Do you mount from the ground?

Johnny Mack Brown mounting Rebel
This is one way to mount a horse from the ground that does not torque its back — but it does require some dexterity on the part of the rider! And a very, very, calm horse.

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.

3 thoughts on “Do you mount from the ground?

  1. I always mount from the ground because I can’t always rely on having a mounting block present, and if I don’t consistently stretch my leg to mount, I’m not flexible enough to do it when I need to. I do lots of trail riding and there’s not always a bench to help mount. My horse is only 16’3, but my old mare was 17’2 and I used to ground mount her when I was 14 years old. Interesting point about the psi, but I also mount from the left and the right, so maybe the equal amounts of force on both sides will help the effects be less severe? Thought provoking and interesting. Cheers!

  2. Height of the horse, and skill, dexterity and weight of the rider all have to factor in, I think.
    I have given some thought to being lowered into the saddle by crane. 😉

    I’ll get on every horse from a mounting block. Because my horse has a tricky right shoulder (and thankfully shrinking pinnochio knee), I never get on from the ground, even though he’s relatively short at 16hh. I also find a mounting block speeds up the mounting process, leaving less time open for the more dangerous part of mounting: one foot in the stirrup and half way up but not secure for either horse or rider yet.

    Riding horses in retraining or on the younger side, the faster and quieter I can get in the saddle feels like setting us both up for success. I do feel the downside as ashkristen mentioned: the less I mount from the ground, the more difficult it gets!

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