Learning to ride a horse: how to mount and sit in the saddle

By Julie Harding on |


Learning to ride: how to mount and sit in the saddle

Your horse is tacked up, you are wearing all the right safety equipment — notably a hard riding hat and proper riding boots — and now it’s time to mount.

If this is your first time in the saddle or you have only just begun learning to ride, someone will need to hold the horse still for you. You risk an accident if your mount is so keen that he strides off just as you place your foot in the stirrup.

Ask your helper to hold down the right stirrup, too, which will help to prevent the saddle from slipping.

Before you mount, check that the length of both stirrups is correct, that the stirrups are down against the horse’s sides and that the girth is fastened properly. A girth that is too loose could cause the saddle to end up beneath the horse, with huge potential for a nasty accident.

Try to avoid mounting from the ground as this puts strain on the horse’s back as well as the saddle. Instead get someone to give you a leg up or preferably use a safe, solid mounting block, which should be placed close to the horse’s left side (near side) — the traditional side for mounting.

Place both reins in your left hand and keep enough of a contact to prevent the horse from moving off before you are ready. For stability, hold onto the neckstrap or a few strands of mane if you prefer.

Face the back of the horse, hold the stirrup with your right hand and turn it clockwise before you place your foot in it. The ball of your foot should rest on the base of the stirrup iron.

Push off the mounting block and transfer your weight into your left leg, which you should straighten as you raise your right one over the back of the horse smoothly in one movement.

Always sit down gently, so that you don’t jar the horse’s back. Place your right foot in the right stirrup by turning that clockwise too.

Sit straight

When you are learning to ride a horse, sitting in the saddle for the first time can be a little nerve wracking, but try and relax or this will affect your position in a negative way.

The position you are trying to achieve on the horse is that of someone standing with their knees slightly bent. Anyone looking at you should be able to draw an imaginary line down from your ear, through your shoulder, hip and heel.

Keep your bent elbows in by your sides and position your hands so that another imaginary line can be drawn from your elbow, through your wrist and hand, all the way down to the horse’s bit. As the horse moves his head you have to be prepared to ‘give’ with your arm in order to maintain a constant light contact.

An easy beginner’s mistake is to hold the reins upside down. The hand should be positioned with the thumbs uppermost with the reins entering the closed fingers between the small and ring fingers and exiting up by the thumb.

Meanwhile, the ball of your foot should rest on the stirrup’s tread with your toes pointing forward.

Sit in the lowest part of the saddle in a balanced way, ensuring that your weight is evenly distributed. Sit up straight, but not stiffly, look ahead through the horse’s ears and don’t be tempted to tilt your head down.

You are now ready to ride!


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