By Lizzie Hopkinson
Mounting is essentially the bridge between your groundwork and your ridden work. In one sense, mounting, and the process of it, sets up the interaction between the horse and rider. The moment that the rider gets on the horse, gives the horse a series of messages. If the rider is crashing down on the horse’s back, snatching at the reins, the horse has already learnt so much about their rider. If the rider is gently sitting down, using their core to engage their own muscles as they sit, quietly holding the reins, reassuring the horse, the relationship has already got off to a better start.
We tend to spend time practising the same movements when we ride our horses. How many times did you ride a 20-metre circle the last time that you schooled? And how many times did you practise getting on? I think we can confidently assume that you rode more 20-metre circles! Yet mounting is probably more important than the ability to ride a 20-metre circle. The process of mounting is one where the rider and horse can be unbalanced, and the probability of accidents is greater at this point. So, spending time practising this will pay off in the long run.
Anyone who hacks out needs to be able to confident mount their horse in a variety of different locations. Even if you think that you never get off out hacking, you never know what will happen. You might meet an obstacle that is safer to pass on foot rather than ridden. Your horse may get a stone stuck in his hoof. You may meet a fallen tree, or an accident. Whatever the cause you may be forced to dismount. I recently met a jockey walking with his racehorse in a forest, he had dismounted to extract a stone from his horse’s hoof and couldn’t get back on. I gave him a leg-up, he gave me a tip for the 3.30 at Newbury. Knowing that you will be confidently able to get back on, will save you a long walk home! Just make sure you spend some time finding a safe place to remount.
When you work on your mounting practice at home you can spend time teaching your horse to stand by different obstacles, or if you have a moveable mounting block, spend some time moving it round the yard to different locations, so that your horse isn’t only used to being mounted in the same place.
Anyone who is even the slightest bit nervous, is always reassured by mounting a quiet well-mannered horse. Setting the tone for your forthcoming ride, seems to me, to be vital for building a good relationship with our horses. A horse that stands quietly and waits till you have collected yourself before you move off together, will give you the opportunity to have a good ride. Optimise your riding experience by putting the time into teaching your horse to stand properly – you won’t regret it.
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