The Equine Expert

By Bridget Brandon

(click image to view larger)

Learning to mount a horse can be daunting, but there are steps that should be taken to ensure the rider is mounting securely and as safe as possible and to ensure the comfort of the horse.

A mounting block with two or three steps is highly recommended.  I prefer the mounting blocks that are solid so both human and horse do not stick a foot or leg through an opening.   A fence, log, rock and other unstable obstacles are accidents waiting to happen.

Prior to mounting there are a few safety checks to go through.  

  • Make sure the horse’s tack fits properly, is in good repair and is securely in place.  
  • Check and tighten the girth if loose.  (Always check a girth prior to mounting)
  • Adjust the stirrup lengths to the best approximation prior to mounting.  Simply stretch out the riders arm and place their fingers to the point where the stirrup straps attach to the saddle and bring the stirrup under their armpit.  The length of the stirrup strap and stirrup should be straight and taunt under the arm.  Once mounted adjustments may be required.

When the rider is ready to mount, stand the horse square.  He is less likely to walk away if standing square.  If the mounting block is portable, bring the mounting block to the horse versus bring the horse to the mounting block.  This reinforces to the horse to stand quietly as opposed to move, stop, move, stop.

An assistant/instructor should stand at the left shoulder of the horse as the rider mounts on the left.  If possible, attach a lead rope to a halter or to the bit for the assistant to hold during the mounting process.  When the rider is outfitted correctly, which includes wearing an approved helmet, they should walk up the steps.  The rider should take the left rein in her left hand with just enough pressure that the horse’s nose is ever so slightly tilted to the left. (This is a safety precaution in case the horse bolts.  A horse always follows its nose.  If his nose is tilted left, he will bolt slightly left and both the rider and assistant will be free of back leg kicks as the rear end will be off to the right.  The assistant is at the horses shoulder and free from being trampled if he were standing in front of the horse at his head).  With the left rein in their left hand, the left hand should rest on the horses withers, just in front of the pommel.  Next, they will place their left foot in the left stirrup and place the right hand on the pommel and softly swing their right leg over the saddle, landing in the saddle as if they are going to sit on an egg (lightly please!). A horse can feel a fly land on them and they can certainly feel a human land on their back!

When mounting, the rider should be light and soft, not slow and tedious, which could cause too much torque on the saddle and horses back.  The rider may need a boost from the assistant which is why the lead rope comes in handy.  It’s a safety precaution should the assistant need to move away from the shoulder, towards the rider to assist, yet still be able to have control of the horse.  If a second assistant is available, they may stand on the right side of the horse to hold the right saddle and assist the rider with placing their foot in the right stirrup.

Once on board, the rider should place their right foot in the right stirrup.  (Never allow them to lean down with their hand and stick their own foot in the stirrup.). The rider should then organize her reins and correctly position herself in the saddle prior to riding off.  A final check of the girth should be made by the assistant as standing during mounting and the weight of the rider in the saddle may cause the horse to relax its stomach and thoracic muscles, causing the girth to loosen.

Bridget Brandon is Founder and President of The Equine Expert LLC, a multi-discipline equine expert witness and consulting firm with expert equestrians from all fields and disciplines offering legal expert witness and consulting services in court cases and legal matters. Bridget is an expert on Sport and Performance Horses, safety, breeding, trail riding, horse showing, horse behavior, appraisals, equine insurance, stable management and standards in the industry.,


The Equine Expert. All rights reserved. Site proudly designed and hosted by Big Sky Internet Design