You might have a fractious horse.
Flexibility might be a lost cause.
Your knees might not take the strain.
You could be battling with shoulder pain.
Whatever your trepidation in mounting or dismounting, rest assured, we've all been there!
We've experienced those horrendous moments when your foot is in the stirrup and you're ready but your horse has moved sideways and you have to abort mission or make a monumental leap of faith, only to land heavily on his back (possibly in the saddle, possibly not), likely kicked him in the progress, caught him in the teeth with the rein and either sent him into a frenzy forwards, backwards or sideways. Either which way, no one is happy.
Or when dismounting, that dreaded fear of your feet hitting the ground; either your horse moving away causing you to fall flat on your face or backside, or even with the steadiest mount, the shockwaves of your soles on the ground causing your knees to buckle, or a pull on your shoulder leaving you screaming with pain and if you've twisted the saddle in the process it's unlikely your steed will be quite so steady next time.
Here's some tips to help you - Oh! and, as the Click & Connect Neck Strap has some advantages here, we've put those in bold for you!
Note: As a routine we use a mounting block or portable step ourselves but we appreciate there are times when you've just got to get back on and although you've tried to find a gate, fence, log or any other alternative, these are not always possible.
- Have a stable, high mounting block that is high enough that your stirrup is in a position above the height of the top step that your foot can comfortably step into it.
- You want your stirrup length to be short enough that when you stand in the stirrup, your hips are above the height of the cantle so the leg that swings over the horse can do so without knocking the cantle - or your horse's bottom!
- Position the mounting block to create a channel – perhaps in the corner of the school or alongside a fence so the horse can’t swing his bottom away from you.
- Utilise a helper to reassure the horse on the offside. If the horse gets fractious being held by the rein, a hand on the neck strap can help steady him.
- Practice leading the horse around the mounting block, halting beside it, praising or rewarding him after he has stood still for a while, and then inviting or asking him to move on. You don’t want the horse to feel trapped - he should feel safe and secure.
- Ensure distractions are at a minimum – a horse with anxiety or concern over something on the other side of the fence, won’t be paying attention to you.
- When mounting, position the horse so that your stirrup is slightly ahead of the mounting block.
- Note that if he is standing square there's less likelihood of him needing to move off to adjust his balance as you mount - and it's great training for those 10s in any dressage tests too!
- Turn your body so that it is facing forwards towards your horse's right ear, rather than at 90degrees to the horse's tummy.
- Mounting from the nearside, take both reins in your left hand. The Click & Connect Neck Strap is slimline so that you can hold it comfortably in your hands, even with your reins. The reins need not be too short, but the neck strap should be fitted snugly on his neck so you can get two fingers under it to hold to give you a secure feel.
- Place your right hand onto the offside of the saddle. Options re the pommel, the skirt, the cantle of the saddle, or even pulling the stirrup leather towards the ground on the offside - thou you'll need long arms or a narrow horse for that! (Note, if you hold anywhere but the pommel, you'll need to let go mid flight, so we prefer holding on to the pommel with your right hand.)
- Place your left foot into the stirrup but ensure your ankle so your toes are facing forward – you do not want to accidentally dig your toe into his side as you get on as as far as most horses are concerned, this means go forwards or go sideways, neither wanted at this stage!
- Push your weight down into your foot and hands so your elbows straighten as you spring off your right foot. Rise up and as tall* as you can, so your bottom is high above the saddle so it is easy for you to swing your right leg high over the cantle.
- If you sense your horse trying to move off, take your left hand down the crest towards the saddle and that will put tension on the Click & Connect Neck strap to ask him to halt. It will also help you feel secure and in balance.
- If you sense your horse trying to swing out away and barge out through his shoulders, connectors used from the Click & Connect Neck Strap to the girth will automatically come into contact and encourage him to stay closer to the mounting block.
- Slide your weight down into the saddle, allowing your right foot to find the right stirrup.
- Allow your right hand to pick up the rein, and then let go of the neck strap with your left hand if you feel safe to do so.
- Once you and your horse are settled and comfortable, you can reward him with a scratch at the withers, a treat, and then ask him to move off and start your ride.
*a common mistake is to drop your upper body or fall forward!
A poor dismount can leave your horse with the memory of twisting forces on his spine, and it won’t be much fun for you either.
- Halt and check to see if your horse is standing square. If he is standing square, he’ll be able to cope with the weight and balance changes as you dismount much more easily.
- Ensure he has room to step forward or backwards a few paces. You don’t want him to feel unable to move to correct his balance.
With the Click & Connect Neck Strap being slimline, you can take hold of both reins and the neck strap in your left hand, burying your hand into the horse's crest*. The positioning of the neck strap ahead of the withers will help you position your head over your hand to help you to dismount easily.
- Place the heel of your right hand on the pommel and extend your fingers down to hold the front of the skirt on the right hand side of the saddle.
- Take your feet out of the stirrups.
- Bring your knees up a little in the saddle and pinch them in. You can then raise your bottom high in the saddle as if into rising trot.
- Pushing up off both your hands to straighen and stiffen your elbows your right hand to a straight arm, and growing as tall as you can in your body with your head over your left hand, then release your right leg swinging it as high as you can over the cantle.
- When in mid-air, push off and away with both hands, and let go of your right hand**, to propel yourself a little away from the horse’s nearside.
- Bend your knees as your feet hit the ground to help absorb the concussion then engage your glutes to rise tall.
*If you have sore knees or back, instead of holding the Click & Connect Neck Strap at the crest, you can hold the neck strap at the D on the nearside. By keeping tension on the neck strap as you land, the neck strap and connector on horse's offside shoulder can help balance you. .
**You can keep hold of the Click & Connect Neck Strap provided you are tall enough to still reach this point from the ground – otherwise you risk pulling your shoulder.
We hope following these points will help you mount and dismount with confidence - and keep your horse happy!
Signs of a horse perhaps with a history of poor mounting, or indeed an ill-fitting saddle or girth, are him being reluctant to stand still, pulling and snatching at the rein (all the more reason to hang on to your Click & Connect Neck Strap for security). So do consider other elements that may be impacting on his - or your behaviour!
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