Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Jumping Exercise

I recently had a conversation about jumping.  The person I was speaking to echoed many concerns that people have when learning how to do this.  Jumping can be nerve wracking and is often dangerous, but it is also a very enjoyable and sometimes necessary part of riding a horse.  Aside from competitions where jumping is the sole purpose, there are many occasions on a trail where it may be necessary to know how to jump.  Occasionally, your horse may need to jump over a small ditch, and often there are logs and other obstacles that horses will need to jump over in order to negotiate.  Personally, I am not a competition jumper, but I do believe that jumping is a skill that every horse and rider should keep in their back pocket.  Bottom line, it is better to know it and not need it, than to need it and not know it.

When I originally started to learn to jump, I learned the old fashioned way from a veteran pony club instructor.  She put out trot poles and had me trot over them in two point position, and eventually had the horse hop over an “X” until both the horse and I were confident about staying straight and centered.  Then she slowly started raising the poles until we were jumping a respectable height.  Over time, different jumps were added with combinations, oxers, boxes, logs, walls, and a variety of other stadium and cross country obstacles. 

This was a very successful and effective way to learn and I completed the course of instruction with flying colors.  I had an excellent teacher and all occurred with great safety and significant progress.

When the time came for me to start passing these skills to others, I noticed that it was very effective when teaching the young.  But for older more mature or adult riders, especially those coming into riding later in life, there were some problems.  First of all the reflexes of a child were much quicker and more reliable.  Secondly, their learning curve for physical activities was much steeper.  So in the split second that it took for a horse to clear a jump, the children had plenty of time in the air to practice their position and even make corrections in flight.

But alas, for an older crowd, a little more time was needed.  The trouble is that the horse has only a certain amount of time in the air and thus there was no way to increase the time.  Therein was the heart of the problem.  If only there was a way to stop the horse in mid jump and give the older rider enough time in the air to make the corrections.  But unfortunately, gravity was very rigid about it’s rules and would not allow delays.

So my solution was to put the horses on a hill. It solved the problem immediately.  I took the horses to a hill, and let the students practice their two point positions as the horses trotted or cantered up the hill.  Once they got to the top of the hill, they could turn around and practice their position as the horses came back down.

So the benefits are:

  1. Extended time with the horse in an ascending jumping position, thus allowing the rider to practice and make corrections
  2. Extended time with the horse in the descending position, thus allowing the rider to practice and make corrections
  3. If the rider is having trouble, the instructor can hold the horse in the ascending position and let the horse stand, thus giving the rider an infinite amount of time to learn the position
  4. Riders will invariably look at the top of the hill, thus giving them practice at looking up and away past the jump instead of looking down
  5. Safer for beginners and horses.  No actual jumping needs to happen until the rider is comfortable with their position
  6. And best of all, you don’t have to constantly be replacing knocked over jumps.

For those of you trying to learn, give it a shot, if it does not work for you, then at least you will have had some fun riding up and down some hills.  For instructors, consider how often you have yelled out corrections, only for the student to comply after the fact when it is too late.  On a hill, you have all the time in the world.  Well, at least till the top of the hill.  But then again, who said you have to be moving at all?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More on Lighter Cues, Lightness is when bridles are no longer needed.

Everyone wants a lighter horse. Light on the forehand, light on it's feet, light to the touch, and most importantly, light on the reins. Yesterday, I was working on getting my horse lighter and found myself starting to play tug-of-war. As usual, when I catch myself doing that, I remind myself that pulling harder will get me no where and that the timely release is all important. And of course things start to improve slightly, but soon we start fighting again.

