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Horsemanship - Mounting And Dismounting

( Originally Published 1962 )

TO THE WELL-INFORMED HORSEMAN NO DETAIL IS UNIMPORTANT. He recognizes the fact that horsemanship consists of innumerable small acts correctly performed, and that he cannot afford to ignore any of them. The ignorant and thoughtless seem to have a contempt for details that automatically dooms their progress as horsemen from the start, even if they go through the formalities of taking riding lessons.

Judging from the fantastic ways many riders mount and dismount, they classify the apparently simple matter of getting into and out of the saddle as something deserving little or no attention. The fact is, however, that much trouble and many ridiculous accidents could be avoided, if common sense were always displayed in mounting and dismounting.

The cowboy's way of mounting, for obvious reasons, is not possible when a flat saddle is used. Still we find that most riders start to mount by placing themselves somewhere near the horse's rump, behind the saddle and facing forward. They are then in an ideal position to get kicked; in fact, they are well situated for almost anything unpleasant, but not for getting into the saddle. If the horse takes a short step or two they will be out of reach of the stirrup. Sometimes he is charitable enough to stand still until the rider has inserted one foot in the stirrup. Then the animal proceeds to walk ahead, with the rider frantically trying to keep up by hop-ping about on one foot. The rider often tries to make up for what he lacks in sense by yelling abuse at his horse or by yanking him violently in the mouth, preferably with the curb —if he should happen to have hold of the reins. If he is lucky he may succeed in grabbing the extreme rear end of the saddle with his right hand and, with the help of a few wild jumps, hook onto the front end with his left. Then, if his arms are strong, he may still land in or near the saddle, even after having pulled it thoroughly out of place. He will, of course, not have thought of checking the tightness of the girth, and sometimes the saddle will be dislodged entirely, which is just too bad in the event the horse becomes frightened. If such a rider hits the saddle at all he will invariably land like a ton of bricks, as far back as the cantle permits. You will realize that all this violent action may start a lot of fun, when you recall how intensely most horses dislike having the small of their backs touched.

It is the rule rather than the exception that this type of horseman neglects to pick up the reins before he starts climbing aboard. The final phase of his mounting usually involves a panicky grab for the reins, which may or may not succeed, because by that time the horse will be well on his way, at a walk or a wild gallop, according to his temperament. It speaks highly of this kind of horseman's singleness of purpose and strength of character that he will mount the same way every time.

The practical and correct way of mounting may not be so popular, but it offers the compensation of being safe and easy. Stand in front of the horse's shoulder, facing backward. Gather the reins in your left hand, with the curb reins loose and the snaffle reins tight enough to prevent the horse from advancing. The right snaffle rein should be a trifle shorter than the left to keep the horse from circling around you to the left. Next, the left hand, holding the reins, secures a firm hold on the withers—never on the saddle. With the help of the right hand insert the left foot into the instep in the stirrup from the outside.

Next, execute a half turn against the horse, as close to him as possible. Press the left knee against his flank and with the right hand secure a light hold on the cantle. Jump off on the toe of your right foot and help pull yourself up with your left hand, on the withers. Swing the right leg high over the croup and land lightly and quickly in the saddle, as far forward as possible, supporting yourself with your right hand, which changes its position from the cantle to the pommel.

The advantage of starting the mounting movement in front of the horse's shoulder facing backward, is that, should he advance, he will cause no trouble but will actually help swing the rider aboard as soon as the foot is in the stirrup.

Some horses have the bad habit of backing to avoid being mounted. In such cases retain the position of the hand above the withers and back the horse rather violently, but without temper, by vigorous pulls on the reins. When he begins to resist the backing he is cured, temporarily anyway.

Many accidents happen because the rider loses his balance in swinging his right leg over the saddle, which results in a violent jerk on the reins. If he should happen to use the curb reins on such an occasion the horse may rear and be pulled over backward. This is the reason that the rider should keep the curb reins loose while mounting.

In dismounting the rider should take all the reins in the left hand, which is then supported on the withers. The right hand is placed on the pommel. Leaning on both hands the rider then swings the right leg over, carefully avoiding the croup, and with the full weight on the arms gently removes the left foot from the stirrup before sliding down.

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