Equestrian injuries may occur more during mounting and dismounting than at any other time during horseback riding. All too often, a rider may either slip while climbing on or off a horse, or the rider may find one foot stuck in a stirrup at such times.
By following a few simple precautions, a horseback rider can mount up safely – even from the ground. Here are ten steps to mounting a horse from the ground.
Check the horse’s girth or cinch.
A loose girth or cinch is often the root of horse-mounting mishaps. Smart equestrians always check this essential piece of tack before attempting to climb aboard their horses.
Even if another rider has just dismounted from the same horse, the girth or cinch must be rechecked.
Find something to stand on, if possible.
All but the tallest riders may benefit from a boost. If no mounting block is available, a large rock, stump or overturned bucket may do the job. Some equestrians even stand their horses next to a curb or step or place their mounts slightly downhill to make mounting easier.
In a pinch, another rider or a ground assistant may offer the equestrian a leg-up to mount the horse. (CTRL-click here to read “Idioms Unpacked: Getting a Leg Up,” explaining this process, in a new internet window.)
Lengthen the horse’s near-side stirrup, if needed.
Occasionally, a horseback rider may decide to lengthen the stirrup leather on the horse’s near (left) side for mounting. Once aboard, the equestrian can readjust the leather to place both stirrups at equal lengths.
Square up the horse.
A horse stands square when his front feet and back feet are lined up evenly. This position provides optimum balance for the horse while the rider mounts up. If a horse is not standing squarely, the rider may walk him or her a few steps to achieve this balance.
Ask a partner to hold the off-side stirrup.
If possible, to preserve the horse’s spinal alignment, prevent saddle slippage and make mounting up easier, a rider may ask a helper to hold the opposite stirrup in place during mounting. This balances the weight of the equestrian, climbing onto the horse’s back.
Stand on the horse’s near side.
Horses are generally mounted from their near (left) sides. Some horses tolerate mounting on both sides, however.
The final steps assume the rider is mounting up on the near (left) side of the horse.
Hold the reins in the left hand.
Facing the near (left) side of the horse, the rider will loop the reins up over the horse’s head and hold them with the left hand for mounting.
Grab the front of the saddle and a handful of the horse’s mane.
The equestrian will then grab the front of the saddle (including the saddle horn, bucking strap or pommel) and a sturdy handful of the horse’s mane with the left hand. This hand will continue to hold the reins as well.
To prevent the horse from stepping off prematurely, the rider may tighten the reins somewhat, holding the horse’s head towards the rider.
The rider’s right hand may be placed at the cantle, or the back of the saddle, until mounting.
Place the left foot into the stirrup immediately before mounting.
Right before climbing aboard the horse, the rider will place his or her left foot into the stirrup on the horse’s near (left) side, from back to front.
Swing the right leg over the horse, and gently sit.
Without lingering with one foot in the stirrup, the equestrian will swing up onto the horse, lifting the right leg over the horse’s back. Sitting down as smoothly and gently as possible, the rider may then adjust the reins, place the right foot in the far-side stirrup and cue the horse to walk off.
Safe, smooth mounting sets up both horse and equestrian for a safer ride together. Practice counts, making the process simpler and easier each time.