Mounting blocks help your horse’s back

 

  • Remember being young and grabbing some mane and swinging a leg over to go for a bareback ride? Those days are the thing of memories and a formerly flexible body for some of us. Mounting blocks are the best thing that’s happened to my knees and hips and my horse’s back. Now, some fantastic new research has given us more insights into the many reasons to use a mounting block.

 

  • And YES – you should be able to ground mount your horse, but for maximum health and comfort, use a mounting block. Your horse should know both methods – just in case.

 

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The impact to your tack by ground mounting:

 

  • Saddles can slip when you are ground mounting. Your saddle might slip only a little, or it might slip quite a bit. Much of this depends on how much pressure and pulling happens, but it still happens. This not only impacts your horse’s spine, but it can impact your tack, too.

 

  • Saddles that are flocked can, over time, experience some extra packing of the flocking on the right side of the saddle. Does this happen to saddles that have foam? Perhaps? I haven’t found anything that says it does or doesn’t.

 

  • Your saddle’s tree can start to twist. It might widen a bit at the pommel area, or the whole thing can start to become askew. Saddle trees that twist out of shape can change how they fit on your horse, and might eventually need servicing. There are screws in the trees of most saddles, which might wear and pop more easily with the extra tension.

 

  • You might also find that your stirrup leathers stretch unevenly. Many of us make it a habit to switch our leathers from time to time, and this might help prevent some of the unevenness.

 

short mounting block

This mounting block is quite short, suitable for a tiny pony and a long-legged rider.

 

The impact on your horse when ground mounting.

 

  • There’s the obvious tugging from the right side to the left side. And when you think about how your horse’s spine is shaped, that’s a lot of pressure on parts of the spine.

 

  • The vertebral processes that make up your horse’s wither are like sails coming out of the vertebrae. Some of these vertebral processes can be about 8 inches long. Pulling them over to the side when mounting acts like a level on your horse’s spine, twisting it further.

 

spinal processes of a horse withers and back

That upward wave is your horse’s wither. Those “sails” are the vertebral processes that get yanked around and twist the spine.

 

What makes ground mounting even harder on your horse?

 

  • Bouncing! This creates more pulling and twisting across your horse’s back. It seems like a good idea, but it’s not.

 

  • Grabbing the saddle with both hands to swing over also yanks your horse more. I’ve always grabbed mane, and reached to the far side of the saddle, not the cantle, to hop on in an emergency.

 

  • Having a big difference between your height and your horse’s height also makes ground mounting more difficult. Your agility and weight impact the stress on your horse’s back less than the height difference between you and your horse. It seems strange and illogical, but there’s science to back this up!

 

The best mounting techniques for your horse’s comfort:

 

  • Use a tall mounting block!

 

  • Keep your left leg on the mounting block and swing your right leg over. Skip putting your left foot in the stirrup at all. Insert yoga classes as necessary to help this happen. Obviously this is much easier with a much taller mounting block.

 

  • If you don’t have a super tall mounting block and/or you need to put some weight into the left stirrup, see if you can get someone to counterbalance the offside stirrup by pulling down on it as you step into the left stirrup.

 

Ideal mounting techniques if you absolutely must mount your horse from the ground:

 

  • In an equine utopia, mounting is comfortable for both ourselves and our horses and we have perfect, magic mounting blocks that appear out of the ether at our mere thoughts. Reality tells us that we ride and get separated from our tack. I’m a champ at dropping my phone while trail riding, often miles from the barn and a mounting block. Sometimes I can use a fence or a stump, other times I just walk back next to my horse.

 

  • Remember all of those squat techniques that you learn in the gym and push up with your legs instead of pulling with your arms to mount your horse from the ground.

 

  • Use one hand on the withers of your horse and the right hand on the right side of the saddle near the flap. I tend to grab some mane around the withers. For horses that don’t mind this, you get a better grip of things.

 

  • Don’t lengthen the stirrup unless you absolutely must. A longer stirrup was found to increase the pressure on your horse.

 

  • If you have a friend around when you need help mounting from the ground, a leg up is helpful. These same studies found that a leg up is a great idea for your horse, and even better if your lifter can support your knee and ankle instead of your shin and ankle.

 

For more about the research and number behind these insights, take a look here.

 

homemade mounting block

This is my mounting block of choice, I have to heave-ho myself up there it’s so tall. Homemade and zero back distress for the horses.

 

Other things to consider when mounting your horse.

 

  • When you really start to look at the mounting process, it’s no wonder that one of the most common “training” issues I hear about involves a horse walking off while being mounted. Is it actually a training issue? Or just your horse looking to alleviate some discomfort?

 

  • And what about dismounting? There’s much less information and science about dismounting than there is on mounting. I’m starting to get to the point where I like to use a block for dismounting, also. Thank you aging, you’re a jerk. Do be sure to drop both of your stirrups and hop off if possible, versus sliding off while clinging to your saddle.

 

  • You have lots of options for mounting blocks, and those of us that are handy can build our own to a custom height instead of purchasing a mounting block.

 

 

 

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Thank you!

 

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