Realizing that a new approach was needed, I decided to look for a way for the horse to encounter some direct consequences for pulling on the rein that would provide an automatic correction rather than my pathetic and ineffectual tugging. (Everyone else calls them half halts, but my spasmodic jerkings are not that refined)

I also wanted to find a way to teach the horse not to pull that met the following criteria:

1. It had to be automatic or at least nearly so.

2. It had to be somewhat intuitive so that I would not have to remind myself to do it.

3. It had to be easy so that a novice could do it.

4. It had to be Safe.

5. It had to be non confrontational. (so the horse does not get agitated and pop his head in the air.)

6. It had to be possible with regular reins and a snaffle.

Well I think I found one.
The first thing I would do as I ride the horse is take up the reins gently and slowly, in tiny increments. This initial gathering of the reins was the tricky part because I needed to keep the horse soft all the way until the horse's head was where I wanted it. For a very green horse, that might put his face somewhere between 45 degrees and the vertical. For a more advanced horse who sort of knows where he needs to be but has learned that he can pull the reins from his rider, that would be on the vertical.

Once the horse's head is in the correct position, I would make a mental note to select a particular rein, (usually the inside rein) to hold fast no matter what. This rein I will call the steady rein. As soon as the horse begins to pull, I would hold the steady rein but I would release the other rein as he pulls.

This creates an interesting phenomenon. Because I am holding the steady rein and releasing the opposite rein as he pulls, the horse ends up pushing his neck into a single steady rein. This results in him forcing his head into a turn. The beauty of it is that I am doing nothing but allowing him to pull; but on one rein only. Thus the horse pushes his own head into a turn, and finds that he wants to straighten his neck but cannot. Within a stride or two, he is begging for you to take up the opposite rein again to help him straighten his head. When you do take up the opposite rein, he is actually grateful that you are pulling and is more than willing to give to the bit. After that, I wait for him to do it again and repeat.

The wonderful thing about this method is that the horse actually looks upon you as a hero for saving him from a self inflicted punishment.

So the algorithm goes as follows:

1. Place the horse's head where you want it depending on his experience

2. Wait for him to pull

3. Instead of pulling back, release one rein

4. Watch him turn his head

5. When he stops pulling, which will be in about 5 seconds, take up the opposite rein and straighten his head.

6. Accept his thanks for actually taking up the rein.

So this method meets the original criteria:

1. It is automatic, when the horse pulls, you release. (instead of fighting) and this turns his head which he wants to straighten on his own but can't, thus he is actually grateful for the final correction.

2. It is intuitive. What could be more intuitive than "when he pulls, you let him".

3. It is easy, no cat like reflexes needed. Just wait for him to pull and then release the rein. Gather it back up at your leisure.

4. It is safe. Often horses who lean into the bit can get faster and unruly when you try to gather the rein. Or they can toss their heads and work themselves into a frenzy creating an unsafe condition. This method turns the horse's head and makes him walk a small circle. It is the equivalent of the one rein stop which most institutions teach as a safety feature anyway.

5. It is non confrontational. The horse turns his head, and there is no tugging, jerking, jiggling, or tapping. The horse's head quickly softens and he learns not to pull as it gets him nowhere fast. (literally)

6. It is easily accomplished with standard equipment and a snaffle. It works with a curb too as long as you are not expecting too much in the beginning.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Minimize your Cue, Lighten your Horse

A common and irritating habit that horses have is that of being, what some people refer to as, "Hard Mouthed".  Others call it "Not Being Soft" or "Heavy on the Bit". These terms describe a horse that will not give to the bit when asked.  When this occurs, you will often hear students complain that they have to pull very hard on the rein to get a response.

This is a difficult problem and I have a mare with whom I often wrestle with this issue.  On some days, I have tremendous success, on others, I have dismal failures.  But on the days that we encounter failures, I have noticed  a couple of things.

The first observation I have made is that since my horse is sometimes extremely light, then it is proof that she is capable of being light, and that this is not the result of ignorance or lack of training on her part.  

So the next thing to track is what is different about me on the days when she is good as opposed to the days when she is bad?

And the most glaring difference I have noticed is my mood.  If I am in a bad mood, the horse will be hard.  If I am in a good mood, the horse will be soft.  It is really that simple.

