EEquestrian literature is full of guidelines on the proper way to stay on a horse. “Stay mounted” is, in fact, the first rule of good riding. However, an equally important question is how to get on the horse in the first place. Mounting up on a horse is more complex than it looks. It should be studied and appreciated like any other aspect of riding.
Mounting up is a gentle art. Contrary to what Westerns show us, horses don’t easily accept people jumping on their backs out of second-story windows.
Horses object to riders carelessly plopping into the saddle for the same reason humans object to a kick in the stomach. It doesn’t feel good. This is why my Riding Sensei, Karin, vocally insists that I use a mounting block. It’s easier on her horses, her equipment, and my ears.
So I was taken aback during a recent lesson when Karin instructed me to mount up from the ground. Without a leg up, there was no way for me to do that without excessive plopping. What was this madness? Sixteen months of proper mounting indoctrination screamed at me from the inside: No Sensei, I mustn’t.
The Rule, the force of its logic, and concern for the animal, was trumping the judgment of the very person who made The Rule. I’m sorry, but in my book, Natural Law transcends the whims of those who articulate it.
Despite my objections, Karin was determined to teach me this ground-mount thing. “You need to know how to do this. What if you’re out in the woods and you fall off Goldie?” “I just won’t fall off then.” She shook her head. “Everyone falls sooner or later. You’re not a true equestrian until you fall off and get back on.”
“Then maybe you should teach me how to fall off, too.”
“That won’t be necessary. Goldie will take care of that for you.”
Right is Wrong
Ground-mounting is a special technique that requires an acute sense of direction, respect for historical tradition, and strong faith in the magic of physical science.
First, you face the opposite direction of the horse and stand on his left side Second, you place your left foot in the stirrup. The reason you place your left foot in the stirrup while facing the opposite direction of the horse can be discovered by a powerful learning method called Trial & Error, a method made possible and enhanced by Poor Listening Habits.
Third, ignore these instructions, and place your right foot in the stirrup, and see what you learn. Fourth, defend your actions by changing the parameters.
“You know, Karin, I could use my right foot if I was on Goldie’s right side.”
“That’s true. But we traditionally mount on the horse’s left.” “Who’s responsible for that idea?” “Actually, it started with the cavalry,” Karin explained. “Riders normally hung their swords on their left sides, since most mounted troops where right-handed. You don’t want to try getting on a horse with your sword hanging in the wrong place.”
This made immediate sense to me. Razor-sharp objects dangling in that region would present a clear and unpleasant danger.
“At least that’s what they say, the practice could have developed for a lot of different reasons,” Karin added, making room for the miscellaneous that makes up the vast majority of human experience.
Now, once you accept the history of it all, you lift your left foot firmly into the stirrup, then “simply” swing your right leg 270 degrees up and over the saddle.
To accomplish this, you must first complete a course in aerial yoga, have total trust in your riding instructor, and believe in the magic of centrifugal force. And you might want to bounce a time or two to gain momentum before swinging that right leg.
After a couple of Trials & Errors, I conducted a successful ground-mount without excessive plopping or serious injury.
Then I rode Goldie out into the woods and promptly fell off of her. Because I could. TTR