Everyone knows that you don’t mount a horse holding onto the cantle (back) of the saddle! The saddle tree twists and the risk of damaging the horses back increases. In addition, if the horse moves off as you release your hand to swing your leg over then you could asking for trouble if he moves off and you lose your balance.
But exactly how do you mount and dismount a horse?
If you are an experienced horse person, you have probably been asked this question a million times! I know, I know, everyone who has ridden any type of horse should know how to mount and dismount a horse. After all, how do they get up on the horse and down off the horse if they spend any time at all in the saddle? Maybe the question should be ‘how should you correctly mount and dismount a horse?’
However before we answer the second question, we should look at the different styles of riding and variations of these styles. Then this becomes a very sensible question that could be answered in a wide variety of ways.
How to mount a horse
Many people mount from the near side (left) of the horse. They may stand near the shoulder, face towards the horse’s tail with the reins (and possible a handful of mane) in their left hand, put their left foot in the stirrup and then bring their right hand to the pommel of the saddle. Then as they swing on they make sure their right leg stays well above the horse’s back and rump. Then they turn and face towards the horse’s ears putting their right foot in the right stirrup as their seat settles in the saddle. If there are concerns about the horse’s back or the rider’s back they will probably use a mounting block to mount.
How to dismount a horse
They may dismount by holding their reins in their left hand with their right hand on the pommel of the saddle. As both feet are taken out of the stirrups they would probably swing their right leg over the horse’s back and land with slightly bent knees to absorb the movement. If the rider is feeling extra energetic on a quiet horse, they could even click their heels three times on the way down. Have you tried that last bit?
Another way people may dismount a horse is to step off them. This often happens if they have a type of saddle that would make it difficult to swing off. They would start off the same way as previous by holding their reins in their left hand with their right hand on the pommel of the saddle. Then they would take their right foot out of the stirrup then swing their foot over the horse’s rump and then down to the ground as they take their left foot out of the stirrup. Care must be taken to not injure horses’ backs by dismounting this way, although it is a popular way to dismount for riders with back problems.
Other ways to mount a horse
On the other hand a light nimble person may simply grab a piece of mane and with a quick flick of the wrist they just seem to float from standing with two feet on the ground to sitting squarely in the saddle. This is a very practical way to mount a nervous/ excitable horse who is continually moving around.
Vaulters make mounting look very easy by running and jumping up on a horse while it is cantering a circle around them. They may dismount in a wide variety of ways and a variety of different places on the horse including over the horse’s rump.
An elderly or disabled rider, particularly one on a large horse may use a ramp that takes them up to a position where they can easily step onto their horse. A fence on the opposite side of the horse will prevent the horse from swinging their quarters and a couple of assistants may help the rider find a comfortable place in the saddle before they commence their ride.
I know of a short athletic teenager with a large horse and who was able to lightly place her foot just on the outside/ top of her horse’s knee to give her the added boost she needed to mount her horse. Her weight didn’t seem to stay on the knee; it was more of a brush to give her the added height she needed before she could easily mount her horse.
The right way to mount a horse
So if you are too rigid in your thinking that there is only one ‘right’ way to mount or dismount a horse you may be doing a disservice to someone who has a very good reason for mounting a horse in a different way to what is considered ‘normal’
Trivia about mounting a horse
PS Just a bit of trivia for you about why horses are traditionally mounted from the left . . . In ancient times horsemen carried a sword. As most people are right handed, the sword was worn on the left so that it could be drawn more easily from the scabbard with the right hand. As the swords were on the left side, horses were mounted on the left so the sword could stay on the same side. That way there was less chance of the sword being caught up in the mounting process.