What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Resistance to Mounting


A horse’s refusal to allow you to mount is a highly undesirable behavior that needs to be resolved. Discomfort plays a role in the resistance. Think about the torque placed on the back when a person mounts a horse. We need to try to minimize that always.

Horses are taught to refuse a mount in the same way they are taught to engage in many other unwanted behaviors. They perceive the behavior to be easier and more rewarding than alternative (desirable) behaviors.

Like many other evasive habits, this behavior can be a response to pain. Poor mounting technique causes discomfort and encourages horses to resist mounting. A variety of physical conditions may cause a horse to resist mounting including back pain, ill-fitting saddle or tack, and even lameness due to undiagnosed injury. Your vet can help you determine whether this behavior is a result of physical pain.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • To rule out physical issues that may be causing the problem.
    • Some vets have valuable advice regarding behavioral and training issues.
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your role


What To Do

If a physical cause is ruled out, look to yourself, your own mounting/riding technique, and others who have handled your horse as both the cause of the problem and the solution. Assess your saddle fit and mounting technique. Put as little twisting torque on the saddle as possible as you mount. Put absolutely no pressure on the head or mouth unless the horse begins to move off. Keep pressure in the stirrup if the horse begins to move off, but check the horse with the bit. Keep a "sanctuary of comfort" for the horse that allows mounting. That is a balance between making the mounting process as comfortable as possible, while making the act of moving off uncomfortable (pressure on the bit).

Engage a trainer who knows how to work through this behavior. Beyond seeking a physical cause, your vet may or may not have an interest in helping your horse overcome this behavior.

What Not To Do

Never put tension in the reins in anticipation of mounting, thinking you are keeping the horse in place. This makes the desirable behavior uncomfortable for the horse.

your vet's role

Your vet may observe the behavior, your technique, the horse's back and your tack and try to determine a cause.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does the horse seem to be in pain?
  • When did you first notice this behavior develop?
  • Has the feed, management, rider, riding style, or tack changed?
  • Have you examined the horse's back and girth and checked saddle fit?
  • Have you examined the tack?
  • Do saddle fit, girth and tack look OK?
  • Is your mounting technique as good as it could be?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP