How To Get on a Horse Without a Mounting Block? (Expert Tips)

How to mount a horse when you are short? How to get a horse to stand still when mounting?

While I don’t recommend you do it all the time it is essential to know how to get on a horse without a mounting block.

There are many situations you might find yourself in where you have to get on your horse from the ground, even if it is not easy for you.

You took a rest on a long ride, fell off, or dropped something are just a couple of the reasons you end up on the ground and need to mount your horse again.

So, with that in mind, I put together this guide with lots of tips to help you.

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How Do You Get on a Horse With No Mount Block?

Getting on a horse from the ground is much harder than when using a mounting block. Especially if you are short, have bad knees, or have stiff hips.

lady getting on the grey horse

It is also bad for the horse to mount from the ground all the time. A study found the forces exerted on the horse when a rider mounted from the ground were significantly higher than when using a mounting block. [1]

The study also found the highest amount of pressure occurred on the right side of the horse’s wither, somewhere you don’t want your horse getting a sore spot. [1]

This video will show you just how much you are affecting your horse and make you always want to use a mounting block.

However, all horse riders need to know how to do whether in an emergency or so that they can confidently enjoy all types of rides. The last thing you want is to be out trail riding miles from home and have to walk back on foot!

With my tips, you will see that there are ways to make this easier, even if you have particular challenges like those I mentioned above.

Let’s get started!

Proper Way to Mount a Horse From Ground

On a basic level, you mount a horse from the ground in the same way you do when using any type of raised step or platform. You want your horse to stand straight and still. 

cowboy getting on the horse

You still need to hold your reins using your left hand while reaching for the back of your saddle with your right, and you still place your left foot in the stirrup iron.

However, there are a few differences and tricks you can use to make the process easier, which I will detail next. They apply to both riders using an English saddle or a western saddle.

Lengthen Your Left Stirrup

Whether you are short or tall, putting your left stirrup leather down a few holes will make it easier to reach. It will help those that have a tall horse or those that have physical issues that make stretching their leg up a lot difficult.

Some people even carry and use a stirrup extender, which I’ve never tried personally but others find it helps them. These come in different styles including a specific extension stirrup leather or a device you hook into the stirrup itself.

Always Check Your Girth

Before you get on your horse from the ground always check your girth. Because you are putting more force on the stirrup, your saddle will slip more. 

That last thing you want is your saddle to slip too much! This is just a disaster and you will have to quickly get off again to fix it.

Stand Near Your Horse

It is best to stand close to your horse as this makes it easier to pull yourself up. You should stand facing at an angle so you are looking at your saddle’s cantle. 

This gives your right leg plenty of room to swing up and over your horse.

Hold Your Reins

Put your reins in your left hand and either hold onto the pommel of the saddle, saddle horn, or your horse’s neck, grabbing some mane for leverage. Keep an even gentle rein tension, you don’t want to pull.

Grab the Back of the Saddle

With your right hand reach up and put your hand on the far side of the saddle’s seat by the cantle.

expert showing how to get on a horse without a mounting block

Master the Once Bounce Mount

I love this name from the long established, reputable magazine, Practical Horseman. [2] This is the push, hop, bounce, or whatever you want to call that you do to help you get power and momentum.

After doing all of the above this is where you get on your horse. Once you have your horse standing quietly and your reins in order, put your left foot in the stirrup. 

Make sure when your foot is in the stirrup your toe points at the girth. You want to avoid poking your horse or accidentally signaling to him to move.

horse rider showing how to get on a horse without a mounting block.

Push down and bend your right knee and do one jump while at the same time pulling yourself up. Only do one good bounce or jump. It is the quickest, quietest, and most efficient. 

Multiple bounces won’t give you any more power and it will only annoy your horse.

Land Correctly

You don’t want to flop down on your horse. That only puts more strain on its back and is likely to upset him.

As your right leg is about halfway up, you should have enough traction to push down with your hands to lift your body and support it.

When you bring your right leg over the horse’s back place your right knee on the saddle first and grip with that. Then gently lower your seat into the saddle. Finally, put your right foot in the stirrup.

The experienced rider in this video shows you how to safely get on your horse from a mounting block and from the ground. She also shows you common mistakes you need to avoid.

Tips For Mounting a Horse From the Ground

In addition to the method I outlined above, there are some great tips that I’ve learned over the years that will make getting on a horse from the ground much easier. 

So check them out to make mounting a horse from the ground less frustrating.

1. Use Your Environment

Even though I’m reasonably tall, I have some stiffness from old horse riding injuries in my knees and back that make it hard for me to get on from the ground. 

When I used to take people on a trail ride, I had to dismount more than once on rides to open gates or help a rider. Doing this made me a pro at using things in my surrounding environment to get back on my horse.

I would often use one of the gates, which were steel and had 6 bars. You can also look for a rock to stand on or a bank. If you are in the forest you might see a fallen tree that you can stand on.

Another trick is to find a place where there is an incline and stand your horse lower than yourself. This means you won’t have to stretch as far.

If there’s a wooden fence or wall nearby, you can use those. 

2. Improve Your Fitness

The fitter and more flexible you are, the easier it is to get on your horse without a mounting block. Try to improve your fitness the best you can even if you can only start with basic exercises. Work on your flexibility. 

