Mounting – A Visual Reminder

This short video has been circulating for a while, but if anyone is still regularly mounting their horse from the ground let it serve as a reminder why you shouldn’t be, unless absolutely necessary.  In general I’ve seen English riders utilize a mounting block considerably more frequently than Western riders.  And for those who like to make excuses, I’ve mounted horses from every fence, boulder, tree stump and the like known to man.

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21 thoughts on “Mounting – A Visual Reminder

  1. When I was a kid, I remember getting a leg up, somebody holding the off side stirrup, or the one most commonly used, grabbing a handful of mane and swinging up. One of the benefits of not having lessons.

  2. I’m sure that’s a very legitimate outlook based on this video. Why people insist on putting their foot in the stirrup with their back to the horse’s head, then swing all the way around and up is beyond me. I realize traditionally that would be correct, but with all our advances today I don’t understand why that hasn’t changed. For years now I have put my foot into the stirrup while my body is facing the horse’s side and sometimes while I’m slightly more forward facing, depending on whether or not I feel I need to watch the horse’s reaction. I can step up against the saddle in a split second and back down again if needed. I think people need to work a lot more on their skill in mounting than relying on something to stand on. Most people haul themselves up like a lump of wood and the lady in this video wasn’t a whole lot better. Mostly they have no control over their body if the horse moves and that’s not made any better when you’re perched on top of something.

    • Like many decades/centuries old traditions, facing backwards to mount didn’t develop just because, but rather is done for very good reasons:

      It allows for good hold and control of the reins; should a horse begin to wander off or spook during the mounting process (never forget the entire history of the horse such as the use of them in wars, and never forget that horses don’t come out of the womb trained or that most people can’t train horses well). The horse is either easily stopped or their head brought around to form a tight circle.

      It allows for the rider to gain momentum so that should the horse move off (especially quickly) the rider can easily go with that motion and swing their weight and leg to mount and aren’t left hopping on one foot like a fool, while trying to shorten up the reins to regain control of the horse, or be left holding air, or at worse being dragged until their foot comes loose (because none of those things ever happen *wink*).

      This video is time lapsed so that the stress placed on the horse is more easily seen, but by doing so it does make the rider look awkward when mounting. But even if this rider is the clumsiest at mounting, all the more reason to understand the stresses on the horse’s body, since we all know that most of us in the equine world are lacking in a wide variety of equine related skills.

      • I disagree that it allows for any difference in the control over the reins, in fact it’s easier to monitor what your horse is doing if you can see something other than their haunches. I can turn a horse in a more controlled circle if I am facing their body with mine, than if I have to have my back to their head as that’s the position that creates the needs to bounce around. Why would the length of rein be any different dependent on the direction of your body??

        • Which is it? You’re facing forward to mount or facing the horse to mount. Those are different. Facing the horse still allows for some control should the horse move and there is still some momentum from the horse’s movement to be used to get mounted in that movement.

          Facing backwards provides the best opportunity to get mounted should you want to/need to with the horse in movement without having to bounce to stay caught up and provides the best opportunity to control the horse via the reins.

          There’s really no need to look at a specific part of the horse when mounting. There’s plenty of opportunity to ‘feel’ the horse.

          • My knee is forward facing if I have my foot in the stirrup, but my torso is still facing the horse, so no, they aren’t different. I completely disagree that rear facing allows for the best control. I’ve seen plenty of people fall over backwards when their horse decided to move. You mentioned most people can’t mount effectively from the ground, well most of them can’t “feel” their horse any better. Seeing the horse’s head is the best indicator of his intentions if there is any lack of ability for feel from his body.

          • Yes, it is different. Facing forward mounting is when the knee AND torso are facing forward. Facing the horse is when the knee AND torso are facing the horse. Facing backwards is when the knee AND torso are facing the back end. What you’re doing is twisting your body in two different directions. As much as I’d not suggest facing forward to mount, I’d suggest even less twisting the body in two different directions. But then I’m usually retraining spoiled, belligerent horses and I’ve had knee surgery so I understand the delicacy of that particular part of the human body.

            Agreed people have issue ‘feeling’ their horse’s intentions, but no more so than not ‘seeing’ their horse’s intentions. One of the ways people can increase their ‘feel’ is to stop ‘looking’. It’s akin to the blind person whose other senses increase to try and make up for the blindness. We’ve all closed our eyes when riding. It’s a whole other world.

          • Well, since it would be impossible to mount a horse while your knee and torso are pointed straight at his ribs, (since most of us don’t have monkey arms and then couldn’t reach the saddle) or while your entire body is facing forward (since then the right leg would be against the horse and unable to be lifted), I think you’re being a little silly in your description. Even when you’re mounting in a traditional rear facing position, your entire body doesn’t face one direction, the torso has to twist in order to reach the saddle. Everyone has to twist their body in order to mount from any position, so the suggestion NOT to do that is redundant.

    • You step up against the saddle, please explain that more fully. It sounds as if you can be in the stirrup, but not all the way over so that the pressure has come off the horse’s withers?

      If your weight is still on one side and the tree against the withers is what is holding the saddle in place, how can you believe that your method is in fact superior? You are still exerting enormous pressure on the horse’s withers by mounting from the ground.

