mount from a fence-rail so you can just swing a leg over and be on top of the horse, rather than having to hop up and balance while getting up to the top?
    Mine is a pony, so I don't know how realistic any of this is for larger horses.

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    1. I'm so happy to hear from someone who has mounting block fears too! I might be able to get a bigger one, that's a good idea. I'm 6 feet tall so I'm an OK height but a little taller might help (Apollo is a giant), I wouldn't mind get one that's heavier/more solid (it can wobble a bit).

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  5. I'll add to the grab strap suggesters. I'd also suggest training him to stand at the mounting block. I had a lot of issues with Nilla refusing to stand still for mounting. Then I started giving her a treat only if she stood still. Now she stands like a rock until she gets the treat. I can fiddle and mount from weird places (fences, rocks, banks, etc) and the wrong side and she stands. As soon as I'm on she turns her head around to look for her treat. If she walks off, no treat. It has seriously worked wonders.

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    1. Yep I think a strap is happening for sure! Apollo would love a cookie if he stood still haha. I'm going to give that a whirl too :)

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  6. Sorry to hear that you're struggling with this. Fear can be such a tough thing to face and deal with. I hope you find some methods that work well for you.

    I don't know what kind of mounting block you currently use, but I would agree that a bigger one is better. My girl isn't always very good at the mounting block, but it helps a lot when I can just have to swing my leg over her back and don't have to do an initial big step up from the block to the stirrup. If your mounting block is high enough, I find it helpful to put my hand on the off side of the saddle, at the top of the block, while mounting. Pushing down there makes sure that the saddle won't roll, but in your case it would also give you a place to steady and balance yourself without needing to annoy Apollo by grabbing mane.

    Doing a few dismounts and mounts at the end of a ride when Apollo is tired and more willing to stand might also help to build confidence (though I know it's hard to do something extra times when the first time is hard enough)

    Good luck!

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    1. Thanks, lots of great ideas! I think adding some mounting/dismounting to the end of our ride would be good for us (we'd both be too tired to panic about it haha) :)

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  7. That graphic is amazing, lol!

    I have no real sound advice to offer - but think you just need some wet saddle blankets ;)

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    1. My MS paint skillz! :D Yeah I think some wet blankets are in our future for sure haha

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  8. Put a neck strap on that rude boy lol!

    For real tho I hear ya on mounting block anxiety. Fwiw, it also seemed to make a difference with Isabel where my right hand was. If my right hand was on the cantle or on the seat of the saddle, she would get uncomfortable and dance around and scoot forward. But if my right hand was up on the pommel or front of the saddle she was markedly better. Whatever the case good luck!

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    1. Yeah he's getting a neck strap fo sho! I'll have to see what I do with my right hand, and see how that changes things.

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  9. The neck strap is a great idea! Fear is it's own thing so you need to work it out gradually.

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    1. I'm definitely going to give that a whirl! I sure wish there was a quick fix for fear :(

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  10. The dressage riders at my old barn always used to give sugar cubes, so that they wanted to stand still and then reach around for their treat :)

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    1. Nice! I'm going to give that a try! :)

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  11. Team grab strap! And groundwork, maybe, for standing still? I hope you get it sorted out. We have a stepladder rather than an actual mounting block, so it's portable and unless your horse is ungodly tall, it allows you to hop on really easily. It makes me lazy, sometimes I don't even put a foot in the stirrup before I swing my leg over (careful to grip with my knees so I don't flop into the saddle, of course!). Maybe a setup like that would help?

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    1. Go team grab strap! Yeah we could use a little more time on the ground (for respect/stillness). I think a stepladder would be a nice height. I'll have to do some shopping this weekend and see if that will help. I think I would be a lot more balanced if I could get some more height :)

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    2. I believe (?) NOT stepping in the stirrup is the proper method. Hop on. Pick up stirrups. When you get off, drop stirrups, swing leg over, slide off. This way you are never hanging from one stirrup in a vulnerable position.

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    3. I heard that, and it sort of makes sense too!

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  12. At the risk of being a helmet nag ...

    If you fell on your head, did you get your helmet checked/replaced? Modern helmets use crumple-zone style technology. Better protection :) , but have to be replaced after impact :( .

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    1. Yes I did, it's ok! I am going to be purchasing a new one this next year though, as mine is almost too old now.

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  13. Other that that, no useful comments. I am the *last* one to be in a position to give advice on riding phobias. Sigh. Bonne chance mon amie.

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  14. I'm going to add to the grab strap, or neck strap (since it does further up the neck) voters! I have my own mounting phobias - my old horse was cold backed and he would collapse down from any weight in the stirrup (just swinging over was worse) and he did it with my trainer, not just me. It lead to me developing a very awkward mounting method since I always expect the horse to drop out from under me!

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    1. Oh that would be scary too.... eek! Yeah that would freak me out too. Hopefully a grab strap and a taller mounting block do the trick for me :)

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  15. I understand not riding because you don't want to deal with a certain behavior! I'm guilty of it, too, mostly with Q! Knowing she's going to spook like mad isn't fun.

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