So the next thing to consider is why?  I suppose that I could make speculations about the horse sensing my irritation, or being a reflection of my psychological state.  Endless talks could ensue about the innate sensitivity of horses to their rider's mental condition, and interesting though it might be, I don't think it would be very useful.  The reason I don't think it would be useful is because it is not realistic to think that you must be in a good mood every time you ride your horse.  I know that a lot people think that simply riding a horse will put you in a good mood, but I have been around horses and horse people long enough to know that this is simply not true for everyone.  Hang around an arena long enough and you will see a myriad of riders cursing and kicking their horses in angst.  (Being tri-lingual, I have often cursed at my horse in three languages in the hopes of finding at least one that she understands. To my detriment, she apparently understands them all and responds in kind.)

So what is it about a bad mood that makes us a bad rider, and in particular, with regard to pulling on the bit?  And my answer to that is sensitivity.  As we spiral into a state of irritation, we, as a general rule, begin to think mostly of ourselves and less about others.  A bad mood is usually a result of some unpleasant encounter where we have felt victimized.  These thoughts are ego centric and so we are generally thinking about ourselves and not in the mood to be empathetic.  Whether or not we are justified in our mental state is not relevant to the horse.  All he feels are your spurs at his side, and your hands in his mouth.

At this point, when we ask with the rein, our hands tend to be less forgiving, and less sensitive to the horses responses.  Thus, when we ask, we ask for bigger responses, and are less prone to giving a timely release.  There is a great saying among great horseman the world over.  Some attribute this to Tom or Bill Dorrance, some to Ray Hunt, and it is echoed by many such as Pat Parelli.  I don't really know who originated the saying and I don't care.  I just know that it is golden.  The saying is: 

Ask a Lot, Accept a Little, and Reward the Slightest Try.

As you ask for a give at the bit, expect your horse to be soft, and when he gives even a tiny little bit, then immediately release.  Having a horse give at the bit or anywhere else on his body requires a series of tiny requests in a long sequence.  Consider the following scenario: 

If I want my horse to walk ten steps, I never ask for ten steps, I ask for one step, ten times.  Thus, for every step my horse gives me, I give a release.  He is then reinforced for every single step he gives and every subsequent step becomes more animated and energetic.  His enthusiasm will build as he is constantly reassured that what he is doing is the right thing.  On the other hand, if I want ten steps and I start asking without giving a release until I get the ten steps, then by the time the horse has taken 4 or 5 steps, without getting a release of the pressure, he may begin to doubt that what he is doing is the correct movement.  By the time he has reached 6 or 7 steps, he may be convinced that he is not giving the correct movement and may even begin to reverse his direction.

The same can be said of the bit and reins.  When I pull on the rein, I want my horse to break at the pole and give to the bit.  Let us say that I would like his head to come to the vertical.  And let us suppose that, because of the current position of his head, it would require him to move his nose down by as much as 10 degrees.  If I want to be successful, I would not ask him to move his head down 10 degrees by a single pull on the rein.  Instead, I would ask him to move his head 1 degree, ten times.  Each degree of give I get from the horse, should result in a slight give from me, thus reassuring him that he is doing the correct thing.  Now these releases of the rein can be very slight; so slight that no one but the horse will notice.  And to the casual observer, it will appear as if the horse broke at the pole in a single pull of the rein.  But make no mistake, the releases were there.

So what's mood got to do with it?  Well, when I am in a bad mood, I still have good balance.  So I am not falling off the horse.  When I am in a bad mood, I still have strength, so I can grip with my legs.  However, when I am in a bad mood, the one thing I am NOT is SENSITIVE.  Thus, I am not inclined to give timely releases.  Because I have just been slighted by the world, I have low expectations, therefore I do not expect a lot.  Because I am not sensitive to the gifts I receive from my horse, I cannot accept a little, and because I am not feeling charitable, I cannot reward the slightest try.  

Monday, May 11, 2009

Training Trail Rides

The day was sunny, windy, and cool. Pretty much a typical day on the Beach in Central California. The weather here is so consistently good that I often forget how good we have it until I travel. Today was a day for a group trail ride that my friends and I do every few weeks. These are special trail rides where we engage in activities for the purposes of training and improving our mounts.

