Does your horse lead and mount equally well from left and right? Do you practice both regularly?
In pre-firearm days, mounting from the left was a necessity for most riders, who were cavalry officers or others needing a blade weapon. Most people are right handed, so a sword was carried on the left hip, making it very awkward to mount from the right. As with many of our horse rituals, this one rolled unabated through the centuries, arriving on our 21st century doorstep as useful as your horse’s chestnuts. We think it’s time to rethink this longstanding tradition, for two reasons:
First, you never know when you’ll need to lead or mount from the left. Say you need to remount on the trail, and the easiest way is from the right. Or, you’ve injured yourself far from home, and your only choice is to ride home. If your left leg is non-weight-bearing, you’ll be in trouble if you can’t mount from the right. Fact is, you’ll probably never run into a critical need to mount from the right, but if you do, you’ll be happy you took the time to learn the skill.
Second, according to most equine chiropractic DVMs, it’s far healthier for your horse’s back. Even if you always mount from a block, thereby significantly reducing the torque experienced by your horse’s back muscles and spine, there is still an asymmetrical force applied every time you mount. Much like we are sure to work our horses equally on both sides (or a little harder on the weak side), we should also mount from both sides equally to ensure that the forces applied to their back even out.
While most horses take to leading and mounting from the right easily with little fuss, it is far harder for you to adapt to the right-hand mount. So this is actually a training project for you, more than your horse.
1. Recruit a horse-savvy helper or two.
2. Have one stand at your horse’s left shoulder to steady the horse and saddle. If you have one, a second helper can stand at your horse’s right neck to help you figure things out the first time.
3. From a mounting block on the right side of the horse, BEFORE doing anything else, think through the steps to make sure that wherever you normally put your right hand, you’ll be using your left hand now, and vice versa. (This is more confusing than you think now, sitting at your computer).
4. Place your right foot in the stirrup, your hands opposite of where they usually go, and swing your left leg over, as always taking care not to kick or disturb your horse.
Practice several times for several rides in a row, until you are confident that you are mounting fluidly enough to keep your horse still by yourself.