One of the more important things people ask me is, How do you communicate to your horse that you want them to stand still?" This is something everyone would like their horse to do at some time or another. Its nice if a horse will stand quietly when you are working around them, while grooming, saddling, or mounting. It also can help for when you tie your horse for any reason. If they understand that you want them to stand still, then they don't fuss and get all anxious when tied.
The reason a horse won't stand still for their handler is most often because they don't understand the expectation, or they don't have enough trust in their handler. If it is a trust issue, then you need to work on your relationship. The process I am about to explain will help with both.
I like to start with Getting Their Attention. I do this is a round pen if I can, but a small or even a large pasture can work. I find a 50' round pen to be the best place to work. I don't start by running them, or moving them around. Most horses I just meet or horses that have been worked with by someone before me, usually want to start running around the pen. I don't want them to run so I go to a spot opposite where I would like them to stop and stand. This blocks them from running around. My goal is to get them to stop and just look at me. I apply pressure by approaching slightly. Its kinda like chasing them to a stop. I don't chase them, its more like cutting them off, pushing them to a spot that I have pick out ahead of time. Once they realize you don't let them go right or left, they stop and look. As soon as that happens I walk away and let them relax. If they move as I leave, I put them back. It doesn't take long for them to understand what you want. From there I work on having them focus on me no matter where I go in the pen. My focus is on having them focus on me. If it strays, I apply pressure, usually by just kissing or moving my arms till they look. sometimes they will leave the spot. Remember where the spot is and put them back. Don't be in a hurry but the less time it takes the better they understand. Once you can walk past their hip and they turn and face you instead of leaving then you can start asking them to move and stop. The more you move and stop them and they understand the cues you choose to use for this, then they're more likely to wait and focus on your expectation. This part is the basics of my first half hour with a horse. Once you get this They are very focused on you and you didn't have to run all around the round pen.
This next technique I start Working With Emotions. Lets face it, some horses are afraid of their own shadows or a blade of grass blowing in the wind. So if you need them to control their emotions, you need to let them know you understand them. I do this by no matter what I'm doing with them I don't soften myself to where I find myself saying easy, easy, its ok, relax. I work at a pace that's more, matter of fact, or just go about my business. If it bothers them emotionally. I just stay at it till they respond and relax on their own. Then I stop and give them a pet. I purposely find things all the time that I think might make them nervous. Introduce it slowly to not overwhelm them but at the same time finding a reasonable level of emotion so that we can teach them that if they relax, we can make it go away. There will be times that whatever your horse is afraid of won't go away at all. Sometimes its a rock on the side of the road or trail. This is why I work with their emotions. So they know a safe and proper response to their fear. Many people teach their horse to overreact without even knowing it. When their horse is afraid of whatever their doing they stop because they don't want to scare them. All your doing is teaching them is if they freak out, you will make it go away. Then In the times you can't or don't know what it is, you have a huge wreck because you never taught them to deal with their emotions. This is also important in teaching a horse to stand still. Specially when tied because being tied is restrictive and raises anxiety.
This last technique I use when teaching a horse to stand still while mounting. Some people have the idea that if their going to move then you make them work harder and go faster. I would rather let them think it through and figure it out without raising anxiety. The first time I saddle a horse I go through a mounting process. This teaches them to understand everything that is happening and is going to happen. I start by standing next to them and asking for a bend in my direction. Then I grab and hold the stirrup, If they are good with that then I put weight in it using my hand, then I shake it, then I make it make noise. Like when you jerk it and it makes a slapping noise. If at any of these stages the horse starts to move, I just keep going till they stop moving. Then I stop and give them a pet. I don't move on to the next step till they stand quietly and allow me to do this on both sides. I then start to move the saddle. If it goes well I will lift my foot into to the stirrup. Then I would bounce as if I am getting ready to mount with my foot in the stirrup. Again if they move I just stay with them and keep bouncing till they stop and stand, Then I take my foot out and start over. Once I can do this on both sides I will stand right up in the stirrup and get right off. After a number of these go without any movement I will get on, through a leg over and get right back off. If they move when my leg goes over I sit and wait, encouraging them to stop without panicking and pulling on a rein, as soon as they commit to a stop I get right off. I will then start mounting and dismounting from both sides, staying longer each time. I will then start staying till I get some relaxation like lowering the head or a soft bend toward the side I mounted on, then get right off. Its a good idea to sit up there and mess around for a while get them used to standing still while mounted. This also helps to keep them from walking off as soon as you get on.
If you have a horse that likes to start moving as soon as you are on them, you may want to get in the habit of stopping them, and when its time to go, go backwards, or turn on the haunches and go right or left. If you teach them that the start will require them to put weight on their hind end, they'll most likely wait for your signal. Its also a good idea to do a lot of walk, stop, back, stop, walk drills stopping for a different amount of time each time. This also teaches them to wait for a signal from you and not think that they can go whenever they feel like it. They learn there is a signal that communicates to them that you want them to go or stay, and they will learn to wait for it.
We hope you enjoyed this topic and found something in it that may help you with your horse.
Thanks for reading.