Western Saddle Guide

Western Saddle Guide > Saddle How To's > Mount A Horse

How To Mount A Horse

Just as with saddling, developing good mounting technique will go a long way towards creating a willing attitude in your horse. If you want a horse that will stand quietly and willingly while you mount, you'll need to develop a mounting technique that is polite and graceful. And, even more importantly, good mounting technique is crucial for your own safety.

The most common mistake made in mounting is using your arms to pull yourself into the saddle rather than using your anchor leg and your momentum to propel yourself into the saddle.

The proper technique requires some leg strength and practice. If you can't yet master the technique, it's best to use a mounting block or other aid (i.e. a fence, stump, etc.) rather than mounting from the ground. Horses that won't stand quietly for mounting are almost always a man-made problem. Additionally, pulling yourself into the saddle will move your saddle out of position and place unnecessary wear on your horse's back.

While you can (and should) mount from either side, these directions are for mounting from the near (left) side. To mount from the off side, simply reverse "right" and "left" in the directions.

1. Take the reins in your left hand and tip your horse's nose slightly to the inside. Place your left hand (with the reins in it) on the base of your horse's mane and grab a good handful of mane in your hand.

mounting horse
Photo 1
Common mistakes at this step are letting go of the reins while mounting and grabbing the horn instead of placing your hand on the horse. The first leaves you out of control of the horse and the second will pull your saddle out of position and is bad for the horse's back.

2. Facing the back of the horse with your left shoulder next to the horse's left shoulder, take a hold of the stirrup with your right hand and turn the stirrup towards you. Facing towards the back will place you in a better position in case your horse moves forward while mounting or kicks.

mounting horse
Photo 2
3. Place your left foot in the stirrup and place your right hand on the back of the cantle.

4. Take a few hops around so that you're facing forward and your belly button is in line with your horse's eye as shown in Photo 2. (On a younger or unpredictable horse it's best to continue facing towards the back and to turn your body around to the front as you rise off the ground.)

mounting horse
Photo 3
5. Push off, using the spring in your right leg and your momentum to propel yourself up in the saddle. Your hands provide balance, but you should not use them to pull yourself up. Bouncing a bit on your right leg can help create more momentum for lifting yourself into the saddle.

6. You should lift yourself straight up with all of the weight in your left stirrup and your body against the horse's body as shown in Photo 3. Use your hands (left on the mane, right on the cantle) to help balance yourself. This position let's you assess whether your horse is settled enough for you to finish mounting. A well trained horse will stand quietly while you mount as the horse in these photos is. If your horse is dancing around or bothered, you should step back down and start over.

mounting horse
Photo 4
7. Release your right hand from the cantle (you may place it on the horn or on the fork) and swing your right leg over the horse's back, making sure you clear the horse's rump and the saddle as shown in Photo 4. Bumping your horse with your leg is unpleasant for your horse.

mounting horse
Photo 5

8. Settle gently down into the saddle. Don't simply plop down with all of your weight. Keep your horse's comfort in mind.

9. Slip your right foot into the stirrup and adjust your reins. Your saddle may have moved during the mounting process, so make sure it's centered on the horse's back by using your body weight to shift it back into place.

mounting horse
Photo 6

10. Dismounting simply entails reversing the mounting process as shown in Photos 6 & 7. Remember to lift your leg high enough so that you don't hit your horse when you bring you leg over the saddle.

Some folks have the bad habit of dismounting by removing both of their feet from the stirrups, swinging their leg over, and then dropping down to the ground. This is an unsafe habit to get into. With both your feet are out of the stirrups you have few options and little control.

mounting horse
Photo 7
If you dismount the reverse of the way you mounted, then you'll leave your left foot in your stirrup, bring your right leg over, and stand with all weight in the left stirrup. From this position you can then either finish dismounting by droppping your right leg to the ground and stepping out of the stirrup or, if the horse moves off, swing your leg back over and settle back into the saddle.

Practicing good mounting technique will not only communicate to your horse that you're a savvy horseman and a worthy partner, it will keep you safe.

Check out the other Western Saddle How-To's:


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