Things like yoga are great for this and something you can do even with old injuries that cause stiffness.

3. Practice At Home

Don’t leave attempting to get on your horse from the ground until you are stuck in the countryside and it becomes necessary.

When you practice you can start by using a helper to hold your horse and then try it on your own when you have improved.

Practice standing your horse next to different objects, such as buckets, stumps, gates or anything unusual that you might encounter out in the wild. 

This helps your horse be comfortable with you getting on using strange objects.

Follow the entire process I discussed above so you can do everything quickly and efficiently.

4. Learn How To Get a Leg Up

A leg up is a way many riders get on their horse when they don’t have a mounting block. You will often see this method at competitions.

To go this, you need a second person. You face your horse and bend your left knee, sticking your left foot behind you. Your helper holds you under the left knee and ankle and gives you a boost as you jump.

Learn how to get a leg up and give one, so you can help a fellow rider if necessary. Practice this so you master it and your horse gets used to it.

5. Teach Your Horse To Stand

To get on your horse from the ground it is really important that they know how to stand patiently. Otherwise, it can end up being a real pain in the you know what. I will talk more about teaching your horse to do this later.

lady getting on the horse

READ MORE: How to Approach a Horse Safely

What Side Do You Get On a Horse?

You always mount your horse from the left side. This is how all horses are trained and what they are most familiar with. 

This is a long tradition that goes back centuries to when men would carry swords. 

The majority of people would wield their sword with their right hand which meant that it was strapped to the left side of their body according to western history magazine True West. [3]

When mounting from the left the sword would not get in the way. This practice became so ingrained in horse training and riding that it is done all over the world the same way.

Why Can’t You Mount a Horse From the Right Side?

The main reason you can’t mount a horse from the right side today is that they are not trained for this. Horses like consistency and familiarity. 

As every horse is trained for left side mounting doing so from the right can confuse and even frighten them.

However, in my opinion, it is always a good idea to teach a horse to be comfortable with things from both sides. I always put a saddle on young horses from both sides.

This also includes throwing their blanket on from the right as well.

This can also apply to mounting from the right side. Take time to teach your horse to do this. It is no harm as you might find yourself needing to get back on and the easiest and safest way is from the right.

How To Teach Your Horse to Stand Still While You Mount?

One hole in the training of young horses that I see a lot, especially sports horses, is that they don’t stand properly while you mount.

This is most likely because during the early stages of training they are ridden by confident, experienced riders, who just get on and go.

However, I really don’t like this it is bad ground manners on part of the horse and creates a very real safety concern, and increases your risk of injury.

Every horse, even fit, athletic ones should stand while you get on and not move until you ask them.

First, make sure your horse is in the right frame of mind. Don’t try teaching this when they are fresh. 

As the International Federation for Equestrian (FEI) says – “don’t choose to work on this after they’ve had three days off and the wind is howling.” [4]

This is really a long step-by-step process with different methods that would take up their own article. But I will give you a quick summary of the training tips follow.

  • Start by getting your horse used to standing by the mounting block without attempting to get on
  • If your horse moves, refocus them by walking them in a circle and doing some simple groundwork exercises, and try again
  • When they stand at the block nicely give them a reward, such as a scratch or treat. Treats worked for one of mine.
  • When your horse is standing nicely, now try to get on.
  • If they stand while mounting give them a reward
  • Ask them to stand for a minute before moving
  • Let them walk off and around for a minute and repeat the process.
  • Don’t expect to succeed during one session

I really like Warwick Schiller’s approach and understanding of the horse. He is well respected and gets amazing results. Here are his tips for teaching your horse to stand while mounting.

FAQs

What else can I use as a mounting block?

You can use several items as a mounting block, such as a sturdy bucket, a step stool, a step ladder, or a milk crate with a board covering it.

How do you mount a horse when you’re short?

The best way to mount a horse when you’re short is to use a mounting block. However, if that’s not available, follow my guide and lengthen your stirrup and master the bounce.

Conclusion

As you can see, learning how to get on a horse without a mounting block is possible. It just takes a little practice and creativity.

Every rider needs to have this skill but it is not something you should do every ride. Learn how to do it, practice once in a while, and use a mounting block the rest of the time unless you have no other choice.

lady showing how to get on a horse without a mounting block

How about you, what are your techniques? Let us know below!

References 

  • 1. Geutjens CA, Clayton HM, Kaiser LJ. Forces and pressures beneath the saddle during mounting from the ground and from a raised mounting platform. The Veterinary Journal. 2008;175:332–7.
  • 2. Horseman E of P. Master the One-Bounce Mount from the Ground [Internet]. Practical Horseman. 2002 [cited 2022 Apr 22]. Available from: https://practicalhorsemanmag.com/training/eq1bounce291/
  • 3. Trimble M. Why do people mount horses from the left side? [Internet]. True West Magazine. 2016 [cited 2022 Apr 22]. Available from: https://truewestmagazine.com/why-do-people-mount-horses-from-the-left-side/
  • 4. How to Make Your Horse Stand Still While Mounting [Internet]. FEI.org. 2022 [cited 2022 Apr 22]. Available from: https://www.fei.org/stories/lifestyle/teach-me/how-make-your-horse-stand-still-while-mounting
Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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