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How to Mount & Dismount a Horse Safely (7 Easy Steps)

Mounting and dismounting a horse is one of the first things you will learn at a riding school. While they might look easy to do at first glance, there are a few things to pay attention to. What is the correct way to mount a horse?

To mount a horse, stand on the horse’s left side and angle the stirrup towards your left foot. Next, gather the reins and a bit of the mane with your left hand, and place your foot in the stirrup. Grab the offside of the saddle with your right hand and quickly pull yourself onto your horse’s back.

Dismounting a horse is a little bit easier and involves letting go of the stirrups, swinging your right leg over your horse’s rump, and slowly lower yourself onto the ground.

Both mounting and dismounting a horse will become second nature with enough repetitions. However, there are some bad habits riders commonly pick up that are best to avoid.

Read on to find out more about how to mount and dismount a horse!

How to Mount a Horse Safely Step By Step

In preparation for mounting a horse, make sure the girth is tight enough and won’t let the saddle slip when you pull yourself up. Lower both of your stirrups and set them to the right length. Check-in with your horse to see if he’s calm, attentive, and standing straight.

How to mount a horse safely:

  1. Stand on the left side of your horse facing either his front or backside
  2. Gather the reins and a little bit of your horse’s mane with your left hand
  3. Hold the offside rein somewhat tighter to prevent your horse from stepping away as you mount
  4. With your right hand, turn the stirrup iron towards your foot so that the stirrup leather lies flat against your boot
  5. (ut your left foot into the stirrup and grab the offside of the saddle with your right hand
  6. Quickly pull yourself up into the saddle and swing your right leg over your horse’s rump without touching it
  7. Find the right stirrup and then sit up straight on your horse

Safety tips: Make sure you don’t stand on one stirrup for too long as that will unevenly pull on your horse’s back muscles and stretch the stirrup leather.

How do you dismount a horse?

Before you dismount a horse, make sure he has fully stopped moving and is standing calm and square.

How to safely dismount a horse:

  1. Gather the reins with your left hand so you can stop your horse in case he steps forward
  2. Let go of both stirrups
  3. Rest your hands in your horse’s withers to supports your weight while you get off
  4. Lean forwards and bring your right leg carefully over your horse’s rump
  5. Bend your knees to absorb the shock of landing on the ground
  6. With an English saddle, make sure you pull your stirrups up and secure them so they don’t hit your horse’s side as he moves or cause injury if he falls

After getting off, you might also want to loosen the girth so your horse can walk more comfortably back to his stable.

Why do you mount a horse on the left side?

Mounting a horse on the left side is a tradition and comes from the time when horses were used for war. Most knights were right-handed, they wore their swords on the left side so they could easily draw them during battle. Mounting from the right would’ve caused the sword to hit the horse, so warriors always mounted from the left side.

The exact date of when riders started mounting horses from the left is not known, but it was probably in ancient times. As early as 350 BC, Greek philosopher and horse master Xenophon already mentioned in his book “The Art of Horsemanship” that a rider should learn to mount a horse from both sides.

This ancient tradition of handling and mounting horses from the left side has been carried through to modern times. To this day, riders are taught to mount a horse on the left side and most of them never even question why this is.

Young girl mounting on her bay horse for riding. Approaching horse
Photo by: Sergii Kumer/123RF.COM

Why you should mount your horse from both sides

There are many reasons why riders should teach their horses to be mounted from both sides. Some of these relate to the muscle development of the horse’s back, while others concern rider safety. Dismounting a horse should also be practiced from both sides.

Only mounting from the left side will result in uneven muscle development of the horse’s back. As the horse is consistently using the muscles to the left of the spine to counter the rider’s weight, those muscles will become tighter, larger and stronger. This will have an effect on saddle fit as well as the horse’s performance.

Alternating which side you mount on will help the horse use his back muscles evenly and avoid many future issues. It will also stretch the stirrup leathers evenly so you won’t have to swap them yourself!

Learning to mount and dismount your horse from both sides also comes in handy when trail riding in case you need to avoid a hazard. If your horse was never mounted from the right before, make sure you introduce this gradually by first leading and handling him from the right.

Safety tips for mounting and dismounting a horse

Accidents can and do happen around horses, so here are a few tips to make mounting and dismounting a horse as safe as possible:

If your horse is a nervous type, you first have to teach him to stand quietly before attempting to climb on and off his back. There is a simple trick that will help you achieve this faster and is much more effective than shouting and getting into a fight with your horse.

Whenever your horse tries to step forward while you mount, lead him around in a circle and try again. Do this until he learns that moving off in the wrong time will only cause him more work. You’ll be surprised how quick the results can be!

If it makes you feel safer, you can also have someone hold your horse while you mount. A second person can help you out when you’re mounting from the ground by pushing down into the opposite stirrup. This will decrease the strain on your horse’s back, especially if there’s a big height difference.

Finally, it is recommended that you use a mounting block or equivalent object whenever possible. This will make mounting easier and safer for both you and your horse.

Using safety stirrups that have a quick-release mechanism or cage is also a good idea in case your horse decides not to cooperate. See our guide to the 7 best safety stirrups.

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