2006 Cherry Hill ©
Although you have been able to prepare the young horse for almost
every sensation he will experience during the first ride, three things
that will be new to him are the feel of your legs on his sides, the feel of your
weight on his back, and the sight of you above and behind him.
can get your horse used to your weight on his back by stepping up on a mounting
block so you can lean your body over his bareback. You can either have someone
hold the horse while you do this or hold onto the leadrope yourself. Be sure to
remove any belt buckles that could dig into the horse's back as you practice this
exercise. At first just get him used to the idea of seeing you on both sides of
him at the same time. Then lean your weight onto his back, but still keep contact
with your feet and the mounting block. Finally lift yourself all the way up on
his back and lean all the way over him.
When it comes time to mount and ride, I like to start young horses with a Western
saddle even if they are destined to be used as English horses. First of all, the
weight of an empty Western saddle does a better job of accustoming a horse's back
to carrying. Second Western stirrups
and fenders familiarize the young horse with movement against his sides preparing
him for the feel of your legs. Third, when properly fitted, a Western saddle has
less of a tendency to shift when a rider mounts. This is due to the friction of
the large contact area of the skirts and the wrapping and enveloping effect that
a Western saddle tends to have. And fourth, and perhaps most important, a Western
saddle has a larger bearing surface than an English saddle so distributes a rider's
weight over a larger area of the horse's back muscles. A horse's back is like
a suspension bridge, not really well designed to carry weight. The horse's neck,
abdominals, and back muscles already have a big job suspending the weight of his
abdomen and now the muscles must work even harder to keep the back from sagging
under the weight of the saddle and rider. The longer, wider bars of a properly
fitted Western saddle make bearing the weight of the rider more comfortable for
the young horse. Once the horse's back has begun to strengthen and develop, it
can more easily bear a rider's weight via the panels of a properly fitted English
To prepare a horse for you being
above him during riding, when you groom or clip him, step up on a box or when
he is turned out, sit on the top rail of his pen and let him come up and investigate
Evaluate Your Every Day Mounting Habits
Become aware of your everyday mounting habits that could use improvement.
- Do the toes of your left boot dig into a horse's
side as you rise to mount? Pointed toe boots are particularly inappropriate when
mounting unless you choose to mount facing forward.
the saddle shift way off to the left side because you have to pull yourself up
with your arms rather than lift yourself up with the muscles of your left leg?
- Do you wobble as you swing over the horse
and throw him off balance or bump him on the croup?
your seat land with a thud in the saddle or do you have the muscle control to
lower yourself softly into the saddle?
your right leg slap his side as you find your position or do you let your leg
settle softly on his side?
If you have any
of these problems, practice mounting a safe, trained horse until your bad habits
are replaced with good ones. Here is one place where being in good physical condition
will help you perform more effectively and safely.