One of the biggest problems with training a horse to trail ride is that it is often difficult to train a horse for the trail unless you are on a trail. But then you may be with friends, or fellow riders who may not appreciate an unruly horse in their midst. And of course it is generally unfair to impose your training requirements on fellow riders, especially if they do not get to ride very often. And since it is unsafe to ride a green or difficult horse on the trail alone, the horse who needs the most work, gets the least attention and so a vicious cycle ensues.

For this reason, my friends and I have resolved to meet every few weeks to engage in what we call a training trail ride. We select trails that are easily accessed and bring plenty of helpers to hold horses or watch our gear. Someone always brings food and it is a festive affair. But most importantly, there is only one agenda and that is to improve your horse. Some people have green horses that need miles, some people have spooky horses that need exposure, some people have horses that need to overcome being herd bound or trailer sour. All are welcome and, in the group, there is always someone with a similar problem or willing to work with you. On these group rides, one should never feel that they are holding someone else back or that they are disturbing others. The whole point is to bring your difficult horse to a tolerant, paitient, and helpful environment where everyone understands that the purpose of the ride is not to just get from A to B, but to get everyone going home safely with a more educated horse.

I have found that these Training Trail Rides are extremely valuable and have contributed greatly to the improvement of our hourses. The following is just one example of a very valuable exercise:

Canter Relay:
Best for a group of 3 or more riders.
Pick a safe section of the trail where the horses can canter. Have one rider canter off while the rest wait. When the first rider has cantered about one to two hundred yards, he stops and waits. As soon as the second rider sees the first rider stop, he starts his turn and canters to the first. When he arrives, the first rider may depart for another cantering leg of the same length while the second rider waits for the third. When the third rider sees that the second has stopped, that is his cue to begin his leg.

This drill can be repeated as many times as is convenient depending on the trail conditions. The benefits are at least as follows:

  • By cantering small sections, the riders gain confidence in cantering on the trail without giving the horses a chance to get too fast and out of control
  • By insisting that horses wait while other horses canter away establishes the riders control and forces the horse to learn patience.
  • By keeping the wait time between legs short, the horse learns that there is no need to be herd bound as long as he has the patience to wait his turn.

This is just one of many similar drills that can be used to improve the quality of a trail horse. But it must be done with the permission of everyone involved and therefor cannot be imposed on a group unless they are all of like mind. If you live on the Central Coast of California and you are interested in participating feel free to email me for dates and times. If you live elsewhere, try to organize a similar group. It is well worth the effort as it is useful and a lot of fun.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Leadership, by Example, or by Exception?

Many believe that riding a horse is a matter of knowledge. This may be true but it is also a matter of skill. The difference is that skill not only takes some degree of repetitious practice, but also physical capabilities that involve fitness.

This is not to say that a rider must be a fitness fanatic. But it is important for the horse and rider to be a match, not only with regard to training, but also with regard to fitness. Therefore, The Enlightened Rider will not expect his horse to perform like an Olympic Athlete unless he is willing to do so as well.

It should come as no surprise that well conditioned athletes make better equestrians, not only because better physical coordination and control of your body will result in quicker reflexes, but also because this concept of leadership by example is extremely effective with horses. Do not allow an imbalance of fitness to come between you and your mount. Make sure that you engage in a fitness program that meets or exceeds the program set for your horse. By so doing, you will not only improve your own well being, you will also be more in tune with your body and thus, improvements in your riding style will follow naturally.

The kind of fitness program that should be the mainstay of any Equestrian’s lifestyle is not difficult to determine. It should simply be designed to produce the same results that the Equestrian is trying to produce in his horse. We all want our horses to be strong enough to carry us, therefore, we should engage in a fitness program that involves some kind of strength training. Next we want our horses to be agile. So it should not be a stretch of the imagination to require our fitness program to develop agility. We also want our horses to be supple. So exercises that will supple our bodies and promote flexibility are essential. Our horses must also have stamina in order to avoid tiring quickly. So of course put some form of endurance training on the list. And lastly, we need our horses to be sensitive. And so some program that will increase our own sensitivity will be necessary.

