I know it seems like I’m spending an eternity on ground work with my colts. Everything I have done up to this point can take a colt anywhere from a couple days to a couple of weeks to catch on. The speed in which you progress will really depend on the colt you are working with. For example, I just got a gelding to train for the 2012 Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Collins. He was so willing to learn and easy to work with that I was on his back by day five. It’s important that you read your horse. When he does one step well move on the the next. It is really important that you don’t miss any steps, and some horses require more steps than others. What I have covered so far is the minimum of what I do with my colts. Some colts require a lot more work on working with their legs than others, so I do different exercises that can help build more trust in that area. Really the main thing is don’t try to rush.
We are now to a point where I want to get my horse ready to be mounted. To be at the point where I consider a horse ready to practice mounting, I must be able to move all around the horse with out him getting nervous. I need to be about to touch him all over his body and be able to pick up his feet. I also like him to lunge well and understand what I want when I am ground driving. If he pasts all these tests I start my mounting training.
I really like to break my mounting down. First I want my horse to flex his head over to me when I ask for his nose. Of coarse we taught this to our colt earlier so this shouldn’t be a problem (see Part 2). So to start I ask for my horse’s nose then I pull down on the saddle horn kind of like I would do if I was actually mounting. If he moves around, that’s okay, just stay with him and keep pressure on the saddle until his feet quit moving. Once his feet stop moving release pressure on the saddle and the bit. Then repeat until he doesn’t move when you put pressure on the saddle. After he does one side well do the same thing on the other side. I will work both sides a few times till he stands still each time I tip his nose and put pressure on the saddle.
Once my horse is standing there just bored with me pulling on the saddle I move on to actually putting some weight in the stirrup. Like before I tip his nose over two me. Then I put just the toe of my boot in the stirrup. I then start to bounce a little in the stirrup. If I’m on the left side and my left foot is in the stirrup, my right foot don’t come off the ground for more than a second. I’m really just doing little hops not actually standing in the stirrup yet. Most horses will move around a little here. You really want to try to stick with them, keeping their nose tipped and continue hopping until they stand still. Once they quit moving their feet, take your foot out of the stirrup and release their nose. Repeat until you can do this without the horse moving. Then repeat on the other side. Again do this as many times on each side as needed, till your horse will stand still when you put your foot in the stirrup and you hop a couple of times.
Now we are actually going to get all of our weight on the horse. The way I like to do this next step is to start out like the previous step. I will ask for my horse’s nose, then I will hop two times on the stirrup then on the third hop I stand up in the stirrup. If you look at the picture you will notice I am leaning over the horse. I have weight in the stirrup and I am resting my hip on the saddle. If you horse moves around here just keep his head tipped over to you and stay with him until his feet quit moving. Once his feet stop step down and let him rest a second. Then repeat. On my second time up I like to reach over and rub his neck a little and mess with the opposite stirrup. Again I do this over and over until my horse just stands there and seems bored with me. Then repeat on the other side. This is the last step before actually swinging your leg over and riding your horse, so you want to make sure that both you and your horse are comfortable with everything up to this point. If you feel like you just aren’t ready to swing that leg over, don’t. Go back and do some more ground work and practice everything up to this point until you are both relaxed and comfortable.