So you have saddled and bridled your horse and it is time to mount. We typically mount from the horses left side, placing our left foot and weight in the stirrup and swinging our right leg over the horse.
At our local fair and driving competition we have a costume class. I swung a young rider up on Indigo's back from her right side as I always practice what I preach and mount from both sides of the horse. A bystander and self proclaimed "horse expert" scoffed at me and spoke up finally after he had been watching me frantically unharness and put a saddle, bridle and costume on Indigo in silence a few feet away. He crossed his arms and smugly stated "young lady, you should not teach kids how to mount from the wrong side of the horse". I laughed and asked him if he really knew why we typically mount the horse from the left side. Of course he said he had no clue.
So why do we only mount from one side of the horse? Surely most people being right handed/sided it would be easier to learn to mount from the right side. Most people who have never mounted before do find mounting from the right easier for their first time but it's like back in the days of making lefties into right handed writers; we just mount from the left so we learn to adjust.
Well the reason we mount on the left actually has a lot to do with right handed people. Right handed people would have carried their sheathed sword on their left side in order to reach over and draw quickly in the face of an opponent. If the rider mounted from the right side of the horse, the sword on the left side would interfere or even injure the horse as the rider mounted. Thus we mount from the left side and centuries later we have not broken this silly tradition.
Think about this:
How many of you carry a sword when you ride and are a right handed swordsman?
How many of you almost always mount from the horses left side? (Of course if you have some sort of serious injury or disability that prevents you from mounting from the right side ever. This can be excusable)
How many of you almost always dismount from the horses left side?
How many of you use a mounting block (or rock or fence or truck tailgate etc.) regularly?
If you answered yes to the first one good for you, continue to mount from the horses left side when you have your sword. I applaud you for keeping tradition.
If you answered yes to the second and third one and do not carry a sword, or have some sort of disability/injury, shame, shame. From doing equine massage therapy I can attest to the fact that uneven muscle development and scar tissie is created from mounting only one side. This can range from a horse being "one sided" on circles to uneven saddle fit, improper saddle fit, unsoundness, girthyness and even behavioral issues like walking off when being mounted, rearing and bucking.
Think about it this way, if you only worked your horse on the left rein, only doing left handed circles and left handed turns wouldn't your horse be significantly one sided? Especially after months of work on the left side and asking the horse to be balanced strait or to the right.
Practice mounting and dismounting from both sides.
If you answered yes to the last one, congratulations, especially if you answered yes to question two and three. In studies done with thermal cameras the stress is diminished significantly when the horse is mounted from a raised platform rather than the ground. Of course sometimes there are not mounting blocks available.
Now don't get me wrong. Once you have mounted from the horses left side all your life mounting from the right can be a challenge but most horses will appreciate the effort to heave yourself up from both sides, rather than just one.
When I first tried to mount from the right side I do believe I kicked my horse in the butt and ended up nearly doing the splits as my horse did the same; split.
So thinking about mounting and dismounting I mount from both sides. Like I stated before, most riders find mounting on the right easier the first time if given a choice. I like to mount on one side and dismount on the other. Like Clinton Anderson says "when you have one horse you actually have two" Meaning what you do on one side you need to do on the other. Sure your horse might bug his eyes out and go "WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING OVER THERE!?!" a lot just won't care and the different lot who like to walk off as you are mounting might just stand still.
Just like how bits were created when Genghis Khan, the ruthless ruler reined over thousands and the world was believed to be flat, not round we have yet another practice that seems outdated to our times.
So what side do you mount on and why? I think I can bet that it was "just how you learned". Has anyone put much thought into this as I have? Have you switched mounting sides? I want to hear how you get up on your high horse.
(Images credit to their respective owners)