      A study of Michigan State on the pressures from using a stirrup. Their conclusion, ground is horrible, mounting block is better, but the best is a mounting block or platform tall enough that a stirrup isn’t necessary. This link is to a pdf and may not work, search for Michigan State Clayton mounting block or something similar:

      http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=6&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CC0QFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fcvm.msu.edu%2Fresearch%2Fresearch-centers%2Fmcphail-equine-performance-center%2Fpublications-1%2Fusdf-connection%2FUSDF%2520Sept07%2520Clayton.pdf&ei=8W1zVKHTNoWiNuqsgvAI&usg=AFQjCNFjoGZ3NcaT8Wg–AunSWcS1p85Ng

      A different study and article out of equus magazine. Leg up produced the least pressures as a stirrup wasn’t used. The reality appears to be there is no good way to mount with a stirrup if your goal is to avoid the unequal pressureand torque that mounting with a stirrup causes.

      http://equusmagazine.com/article/ease_mounting_pressures_021009-8326?utm_source=EQUUSFB&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=Facebook

      There is no good mounting from the ground, though a tall, fit rider who can step up efficiently is certainly better off than a short, heavy rider who can’t.

      As always, an appeal for people to keep an open mind to new information, to look for facts and don’t automatically jump to ‘but the way I’ve been doing it is ok’ without looking at the facts first. Even if we are not intentionally hurting our horses, and we have to mount somehow, shouldn’t we look at every way in which we can make our horses more comfortable and happier to welcome us ‘aboard’?

      • I’m not sure how to explain it any differently. If you are standing with your body facing the horse’s ribcage, you can step up with your chest/body more or less against the saddle. I have found this to be very efficient with young horses and nervous horses that may decide to move unexpectedly. My left hand holds the reins just in front of the wither and my right hand supports me on the wither, I don’t grab the saddle to mount at all as it twists the saddle. The wither is not holding the saddle in place, my balance is as I have done this with a bareback pad and it never rolls. I guess that’s why I think it’s superior, how can you tell me that’s exerting enormous pressure on the wither??

        • I can’t tell you that you are, but you could read the research that say using the stirrup causes pressure. You claims are that you step up with your chest against the saddle. Are you laying over the saddle so the stirrup really isn’t used? Because if you put all your weight in one stirrup, for whatever length of time that weight is suspended, then there is a pressure spike when measured in research. You may reduce the time, but at some point if you are leaning into the saddle on the side, then you have to rise up above the saddle to get into it, can’t leave your chest down and your butt up very effectively.

          You’ll do what you’ll do and you may be so effective it doesn’t matter but for the mere ordinary mortals, use a mounting block, be aware of the pressure caused by standing in one stirrup as you mount.

  3. Mercedes, an excellent reminder that mounting can be a problem for our horses. And another reminder that horses put up with lots of discomfort because we are unaware and that bad behavior almost always has its root in pain.

  4. In particular, using a 4-step (not the more common 3 step) portable mounting block has been very helpful in starting our young horses.
    They get used to having a scary-looking object next to them, we can drape over the back to get them used to the weight, while still having feet on the block in case they move around, and they become accustomed to a human “above” them. Easily stepping over into the saddle without pulling on the horn or springing quickly from the ground keeps everything quiet and calm. I eventually train them all to mount from the ground, but I start that by dismounting only. Once they get used to me sliding to the ground and the pressure on the withers which occurs is fleeting and slight, I can work around to mounting from the ground. I don’t like to do it until they are well along in their 4th year with more back and neck muscling.

    • I have a three step, didn’t know they made a four step, I need to look, the older I get the taller my horses get. The other mounting block at the farm is a two step, way too short for me to use. I also dismount without the stirrups, in part because even off a 15.2 horse I have a long drop and bad knees so that landing unevenly sets me up to pop a kneecap.

      I was at one farm that had a permanent stationary platform in the corner of the indoor, horses learned to stand next to it to be mounted, great for the horses.

  5. jrga: I apologize. I just went out and counted-we have a 3 step block from Dans-saddlery.com. However, I just visited the website and they sell a 4-step 32″ mounting block for all you warm-blood and draft riders 🙂 . Our 3 step brings us even with the stirrup on our 15.0 hh Morgans. My wife has had double knee replacement surgery and I doubt if she could mount from the ground without a leg-up or our block. I heard of an Andalusian who was trained to “crouch” so his rider could step into the saddle, but I think that could be very hard indeed on the stifles and knees. I recently saw a video of an old cowboy whose horse lay down for the saddle to be put on his back, then stood up to fasten the girth, then laid back down so the old guy could step into the saddle!

    • Thanks for looking, my young horse is only 15.2 hands, but my legs are so short that means I really can’t easily climb on board from the third step of my three step. I’ll go look at the four step.

  6. As a kid and when playing polo I always mounted from the ground. With my ottb I had a very hard time getting her to stand for mounting. After her kissing spine diagnoses I started only mounting from the taller block that allows my 6 ft self to easily mount without using the stirrup in any way. TA DA! No more problems standing for mounting. I climb up and she lines herself up. I felt like an idiot…and not sure why more people don’t take advantage of the taller block in the corner…seems like a no brainer to me, especially with the amount of money most of the other boarders pay for regular chiropractor and saddle fitter visits.

  7. And even when using a mounting block it still ads torque (though not as much as from the ground of course). I’ve heard it’s a good idea to alternate what side you mount up from. Not just to keep your horse used to it but to help save their back from years of single-direction torque.

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