The fact that fit riders are better riders is not a novel idea. But there is another and more important reason for suggesting a fitness program. The more fit and conditioned you become, the more the performance of your horse will improve in everyway imaginable. He will be more compliant, more responsive, stronger and more conditioned. This is simply because fit people arrive at their well conditioned state as a result of hard work and discipline. Although one may not start out a fitness program as a highly disciplined athlete, if one perseveres, it is only reasonable to expect to end up that way. As time goes on, the conditioned and disciplined equestrian will become the type of person who offers fewer excuses, and accepts greater responsibilities. This attitude cannot help but improve the relationship with a horse and create an environment that will be mutually supportive and beneficial. And it is in keeping with our principle philosophy regarding horsemanship which is: Become what you want your horse to be, and he will certainly follow.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Operant Conditioning

Operant Conditioning.

Today I am going to try to tackle the concepts of Operant Conditioning or OC.  Somehow, I wonder if I am crazy to try it, considering all the controversy about it, but I hope that if I remain neutral enough, I may be able to shed some light on this, often confusing, subject.

Before I start on OC, I should start with Classical Conditioning.  The concept of Classical Conditioning was started by Pavlov when he was doing some experiments with dogs.  He started by ringing a bell and then feeding a dog.  He would do this several times and then after awhile, he found that the dog would begin salivate as soon as he heard the bell even if he was not being fed.  Pavlov called this Classical Conditioning.

Then a man called Skinner began experimenting with rats and other animals including humans.  He wanted to study what it would take to get people to change their behaviors.  He wanted to study the changes because he really wanted to study learning.  But the only way that he could actually measure learning was by observing a change in behavior.  So he defined learning as a change in behavior.  He later discovered that animals would change their behavior according to, at least, two different stimulating mechanisms that were applied after the behavior occurred.  Of course, this was in sharp contrast to Pavlovian Classical Conditioning because in Classical Conditioning, the stimulus came BEFORE the behavior and in fact caused it. (i.e. the ringing of the bell)

In Skinners approach, the stimuli would come AFTER the behavior was observed and it would either increase the behavior or it would diminish the behavior.  Skinner called this process Operant Conditioning.  It should be noted that in Operant Conditioning, Skinner would have to wait until the subject presented or offered the behavior before he could do something to encourage or diminish its frequency.

So the fundamental difference between Operant and Classical is the following:

In Classical Conditioning, the stimulant comes before the behavior.

In Operant Conditioning, the stimulant comes after the behavior.

So far it has been very simple.  But this is where the simplicity ends.  Skinner later categorized his stimulants into two basic categories. 

One where the stimulus encourages a recurrence of the behavior; and this he called a reinforcement.

And the other where the stimulus discouraged the recurrence of the behavior; and this he called a punishment.

You can see where confusion starts to creep in.  In our culture, the term punishment is connected with concepts of cruelty and misery.  But Skinner was not looking at it in this way.  He was simply trying to classify a stimulus that would discourage or decrease the frequency of a behavior.  He could have just as easily called it a deterrent and it would have meant the same thing.  But he didn’t and unfortunately, we are stuck with the term and the stigma that comes with it.

Next Skinner further subdivided the punishments and reinforcements into a form of stimulus that could be applied, in other words something that you would give to the subject, and something that could be removed. i.e. something that you would take away from the subject.  For these categories, he selected the incredibly unfortunate terms of positive for giving, and negative for taking away.  Of course, Skinner simply meant positive and negative in the mathematical sense of adding something or subtracting something.  But again, language and culture predisposes us to think of positive as good, and negative as bad.  It is a pity because when we engage in mathematics, we really do not think of adding and subtracting as good or bad, but with reinforcements and punishments, the terms negative and positive have a profound effect upon our attitudes toward the stimulus.

So perhaps it might be useful to use some examples to help rid ourselves of the notions of good and bad, or kind and cruel.

