I’ll admit it. I don’t mount from the ground any more unless it is absolutely necessary. Even then, I will position my horse down hill or seek out a stump or stone wall.
Why don’t I?
Since I had rotator cuff tendonitis, any pulling on that arm leaves me hurting for several hours/days and I’m not as limber as I used to be.
Of course, I can excuse myself from the effort and just say that it’s not good for your horse to mount from the ground. This article from Equisearch explains the difficulties associated with mounting.
When a rider mounts a horse from the ground, he’s accelerating upwards against gravity, and the entire body weight has to be lifted by energy. The heavier the person is or the greater the distance he is below the horse’s back, the more energy is required to lift him and the more effort the horse must invest to withstand it. Jeff Thomason, PhD, associate professor of biomechanical science at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, Canada, estimates that a person mounting a horse from the ground could actually exert up to double his own weight on the stirrup. The resulting force pushes down the stirrup, pulling the saddle both down and toward the rider. This leads to another aspect of acceleration, torque, or twisting, wherein a linear force (pressure in the stirrup) tends to rotate a body (the horse’s body) rather than just pull on it. The farther the rider’s center of mass is from the horse’s side, the greater will be the unbalancing twist applied to the horse’s body.
This article goes on to reference an experiment by Dr. Joyce Harman who used a high-tech sensor pad connected to a computer to measure amount of pressure exerted on a horse’s back using different mounting techniques in pounds per square inch (psi). Harman is 5’3″and her horse is 17 1/2 hands. Here are the results:
- The highest back-pressure scores–around 4.5 psi–occurred when she mounted from the ground.
- Mounting from a mounting block created about 3.5 psi of pressure on the horse’s back.
- The leg up produced the least pressure, registering only 2.5 psi even when performed at its clumsiest.
- The areas receiving the most pressure were the right side of the withers and the portion of the left trapezius muscle underlying the point of the saddle tree. The trapezius is involved in shoulder movement.
- Another high-pressure point was the right rear of the saddle when the cantle was gripped during ground mounting.
So, given that I’m heavy and have a tall horse, I will be using a mounting block for sure! I rarely have someone to give me a leg up and I can no longer spring lightly into the saddle — that’s only a vague memory for me now. The article does point out that if you do need to mount from the ground alone, you exert the least stress on your horse if you stand close to your horse and face the rear (not the saddle) and lengthen the stirrup leather until your foot can reach the stirrup without straining. Or you can copy actor Johnny Mack Brown and vault onto your horse without touching the stirrups.
You can see the torque that’s exerted on the saddle in the the video below.