The English Style of Mounting a Horse

Over the years, many of us have seen movie examples of actors climbing onto their horses. Unless their role in the movie was comic relief, the act of getting on a horse is as easy and natural-looking as reaching for your coffee cup for another sip. For beginners, though, hauling your body up and into a saddle can be a challenge. Doing it right requires a little preparation and practice.

Telling is sometimes a poor substitute for showing. In this case, however, visualizing the process yourself by reading step-by-step instructions can teach you in mental images that will move as slowly as you need them. In the few paragraphs below, I will describe the steps to check your horses position, your equipment, a safe place to mount, and numbered directions to safely complete getting onto your horse. While these instructions follows an English style of mounting, all new horse riders will learn essential checks and procedures to be sure their ride begins smoothly. Well begun is half done.

Checking Tack

Whether you ride English or western style, you must check your tack (your horse's equipment) before you mount the horse. Be sure everything is in proper working order and securely attached to the horse before you get on. To check your tack, follow these steps in any order:

* Examine the bridle. Make sure all the buckles are securely fastened and that the leather is not unduly worn in any particular spot.

* Examine the girth that holds the saddle in place for excessive wear. Look at the leather straps that attach the girth to the saddle to make sure they are not worn and prone to breaking. While you are riding, there will be a lot of extra pressure applied to those areas. Be sure the buckles or knots are fastened securely.

* Check the girth for a proper fit. Before you put your foot in the stirrup to get on, check your girth one more time. It should be snug, and securely holding the saddle in place.

Choosing a Mounting Location
Stunt men and movie actors aside, ordinary riders need a safe place to mount. Choose a place where you have plenty of room to maneuver yourself into the saddle, making sure the horse is comfortable so he will stand still. Be sure that your chosen spot is not near an open gate or a barn door lest he absently moves through it as you attempt to mount him. Remember, too, that your horse should already be bridled when you mount, not tied to a fence. When you're riding English, your stirrups are on the shorter side, which puts them higher. English riders can mount from the ground, though you may want to use a mounting block to get a leg up. A mounting block is a 1-to-2-foot high wooden or plastic platform that has two or three steps. If you do not have access to an artificial aid, use your environment to help you mount from the ground. Position your horse on a slope so he is downhill from where you're standing to mount. The higher ground effectively makes you taller and shortens your reach to the stirrups. If you find other objects along the trail to remount like logs, boulders, or fence posts, be sure it is stable, and can support your weight.

English Mounting Directions

1. Lead the horse to the area where you want to mount.

2. Position the mounting block, or stand on higher ground from the horse's ground level. Place it next to the saddle, about a foot from the horse's left side.

3. Place the reins over your horse's head and rest them on his neck. Stand at the horse's left shoulder, facing the side of the horse. The reins should be in your left hand. Grab a handful of mane at the base of the horse's neck with the same hand. By the way, never release the reins while you're mounting. It's all part of keeping the horse under your control at all times.

4. Using your right hand, grasp the stirrup iron and turn it toward you, then place your left foot in the stirrup.

5. Swing onto the saddle grasping the hind part of the saddle, or cantle, with your right hand. Bounce on your right leg two or three times, then launch yourself up into the air. Hoist yourself up using the power from your leg more than the strength of your arms. Swing your right leg over the horse's hindquarter, being careful not to touch it, landing gently in the saddle.

6. Place your right foot in the stirrup and adjust your reins. Finally, do not squeeze the horse with your legs as you get your foot into the right stirrup. You may accidentally cue the horse to go forward before you're ready.

This protocol is well established in the English horse community. Equestrian fore-bearers have developed this approach that has withstood centuries of time. It is probably the safest and easiest way to get onto the back of a horse.