Before You Get on the Horse

Riding Level 1: Preparing to Mount

The first item on the Riding 1 checklist deals with preparing to mount your horse.

1. Adjust stirrups and girth from the ground, put reins over horse’s head

Pretty simple, right?  And in truth, most people get 9s or 10s in this section. However, until this is second nature to you, there are a lot of points to remember.

Before you mount, run this checklist in your head:

  1. Adjust both stirrups to the same length when you are in the crossties, and then run them up again.
  2. Once you have walked your horse the arena, run BOTH stirrups down (many people forget the stirrup on the off side).
  3. Adjust the girth.  In general it needs to go up a hole or two before getting on, as we don’t tighten it all the way in the crossties.
  4. Put the reins over the horse’s head without spooking the horse or leaving a rein hung up on the ear or bit.  Believe it or not, I’ve seen more than one candidate forget to put the reins over entirely, which leaves you in a bit of a one-sided reining situation once mounted.
  5. Check your bridle to see that the runners are up, the reins are not twisted, and that the noseband and throatlatch are adjusted correctly.

For visual demonstration here are Ally and Noah again, on adjusting stirrups:

How to adjust stirrups


'Goodbye Old Friend', A soldier's farewell to his steed on the road in Southern Flanders, by F. Matania. From the Historic Library of Forces War Records.

Finally, as we approach Remembrance day, please take a moment to remember the sacrifices of the warhorses as well as the fallen soldiers.  Here's a moving collection of photos from the first and second World Wars.

Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.