One of the first steps in learning to ride is learning the correct way to get onto a horse. Using a mounting block is certainly the recommended method as it is the easiest and gentlest way to mount a horse.
However, there may be certain situations where using a mounting block may not be possible. Perhaps you are on a trail ride and need to dismount to open a gate, or maybe you have dropped something that requires you to dismount. You may not always have a mounting block nearby to use.
In these instances, we are going to explain the easiest and safest way to mount your horse without a mounting block.
Is It a Bad Idea to Mount a Horse From the Ground?
There are several risks, and negative impacts which mounting a horse from the ground can have.
It’s important to understand these as a horse riding enthusiast so that you are always aware of the impact any action you take around your horse can have on both you and them.
Firstly, mounting from the ground as you place your foot in the stirrup and pull on the saddle to hoist yourself up, can put a strain on your horse’s back.
It can also lead to your saddle slipping if your girth is not well tightened, which can cause damage to your horse’s back or an injury to you.
As you can imagine, the repeated action of mounting from the ground can also have a cumulative negative impact on your horse’s back over time.
Mounting from the ground can also have an impact on your saddle. The tree of your saddle can start to twist over time, ultimately changing your saddle’s fit to your horse’s back.
Poorly fitted saddles can place tension and pressure on your horse’s back in sensitive areas and cause longer-term damage.
As horses are always mounted from the left-hand side, the left stirrup and stirrup leather can become unevenly stretched. Stirrup leathers can be swapped to ensure even length over time.
As you perform regular checks of your tack each time before you ride, checking your stirrup leathers and their evenness should also be part of your routine.
How to Mount a Horse From the Ground Safely
In order to mount your horse safely from the ground, follow these five steps:
Step 1. Make sure your girth is securely fastened
A loose girth could hurt your horse and cause you to slip should your saddle move and slip down while you are trying to get on.
To ensure your girth is tight enough, slip two fingers underneath the girth behind the horse’s left elbow. If your finger easily slips behind the girth, you’ll know you can tighten the girth by at least one hole.
You will know your girth is secure enough when it takes some effort to squeeze your finger underneath the girth.
Step 2. Ensure your horse is standing square
When a horse is standing square, they are standing evenly with weight distributed equally between all four feet.
Standing this way gives your horse the correct stance to anticipate the mounting from the ground. Should your horse be standing unevenly, move them forward a few steps to get them into a square position.
Step 3. Get into the mounting position
Stand on the left side of your horse and face the saddle.
Place both reins in your left hand and ensure they are tight enough for you to have control once you are mounted.
While holding the reins, place your left foot in the left stirrup.
Place a firm grip on the pommel (the front part of your saddle) with your left hand and grab the cantle (the back part of your saddle) with your right hand.
Step 4. Bounce on your right leg and swing
Bend your right leg as much as possible so as to use it as a spring to propel you upwards. Then, push off your right leg and gently pull yourself up and over the saddle.
Step 5. Make a gentle landing
As you swing your right leg over your horse’s hindquarters, make sure not to kick or bump them as you do so. This could startle your horse or send an unintentional signal to move forward.
Gently lower yourself onto the saddle and into position, and finally, slide your right foot into the right stirrup.
Additional Tips for Mounting a Horse From the Ground
Apart from following the steps above, here are a few other tips for a safe mount from the ground:
- Lower your left-hand stirrup. Having a lower ‘step up’ into the saddle with a longer stirrup requires you to have less bend in your left leg and will make it far easier to mount your horse from the ground.
- Ask a buddy to give you a leg up. By bending your left leg, your buddy can stand behind you and place their left hand underneath your left knee and their right hand on your left ankle to support your left leg and lift you up. This support works in place of using your left stirrup and is better for your horse’s back and your saddle. Make sure to use a count of three with your buddy so you can time your effort to hoist yourself up with their effort to push your left knee upwards.
- Ask a buddy to hold the right stirrup down. Holding the opposite stirrup down balances out the pressure on the saddle and will allow you to mount from the ground more securely.
- Use elements or props in your environment. Depending on where you are when you need to mount from the ground, there may be various props or surfaces which can be used as an improvised mounting block. This could be a low wall, a tree stump, a large rock, or a fence. Essentially, any sturdy surface which your horse can safely be positioned next to will work well as your mounting block.
- Practice in the yard. It would be good to practice before finding yourself in a situation where you need to mount your horse without a mounting block. Your riding yard, a familiar place where you and your horse feel comfortable, is the perfect setting to get some practice in.
Safety Tips for Mounting a Horse Without a Mounting Block
Here are a few essential safety tips to consider which you should always keep in mind.
- The position of your left foot. When placing your foot in the stirrup and pulling yourself up, make sure to keep your foot facing the girth. This will ensure that you don’t nudge your horse as an instruction to move forward.
- Reins that are too long. Make sure that the reins in your left hand are short enough to maintain control of your horse as you mount.
- Reins that are too short. Make sure the reins are not too short so as to agitate your horse or pull them in the mouth. This discomfort could cause them to move around while you try to pull yourself up.
There are a few potential reasons why your horse may move or back up when you are trying to get on. The first and most common reason for your horse doing this is simply that they may not have been taught to stand still in this situation. Just as dogs can be trained to ‘stay,’ horses can be taught to stand when you are mounting from the ground.
Your horse backing up when you mount may also be a sign of a ‘cold back.’ A cold back refers to a scenario where your horse has discomfort in the muscles which run along their backs, often caused by an ill-fitting saddle. A cold back could also simply be just that; your horse’s muscles are cold and stiff and need time to warm up. In this instance, your horse may stiffen and brace its muscles for your mount by moving backward.
Horses are always mounted from the left-hand side, also referred to as the ‘near side.’ The origin of always using the left-hand side comes from a tradition many years ago when horses were used in battle. Right-handed soldiers kept their swords on the left-hand side, and mounting from the left side meant the sword would not get in the way. Using this side for mounting horses has simply just stuck in modern riding disciplines.