Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Allison Price
Although it is traditional to mount horses on the left side, this can cause undesirable asymmetries for both horse and rider and equipment. This should be avoided.
If you come from a traditional riding background, you will know that horses have a near and an off side. You will approach the horse from the near side. This side will be your mount. This tradition is the basis of most of your equipment, including bridles, headcollars, and rugs. It would be a challenge to try and use them from the opposite side.
Is this a good idea? Should we follow it? It doesn’t look like doing everything on the left will have any impact at first. Think about this: If stable management is something you have learned, chances are you’ve been told that you should swap your left and right stirring sticks before you ride. This is necessary to ensure that your stirrups are equal in length. The left stirrup leather will gradually stretch and become longer if you don’t switch them over. Because you always mount from the right, the leather on the left side is stretched when you put more weight into the stirrup. You can swap them so that both stirrup leathers are equal in length.
Stirrups that are mounted from a mounting block will have a less stretchy appearance, but it still happens. You will notice that your stirrups are longer if you don’t swap them. In the end, you’ll have to replace your stirrup leathers. You might have noticed that your stirrups weren’t equal, even if you didn’t learn this trick or had the chance to own a horse.
Instead of changing your stirrup leathers every ride, you could just swap the side that you are on. It’s a little absurd to think that you would swap the leathers instead of moving on from the opposite side. Swapping leathers takes a lot more effort and time. You can swap which side you mount from, but keep the leathers the exact same. This will ensure that you only stretch one side of the stirrup each time you mount. This will ensure that both stirrups are equal in length over time.
This article doesn’t address stirrup leather lengths. Although it can be an inconvenience to have to purchase new leathers, it is not a serious problem. Mounting from both sides might be a good idea. It can have a negative effect on your horse and you.
It is well-known that repetitions of the same movements can make a difference in how our bodies work and what we can do. Do some daily stretching to reach for your toes if you have trouble touching your toes. You will eventually be able to touch your toes. This is also true when it comes to building muscle. Repeatedly lifting a certain amount of weight will build your muscles. You don’t need to do this for a long time to see the results. A few minutes of weight lifting or stretching each day will suffice.
Just as stirrup leathers can stretch over time, your body and horse’s bodies will be gradually affected by only mounting from one side. Mounting from only one side can cause asymmetries between you and your horse. You shouldn’t think of it as an exercise session.
It is a fact that all of us have been taught to work with the horse on both sides. We don’t want asymmetries. Yet, we always do things on one side of the ground. This encourages the horse to bend and flex in one direction only and builds muscle by bracing on only one side. This is going to be evident in our riding because we spend so much time on the ground with our horses.
Horses that are always bent in the same direction will show physical asymmetries. You might find your horse spooking if you attempt to mount or dismount them from the opposite side. This is because they aren’t used to it. It might be difficult for you to visualize under what circumstances you might have tomount or dismount from your right side, but it is possible to fix the problem if you’re in a jam. Mounting on the opposite side might solve some of your unwelcome habits, such as fidgeting at a mounting block. Because the horse doesn’t know how to avoid being mounted if approached from the left instead of the right, this is because it hasn’t learned how to do so. As with ridden work, horses should also be used to being able to approach from the right instead of the left.
It is easy to test how much your have been affected by only mounting from one end. To do this, just try and then mount from the other. This is a common problem for most people. It is because of all the small asymmetries in your body that have been built up over time from doing it from the left. The reason you feel “not used” to it is actually the result of all those effects, which make it more difficult. Mounting from both sides will become easier if you do it regularly. It will feel like your body has “got used” to it. You are actually stretching and working your body in a way that allows you to mount the other side.
Some people experience pain while riding. It can be very liberating to start mounting from the ‘off side’. It is possible to experience pain in your hips, knees, and ankles disappear overnight due to the repetitive strain of mounting from the left. Imagine your horse experiencing the same relief.
If there are so many benefits to mounting from both ends, why is it so uncommon? Tradition is powerful! Instead of focusing on the logic behind the tradition (which likely dates back to the days of sword-bearing), think about how it works. It is much easier to think of ways to solve the problems, such as swapping stirrup leathers for every ride, or carrot stretching with your horse. It takes more mental effort to consider the impact we have on horses’ minds and bodies, as well as our own. Mounting from both the horse and human side can resolve any of these asymmetries. It doesn’t take too much to make this small adjustment in your routine. This will do you and your horse – as well as your tack – some good.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!