A popular question that Road to the Horse 2022 Championship Competitor Brandi Lyons often receives is how to teach a horse how to stand still at the mounting block. In training a horse to do any maneuver, Brandi breaks down the maneuver and teaches horses how they can move each body part in each direction at each speed first. She applies the same principle of teaching each of the horse’s body parts how and where to move, before engaging all of the body parts to put an entire maneuver together, when it comes to training a horse to stand still at the mounting block.
“You have the head; you have neck; the shoulders; the ribcage; and the hind end,” Brandi says. “They all move in six directions: forward, back, left, right and up and down. So, if we want to teach them to stand still, we first have to tell them where to stand. The more we work on telling them where to stand, the easier it is to tell them to stand.”
In the video below this article, Brandi Lyons demonstrates how she teaches a horse to stand still at the mounting block.
Once she steps up on the mounting block, Brandi wants her horse to sidepass over, presenting his back to her. In this video, Brandi demonstrates that, in order to teach a horse to bring his back to you while you are on the mounting block, you would have to teach the horse to move his hip to the left.
“That’s all you need is a cue to teach that hip to step to the left,” Brandi explained. Well, how do you do that. It’s super easy.”
Brandi reveals that in order to teach a horse how to move his hip to the left, one must use the fence as a tool and direct the horse to stand against the fence first. The fence eliminates the option of moving to the right direction away from the horse. Then she says to ask the horse to move forward so that both forward and backward directions are no longer options for the horse as well.
“So the only direction that is left is left, Brandi expounds. Horses need a motivator to decide that they want to change; that they want to do something for you. So our motivator is that we are going to tap the horse up on the hip, and I don’t want you to be beating on your horse; it’s just an irritant. We’re saying if you want the irritant to quit, then move your body in a direction and figure out which direction I want. So you’re going to tap, and anytime that hip goes to the left, you’re going to quit tapping instantly.”
After the horse’s hip has moved to the left and you quit tapping, you should continue walking forward and tap so the horse’s hip will move.
“Now as soon as that horse starts to get the idea, then I want you to cut your cue in half,” instructs Brandi. Get your horse lighter. Lighter means they respond off of less irritant. So less irritant is me picking up the dressage whip. I’m going to pick it up, and if he moves, then I don’t tap him. If he doesn’t move, then I will tap him and get him to move over. So you are going to keep doing that until he comes all the way to you.”
Brandi says that the last step of teaching your horse to move over to you is the hardest step.
“Because they know they’re squashing you against the fence,” she explains. So, when they are at that last step, they may go ahead and move back to the right. If they move back to the right, just keep tapping until they take one step back to the left, and then release. Tell your horse: “Good job.” And, build it again, and pretty soon, your horse will come all the way to you. Once that happens, then come off of the fence, and do it away from the fence to see if you can get your horse to bring that hip to you.”
Brandi mentions that if you go ahead and walk forward while continuing your cue for the hip that, all of a sudden, your horse will perform a sidepass.
“You just keep on saying: “hip” and “Move forward.” And, now your horse is side passing,” Brandi explains. “Play with it until it’s soft, and bring your horse to the mounting block.”
Brandi advises that when you first bring your horse to the mounting block to not line your horse up with it. She says to take the process slow, and let your horse get their cue so light that your horse is just going to want to sidepass over to you at the mounting block. Your left hand controls the front feet standing right at the corner of the mounting block, and your other hand brings the hip over, she explains.
Brandi instructs you to then pet your horse and tell your horse, “Good job.” Rest here for a second and ask your horse to keep standing here. You can do this with or without a saddle. Next, climb off of your horse and walk away, and your horse will start to learn to wait for your cue of when and where to move.
“It’s called a do-it-until process, Brandi divulges. We’re trying to say do this until I tell you something different, but if you wait for them to move, then they are going to tell you when it is time to move. So make sure that you get down, walk off and bring your horse back. I want you to do this 10 times.”
After a lot of repetition, your horse will eventually start sidepassing over to you, at which point, you will no longer need a dressage whip. At this time, you can just pick up your hand and tap it on your leg for a cue. This is the easiest way to teach a horse how to stand at a mounting block, according to Brandi.
“It’s really fun, and there’s not a single person out there that will make fun of you for using a mounting block,” Brandi says. They’ll go, “I want to teach my horse to do that!” So have fun with it. Always have fun with your horses, and always remember that if they’re willing to work for you, they’re willing to play.”