Consider a person who is talking a lot and I want him to be quiet.  So, I tell him that if he stops talking, I will give him some money.  So, I want a behavior (the talking) to diminish.  Therefore, according to Skinner, whatever I do is considered a punishment.  And if I give him something, it is positive.  So if I pay someone to be quiet, then I am applying a positive punishment.

Consider another person who is talking.  Let us say that he is in court of law and speaking out of turn.  The judge could levy a fine on him for contempt of court, thus effectively silencing the person.  So again, we want the behavior of talking to diminish, and so we are going to punish.  But instead of giving him money to be quiet, we are taking money for speaking.  Thus we have applied a negative punishment.

Of course, the opposite could be applied.  If we want him to talk more, we could reinforce his talking by paying him to speak more, or we could levy a fine if he does not talk enough.  Thus, paying him to speak is a positive reinforcement, while fining him for not talking enough is a negative reinforcement.

Now consider the possibility that a person is complaining about a headache.  And I am tired of hearing him whine about it.  So I give him some medicine to make the headache go away and now he is quiet.  Herein lies the incredibly confusing nature of Operant Conditioning’s terminology.  Is it positive punishment because I gave him medicine which made him quiet?  Or is it Negative punishment because I took his headache away?

Well this is a trick question really.  It is neither because, in this case, the medicine came nor the headache left BEFORE the behavior changed.  The stimulus came before and was the cause of the change.  Therefore, it is NOT Operant Conditioning.  It is Classical Conditioning and incidentally is a contributor to the placebo effect.

Remember that the Operant Conditioning stimulus of reinforcements and punishments come after the behavior and stimulate the behavior to increase or diminish.

Now if we want to engage in training, we need to increase desirable behaviors and decrease undesirable behaviors.  Then we need to take those behaviors and connect them with a cue or command.  And Operant Conditioning lends itself very well to effecting these changes.  But first, it is most effective if you divest yourself of the cultural prejudices that are attached to the terminology.  Reinforcements and Punishments are not kind or cruel per se, they are simply ways in which we can distinguish between stimulus that increases, or decreases the frequency of a particular behavior.

So we can clearly identify 4 distinct mechanisms that will increase or decrease the frequency of a behavior.  They are:

  • Positive Punishment
  • Negative Punishment
  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Negative Reinforcement

The standard way that Operant Conditioning is used is in the following manner:

We pick a behavior that we like or is at least close to what we like and then use reinforcements to make it happen more and more often.  Soon, the behavior will become very predictable.  Once the behavior is predictable, we borrow a bit, (not a lot, just a bit) from Classical Conditioning.  As soon as you can predict the behavior in a reliable fashion, you start giving some kind of signal just before you think the behavior is about to happen. This is called a cue and it can be a hand signal, a voice command, or anything that the subject can easily detect.  Soon, you will classically condition the subject to perform the behavior right after the cue or command is given.  As soon as the command is given, the subject will perform the behavior and then you can reinforce the behavior with either a negative or positive reinforcement.

Whether you select a negative or positive reinforcement is entirely dependant on logistics, mechanics, and your personal preference.  When training dolphins, it is difficult to reinforce a behavior by jumping into the water and taking something away from them.  Thus, logistically, the best way to reinforce a behavior is to give them something like a treat.

Horses on the other hand are traditionally trained using almost exclusively negative reinforcements.  The way this is done is that a rider will apply leg pressure to the side of a Horse.  When the horse moves in a desirable way, the rider will remove (Negative) the pressure from his leg and thus the Horse will begin to increase the frequency of that movement under those conditions.  It is the same with the reins.  When a rider puts pressure on a rein, the rein transmits that pressure to the mouth of the Horse.  If the Horse turns his head in the correct direction, then the pressure is removed, (Negative) and thus the Horse will increase his tendency to move his head in the correct manner.

