How do I get on a horse?

Whoa! How in the world do I get up there?! It’s true, mounting a horse can seem a bit intimidating. Here are a few tips for making your first time getting on a horse (without a mounting block) smooth and effortless.

1. Secure your horse

It will be a lot easier and safer for you to adjust the saddle while your horse is standing still. So, ask someone to hold your horse, tie it up to a secure post, or hold the reins in your left hand before proceeding.


2. Adjust the girth

You’ll want to make sure your saddle is secured on the horse before you get on. If it’s too loose, the saddle might slide off; if it’s too tight, the horse’s skin might get pinched and cause sores. 

To make sure your saddle is secure, check the tightness of the girth. Ok… what’s a girth? A girth is a belt-like strap that goes around the horse near the “armpits” and holds the saddle in place.

Once you’ve located the girth, slide two fingers between the girth and your horse’s side to see how tight it is. If your fingers fit snuggly, you’re good to go.

If it’s too loose or too tight, use the belt-hole or cinch straps to adjust accordingly.


3. Adjust the stirrups

Stirrups give your feet a place to rest while you’re in the saddle. They help you balance and communicate properly with the horse. Let’s make sure they’re in the right position when you get up there.

The length of your arm is a good measuring stick for the length of your stirrups. To do this, follow the stirrup strap up to where it attaches to the saddle. Place the finger tips of your left hand on the place where the stirrup attaches to the saddle.

Then use your right hand to lift the stirrup up to your armpit. The stirrup should reach about the length of your arm (It doesn’t have to be perfect, but as close as possible).

Adjust the strap with the belt holes to match the length of your arm.


4. Move to a safe mounting location

Now that the saddle is properly adjusted, move your horse to a safe place for mounting.

What does a safe place look like? You’re looking for level ground (or as close to it as possible) with a safe distance (the length of your horse) away from large objects on all sides. Horses tend to be more comfortable with a little extra space and will generally stand quieter if they feel more comfortable and confident.

If you are re-mounting out on the trail where level ground is not an option, turn your horse so that you are on the higher side of the hill. This will make mounting a little easier and quicker.

On wider trails, you can point your horse up hill. This will make balancing easier for both of you.


5. Get your horse’s attention

Before attempting to mount, make sure your horse is paying attention to you and is standing quietly. You don’t want to surprise it or try to get on when it’s nervous.

How do I know my horse is paying attention to me? The best way to tell is to watch its ears. A horse can see everywhere except directly in front and behind it. A horse will move its ears in the direction it is looking.

So, if its ear is facing you, then it is paying attention to you. If it’s not, give it a little pat on the shoulder or neck to get it’s attention.


6. Position the reins

From the left side, place the reins over the horse’s head. With your left hand, hold the reins near the front of the saddle. You should be standing at the horse’s shoulder facing the opposite direction as the horse at this point.

Check to make sure the reins are in a neutral position. Too tight will pull on the horse’s mouth and may cause it to move away from you. Too loose won’t give you enough control. You’ll know you have the right length when you don’t see tension on the horse’s mouth and the reins are not sagging.


7. Place your foot in the stirrup

With the reins still in your left hand, grip the mane or the saddle horn with the same hand. Place the ball of your left foot on the stirrup.

If a friend is nearby (not on a horse), you can drop the left stirrup down a few holes so it’s easier to reach with your foot. Once you’re in the saddle, your friend can adjust the stirrup back to the correct length.


8. Step up in the stirrup

Use your grip on the mane or the saddle horn to help step up on the stirrup. You can also grip the back of the saddle with your right hand for added stability. It will feel sort of like stepping into a tall truck.


9. Swing your leg over the horse

Once you’re standing up in the stirrup, you’re ready to swing your leg over and sit in the saddle. Place your right hand on the front part of the saddle seat to help keep your weight centered on the horse.

Then slowly swing your right leg over the back of the horse. You can bend your leg slightly for a little help in the flexibility department. Make sure you don’t hit the horse with your foot or leg in the process.


10. Sit down in the saddle

Before sitting down, move your right hand off the saddle seat. You’ll probably do that naturally, but just in case you’re still balancing on it, we thought we’d mention it.

Gently lower yourself into the saddle. Your horse friend will appreciate it.

WOOHOO! You made it. Welcome to the best seat in the place.


11. Double check before you go

Before moving forward, make sure your stirrups are at a comfortable length and the ball of your foot is placed on each stirrup. Push your heals down and point your toes up toward the horse’s shoulders.

Once you are comfortable, ask your horse to move forward. Have a great ride!!!

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