BY DEBORAH JANE NICHOLAS
The main argument surrounding this subject always seems to be centred around protecting the back of the horse. My main argument to you, Dear Reader, is if you do not know how to mount correctly then using a block will not protect the back of your horse either. If a rider is completing a mount in a fluid motion and in the correct manner, the back of the horse will not be compromised whether the rider is mounting from the ground or a block.
I was unaware there was so much confusion surrounding this subject until I was sent a video recently showing potential back strain caused when a rider mounts. The saddle can clearly be seen to shift to the left as the rider hoists herself up. I searched for more videos pertaining to this subject and, sadly, many videos showed the same shifting saddle as the horse’s back is pulled on. You may be surprised to read I saw the same thing over and over again from both riders mounting from the ground, and when using a block.
So what’s going on here?
These riders are not mounting properly – that’s what. These people can be termed Cantle Grabbers. To even have the right hand on the cantle must mean they are facing the incorrect way to complete a comfortable mount, for both horse and rider. The left hand then, I’m guessing, must be holding the reins. That means – unless that person is lucky enough to have a 3rd hand (God knows, I’d love a 3rd hand) – then there are no hands actually on the pommel. Or, as in the video I was sent, the rider is holding both the pommel and the reins at the same time. To remove a saddle from a horse you will use your right hand to clasp the cantle, it’s the easiest way to lift and slide the saddle off the horse’s back. Therefore it should stand to reason this is exactly what you shouldn’t be doing when mounting.
To mount properly the rider should be angled more toward the horse’s ears, not his rear end. The left hand should be holding the reins, the right hand should be on, or close to, the pommel. I say close because in my experience it depends on the size of the horse. On my 16.2 hh gelding, my hand would be on the pommel, on my 14.2 hh mare my hand reaches over slightly further. Nevertheless, you are aiming to have both hands near to the front of the saddle, and nowhere near the back, especially not on the cantle. The video below shows two great examples of mounting from the ground and using a block, and one example of incorrect mounting.
There are many articles out there instructing riders to place a hand on the cantle and it’s dangerous advice. An experienced rider that knows how to mount properly could probably grab any part of the saddle while pouring a cup of tea and still not pull on the horse’s back. Some riders even learn to mount without a girth or cinch, and the saddle does not move. Are the mounting block only people still going to find fault? Probably. Yet a novice being taught to hold the cantle can only do one thing until they improve, and that’s to pull on it – they simply can’t help it. Therefore the only way to stop a novice pulling on the cantle is to keep their hand well away from it.
If your saddle moves toward you when you are mounting from the ground, then you have not learnt to mount properly. Even though that may be a bitter pill to swallow, don’t worry, I’m probably in the same boat. While I can safely mount from the ground with minimal saddle slippage, I have never tried without a girth…something I will put on my bucket list. If a rider is able-bodied, then use a mounting block, a tree stump, a grooming kit, use whatever you like, but only when you are confident that you can also safely mount from the ground as well. It doesn’t matter, as long as you are mounting correctly! The horse’s back will not be compromised if a rider is adept at completing a skilled mount.