This is the traditional way that Horses have been trained for millennia.  However, there are a dedicated and growing group of people who are trying to train Horses using exclusively positive reinforcements and this has generated a new movement toward what are considered more gentle techniques.  I have no desire to take sides on this issue.  For me, animals learn according to all four mechanisms and I do not believe in the exclusive application of one over the other as I can see the possibility of abusing any technique.  But I will also concede that it is pretty difficult to be cruel if one were to only engage in Positive Reinforcements.  In fact, one would have to be pretty creative to find a way to do it.  And in a world where many people do not want to take the time to filter out all the ways in which they might abuse a method, sticking strictly to positive reinforcements is not a bad way to err on the side of caution.  The only problem I see in this approach is that although working with a horse on the ground will present itself as very amenable to positive reinforcements, riding a horse may be a bit more difficult if one were to restrict oneself to positives only.  In fact, I am not sure how to do it.  Even a shift of the weight until the horse performs a correct maneuver is technically a negative reinforcement but I am not the expert in the exclusive application of positive reinforcements.  I work with animals according to what I consider their nature, the environment, and the mechanical configuration that presents itself.  I do my best to be as kind and gentle as possible and leave the treatment of exclusively training with positives only to those experts in that field.

Because Horses are prone to a lot of undesirable behaviors, it is incumbent upon me to address the issue of those stimuli that reduce the frequency of behaviors; namely Punishments. Although I recognize that punishments are not inherently bad or cruel, I do recognize that they are most amenable to abuse and can easily be misapplied.  Thus I avoid punishments wherever my imagination will allow it.  To promote this idea, I will give an example:

For the Horse that does not stand still for mounting:

The common way to handle this is to put one foot in the stirrup, and when the Horse starts to walk off, to hop along with the horse and by some dangerous miracle, eventually pull your self into the saddle.  Then to take the reins and pull on the reins as much as possible to make the horse stop, and even back him up.  Foul language is often applied at this juncture which, although helpful for the rider, is wasted on the Horse.

Consider this alternative:

First teach the Horse the command “Stay”.  When you want to teach this command, make a commitment to teach the command independently of any other lesson.  In other words, do NOT expect the Horse to learn this command during the ONE TIME you mount him per day to go riding.  Take time out to make this its own lesson.  To do this, take your horse somewhere where there is no food or other distractions.  Let him stand by himself and start counting to your self to see how long he will stand on his own without moving.  Let us say you manage to count to 6 before he starts moving. You now know what his threshold is.  Let him stand there again, and count to 5.  When you reach 5, say “Good Horse” and give him a treat.  If he moves before you reach the count of five, say “Wrong”, and put him back in his place.  Then try counting to 5 again.  If you consistently cannot reach the number 5, then you know that your threshold is too high and lower your expectations.  When you find a good threshold, repeat the exercise for a couple of minutes and then slowly start increasing the count over a period of several days.  When you can ask the Horse to stand still for a count of 10, you are ready to ask him to stand still for mounting.

This example gives us the foundation for a new approach.  It is based on the idea that we want to give commands to a Horse to DO something as opposed to DON’T.  When we are mounting and the Horse starts to walk off, we often find ourselves giving commands that the Horse has never been taught, but that we are convinced they must understand.  The most common of these is “Quit”. (In my case, I am erroneously convinced that the Horse is familiar with the meanings of many words that would make a sailor blush) This would not be so bad if it were not likely that the rider has never spent a dedicated amount of time to teach the Horse what that particular command means.  For the most part, Horses are simply expected to just understand the English word.  And of course, the command “Quit” is extremely vague and difficult to understand for everyone but the person saying it.  So rather than tell the Horse what not to do, consider asking the Horse to perform an action that physically precludes the performance of the undesirable behavior.  Essentially, instead of saying “Don’t move.” Consider saying, “Do Stand Still.”  The difference is subtle but powerful.  And as you become a Do rider instead of a Don’t rider, you will find that your Horse will begin to look for all sorts of other things that he might be able to DO for you.  This is a wonderful place to start and keep a relationship and ultimately far more fulfilling since you will not be constantly rebuking your Horse for doing things you don’t like.