Never neglect to perfect the art of standing still. It is vitally important that your horse can shut down and stand in one spot without any random or self-imposed movement.
The act of standing still may seem simple, but think about how handy that is for mounting, dismounting, being tied up, opening gates, soaking in a newly learned drill, etc. etc.
But the main advantage is not that he’s physically motionless, but that the horse has the same idea as you. You are thinking ‘stand still’ and the horse is thinking the same thing. We should always be working towards achieving merged thoughts with our horse.
The horse should not have movement unless you are asking him for it. He should be in the habit of waiting on instruction from you.
Listen to my podcast: Perfect The Art Of Standing Still
Everybody, of course, wants their horse to stand still while they get on and get off. One way to encourage that is to do these simple exercises:
Standing Still Exercise #1
Saddle your horse. Have a halter and lead rope on his head instead of a bridle. Hold the lead rope in your left hand so that you can pull his head around or use back pressure if needed. Pretend like you’re going to mount. Stand up in the left stirrup, but don’t throw your right leg over. See if the horse moves. If he does, step back down and immediately begin lunging and even throw in some tight direction changes. After his feet hustle for a few minutes, offer him the good deal of standing still again. He will eventually take you up on that offer. Even if you use a mounting block, the process would be the same.
For more help with mounting, watch this: How To Mount A Horse
Standing Still Exercise #2
Start with your horse saddled and bridled. Your reins will be in your left hand with only an inch or two of slack. As you mount your horse, if he begins to take a step, lift your left hand to encourage him to remain still. If he does take a step as you get on, have him back up a few.
If he takes 3 steps forward before you ask for movement, have him back up 5 steps. You are instilling the idea that he should stay where you put him.
Standing Still Exercise #3
There could be a magnet (barn, buddy, gate) that your horse is drawn to which causes him to move before you ask him to. If that is the case, don’t delay doing some buddy/barn sour work to get that resolved.
Learn how to solve buddy sour issues here: Buddy Sour Horse | The Permanent Fix
After you mount your horse, don’t always immediately have him walk off. He may be anticipating walking forward, but help him develop the ability to stand still and wait until you ask him to move. This ability is just as important as stopping, turning, or staying between your reins and legs.
A goal I always have for my horses is that they can handily do fast work, but then immediately go to a neutral place of stillness, both mentally and physically.
If a horse is not proficient in going from moving to not moving, it will hinder his stops, turn arounds, ability to rate, and many other maneuvers.
When a horse is truly ‘broke’ with a good foundation, standing still should not be an issue. He should do it because you are not asking him to do anything else. This will be much more successful if you ride with life and energy in your hands, seat, legs, and mind. Then when you shut down, the horse will understand that difference and effortlessly also shut down and stand still.
If your horse thinks he should be moving when that is not what you asked him to do, there is a misunderstanding or gaps of unsureness. This unsureness is the root of what makes a horse spooky. It can all be traced back to a leaky foundation. For help establishing the proper foundation in your horse, try out the Buckaroo Crew membership site.
In all reality, your horse should be as sure about standing still as he is about walking forward. If he’s not, make that a priority until he is.