There are actually two distinct mounting situations, and mounting the untrained horse is different from mounting a seasoned veteran.
When I mount a baby for the first time, I do it bareback because Desert Arabians are for the most part very willing to accept a human on their back. Sometimes they momentarily object to the girths of a saddle, or the weight pulling sideways in mounting, but they rarely mind the rider getting on their back.
First, I have a trusted friend hold the horse with a halter on as I stand next to the horse’s side on a mounting block. The helper will feed the horse tidbits of whatever the horse likes to keep him occupied and relaxed. I first lay across the horse’s back and rub him all over with my hands. If they cause no reaction I repeat the rubbing exercise several times with the helper rewarding the horse for his good behavior.
Next I put my right leg over the horse and just lay there for a bit. If this is ok with the horse, I gradually sit up. My handler and I both praise the horse and reward him, and then I get off. I do not ask the horse to walk with me on the first mount.
MOUNTING THE TRAINED HORSE
Be it English or Western, the method of mounting is pretty much the same unless you are showing Equitation in a particular seat and are asked to hold your pinky finger a certain way.
The first step is always to check your girth and then stand in front of your horse and stretch his front legs forward to make sure there are no creases of skin under the girth to get pinched.
To begin, face the horse’s side slightly toward the rear. Gather your reins and make sure they are connected with the horse’s mouth so you can control the horse if he decides not to hold still. Take the stirrup with your right hand and turn it so it faces you. Put your left foot in the stirrup, laying your foot parallel to the horse’s side so you do not gouge him with your toe. Hold some mane in your left hand, and put your right hand on the pommel (or horn) of the saddle. Take two bounces and up you go. If you take two bounces, it will help motivate you upwards and make less of a pull on the saddle. Settle yourself in the center of the saddle, pick up your right stirrup, and gather your reins in preparation to moving off. Make sure you have some connection to the horse’s mouth and your hand, and make sure your legs are falling directly beneath your hips and that you are in balance.
When mounted and in balance, gently squeeze with both legs to initiate a forward motion. Depending on the nature of your horse’s training you will probably want to indicate a direction of motion as you ask the horse to move off. Remember that when you first mount, walking for about five minutes will enable the horse to warm up in preparation to more strenuous work.
Thanks to our models for this article: Masada Susar (Fa Asar x Masada Fa Khedena) and Elizabeth Powell. The first mounting photos are the actual first mounting photos of this filly. She is winning in Open shows and preparing to be a dressage horse. Sada is the last “Masada” foal bred by Walter Schimanski.