Cowboy Up (and Down!) Mounting and Dismounting
(Information for this article provided by Steve Brown, director, western equestrian program, The University of Findlay.)
To a lot of folks, mounting and dismounting may not seem like a crucial part of the ride. You just get on and get off, right?
Actually, proper mounting and dismounting can assure your safety as well as set a positive tone for working with your horse. In our riding program at UF, we have procedures that make the start and end of your ride more enjoyable.
Getting On . . .
- Always, before mounting, we do some “pre-operative” checks. Check your cinch for snugness, billet, saddle pad (make sure it’s laying flat and doing its job of protecting the horse’s back and your saddle), bridle, boots or wraps, etc. Good leather is longwearing, but cracks can occur that weaken straps. If something looks like it’s breaking. . . replace it.
- Make sure your horse knows how to bend. In mounting, you want to bend him laterally to the left, so shorten your left rein. This way, if he decides to walk off, he’ll be circling toward you.
- Put your left hand on your horse’s neck. You can use your right hand to help your left foot into the stirrup if needed. Remember, don’t put your foot too far into the stirrup or it may go through!
- Keep your left hand on his neck and continue contact with the left rein. Your right hand then goes to the right side of the pommel. (It’s natural to want to grab the back of the saddle, but this can cause it to slip or come off completely.)
- Pull yourself straight up and hesitate briefly. (If your horse starts walking here, it’s better to be on his side.) With horse standing quietly, pull your leg over and lower yourself gently into the saddle.
- It’s tempting, but don’t bend down with your right hand to adjust your stirrup. This puts you in a very vulnerable position.
Getting Off. . .
- Dismounting is pretty much the reverse of mounting. Again, you want to bend your horse slightly to the left, by keeping contact with that left rein.
- With your left hand on his neck and your right hand on the pommel, make sure your left foot isn’t too deep into the stirrup.
- Raise yourself straight up, and bring your right leg across so that you’re back to a position on the horse’s side. Then, lower your right leg straight down until it touches the ground. Then, gently take your left foot out of the stirrup.
I’ve been asked about using mounting blocks and I’m not crazy about them for two reasons. One, the mounting block or steps are always in the way once you’re riding and, two, you can’t break a colt using a mounting block. For short riders with very tall horses, or riders without a lot of flexibility, using a mounting block may be the only way you can get on your horse. Just make sure your horse knows how to stand quietly. The last thing you want is to have your feet on the block and your hands walking away with your horse!