Mount up!

The second item on the Riding 1 checklist is:

2. Mount safely and correctly from block or ground, picking up reins correctly

Mounting your horse may seem like the simplest of skills, but it's one that takes a lot of practice to make smooth, effortless and kind to your horse.

As you can see from these two pictures, we've been mounting horses the same way for centuries.  Unlike us at Academie Duello, most equestrians do not wear swords, but the habit of mounting from the left has stayed on.  That said, you should practise mounting from the right as well.  Don't be like me, who feels as awkward as a beginner when mounting from the 'wrong' side!  For the sake of clarity though, we'll deal with mounting from the near side.

From the ground

  1. Stand at the horse's left shoulder, facing the rear.
  2. Gather the reins in your left hand, making sure they're even and short enough to stop your horse should she decide to walk off, and place that hand on the horse's neck, grabbing a bit of mane if necessary.
  3. Take the stirrup iron in your right hand, and place your left toe in the stirrup, being careful not to poke the horse in the side with your toe.
  4. Place your right hand on the seat of the saddle, and give a single hop to get some momentum.
  5. Straighten your left leg, and swing your right leg over the saddle.
  6. Pick up the reins, and place your right toe in the stirrup.

From the mounting block

  1. Place the mounting block near the horse's left shoulder.
  2. Stand on the block and gather the reins as above
  3. Steps 3 - 6 as above, though the hop is not needed.

It's kinder on your horse's back to use a mounting block, but it is vital to know how to mount from the ground if you do any sort of riding off property.  So practise both.  Eventually, of course, you may want to do away with stirrups and vault on like Xenophon, or modern day Mounted Gamers.

Taking up the reins

A single set of English reins should be held so the rein comes from the bit, goes between the ring and little finger, passes through the hand and over the index finger.  The thumb rests on top of the rein, holding it securely to the index finger.  The bight (or free loop) of the reins hangs over the horse's right shoulder.  The middle fingers are closed around the rein, but not gripping tightly.  Think of holding a tiny live bird in each hand:  you don't want the bird to escape, but you don't want to crush it either.

Points to check when you've taken up the reins:

  1. Reins are straight, not twisted.
  2. Reins are even:  each one the same length, and hands the same height
  3. The wrist is straight (as if delivering a punch), not curled in or out, and there is a straight line from the bit to your elbow.
  4. The thumbs are on top, not pointing in towards each other.
Here's a video.  The sound quality is poor, but technique is good:
How to get on your horse ("mounting")

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.