Correct mounting for a healthy back

By Sue Palmer

Riding advice

06 June 2012 15:30

Mounting puts an enormous amount of pressure on your horse’s back, so to help you save it from strain and pain, chartered veterinary physiotherapist Sue Palmer has this advice:

1. Have a correct fitting saddle that doesn’t slip as you mount, and ask someone to hold the opposite stirrup The saddle is there to spread the rider’s weight evenly over as large a surface area as possible. If the saddle is fitted incorrectly, all of your weight will be focused over a smaller area when you mount and dismount, which can lead to pain for your horse. Having someone hold the opposite stirrup also works towards this goal of spreading
the weight evenly as you mount.

2. Use a safe mounting block or get a leg up If possible, always use a mounting block so you put less strain through your horse’s back as you mount. It’s essential your mounting block is solid and secure, so you can mount in a controlled fashion. Don’t use anything you or your horse can
put a foot through such as buckets, crates, plastic chairs etc – it could prove dangerous.

3. Ensure your horse stands still and square for you to mount, and only walks on once asked to do so A horse who moves off as his rider mounts is an accident waiting to happen. He may be frightened and spook while you’re off balance, while you’re also less able to control where you land in the saddle, which could potentially damage his back. Teach your horse to have the manners to stand still and square as you mount. That way he can distribute his weight evenly and take the strain through his back as you lower yourself into the saddle.

4. Mount from both sides, with suitable length stirrups Because we always mount from the near side, we are putting strain on that side every time we get on, which could cause stiffness and pain for your horse. Train yourself to mount from both sides, and then alternate which side you get on from. This helps even out the strain on your horse’s back (and on your saddle and stirrup leathers).

5. Land gently in the saddle It’s so important to land smoothly, gently, lightly and softly in the saddle. This is not about your weight but about your balance, and ability to control your body.  Landing gently gives your horse’s muscles time to adjust to carrying the extra weight, and for those muscles to engage appropriately rather than as a reflex reaction. This protects the joints and ligaments of his spine and helps your horse to maintain a healthy back.

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