Training Exercises: Jeffrey’s Method of First Mounting

I was introduced to this method for first mounting through Clinton Anderson. It flew in the face of all of my self-preservation instincts. BAREBACK on a horse that had not been mounted! Sounded really scary. But at the time I saw the method demonstrated, we had TWO horses that were ready for their first mounting experience.

Reign was the first. He is the half Friesian/half Tennessee Walker pictured here. He is 7 yrs old. Imprinted at birth, but then (due to his owner’s chronic illness) put to pasture and not handled for the last 7 years.

He is SOLID as a rock in all of his ground training and desensitizing. That includes not only the usual lunging, disengaging, backing and verbal whoa but extra vigorous mounting-block tossing, throwing, passing back and forth under his belly. Climbing on the block, bouncing next to him, reaching over his back to pat the other side, rubbing all over – front to back – from this higher position. Anything we could think of to stabilize him while a person grew taller and began to tower over him. He has also gone through his first saddling experiences and is calm while working wearing his saddle.

We took him to the round pen and did all of his ground work exercises once-over – just to remind him of who is in control. In the picture below he is being tolerant of a person standing on a mounting block and reaching all over him.

Next, we used the “dead man” mount. Chuck simply began to lift his feet off the block a few times, thus adding all of his weight. First just a couple of seconds. Then longer. The first try, the horse began to swing his rear around, worried about the rider on his back. If possible stay on until he stops, then dismount smoothly and quickly. All of his ground work has taught him that standing still is the surest way to end pressure. This will reinforce that lesson. STAND STILL AND THE RIDER DISMOUNTS. He also understands that “whoa” means “stand still”, so we gave him a verbal clue about what to do to solve his fear. “Whoa”. (If possible get your weight pretty squarely over his back and not constantly slipping to the side.)

2nd try he swung around a little again, but nothing the rider could not feel comfortable with.

3rd try, just whoa and he stood still. He was rewarded for his stop and stand by the rider slipping down off his back and letting him relax.

In a few tries his handler could walk him off a step, then two steps etc. Walking very far is not important at this time. It is only important for him to feel your weight shift a little.

Wiggle a little and also use your hands on his off side to rub and massage him. Make this pleasant. When he seems more comfortable, swing your legs (together) like a pendulum, so he gets used to your dangling legs moving on his side. (don’t kick him). He should stand and be calm during all of this movement.

The following pictures are actual photos of Reign’s FIRST mounting experience.
The Jeffrey’s Method requires a person to climb firmly but carefully onto his back and lie from neck to tail like a plank. The rider’s ankles should be crossed to hold the straight line. Unlike sitting upright with legs dangling, this position has no grip around his girth that might make him uncomfortable. It has the advantage of allowing the rider to slip off and land on his feet if the need should arise instead of instinctively clamping the legs shut to stay on (a maneuver that can cause panic and bucking in an unbacked horse).

Older or less experienced riders may want to try this on a broke horse first just to get the feel of lying on a horse’s back in this position. It feels pretty strange.

Some horses will move a little, spin a little, just as they did during the dead-man mount. If it isn’t too exaggerated, stay on and just move with him. If it gets too much centrifugal force, slip off as smoothly as possible without panicking and start the exercise over. Next try, get off earlier if you can identify a time when he stops – even for an instant. He needs to learn that the only way for you to dismount is when he stops. Generally, the spinning and moving ceases after just a couple of tries.

As the rider assumes the plank position and the horse shows his willingness to tolerate the weight, start rubbing his neck, shoulders, then sides. Give him a really nice rub down with both hands. Talk low and rub. Rub and calm. This should be a really rewarding exercise for him. Surprise. NO WORK! Just a soothing rub down.

Do this for a short time first, stretching the time into minutes before dismounting. (Remember to do it from both sides). His willingness to take a step forward is not important at this time. Just stay in the same place until mounting and dismounting are easy.

You might notice that we have used a bail of hay as a mounting platform. It works nicely and has no sharp or hard edges in the case of a fall.

Sometimes Less is More I like to have someone the horse knows and trusts hold his head lightly using the halter during this exercise (seen above). However, some horses get claustrophobic when someone holds their head while another person mounts. The claustrophobic horse may resist more by jumping forward (handler beware), spinning quickly, or bucking. We did not experience any of these reactions with Reign (notice he is not being held at all this very first time), but understand it is a possibility. If at all possible, restrain less and you may get a calmer experience.

After the horse seems calm while letting you slip on and off from the side, try dismounting from the off side to get him used to activity on that side as well. Then try inching your way backward on his back, eventually sliding off over his tail. Surely it goes without saying that your horse must be very solid in the rear. He must be thoroughly desensitized to having his tail pulled, his rear end massaged, his back feet handled – all types of rear desensitizing.

Don’t get excited and think that you can now “ride” this horse bareback and continue the training that way. He is in no way ready for that, and you are in no way safe to start him moving or lunging with you in an upright position.

Thanks to Chelsea Taylor for her great demonstration and training

Practice mounting (Jeffrey’s-style) and sliding off the far side. Mount easily and slide off with a little drama and noise. Do this both sides.

When this can be accomplished with absolutely no hitches, you may try the next step: inching your way to a sitting position – IF…

Has your horse already had his first saddling experience and is calm with a saddle on his back?
If NO, move to his first saddle experience.
If yes —
Now and only now, inch by inch, begin to sit up. I find this is usually possible after about 3 days of Jeffrey’s mounting every which way AND if the horse has already gone through his first saddling experience before Jeffrey’s Maneuvers. If he has not had anything tight around his girth before, don’t attempt the upright ride. It requires an absolutely quiet horse who will not unexpectedly cause you to clench your legs around his girth – an unfamiliar feeling to the uninitiated horse.

Now on to Saddling. Some people give the horse his first saddle experience BEFORE the Jeffrey’s maneuvers. Others wait until after this to introduce the saddle. Either way, move to saddling.

Under no circumstances should information presented here be construed as veterinary in nature. Always consult your veterinarian if problems persist. Additionally, horse training and equestrian activities in general can be dangerous. While we try to present relevant and valuable content, under no circumstances does or its members or contributors take any responsibility for the well-being of any horse or person using a method outlined here.

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