Have you ever pondered why riders always mount a horse on the left side? Riding a horse is an exciting and difficult activity. This seemingly simple action has a long history and various reasons behind it, from practicality to superstition. In this piece, we’ll examine the various justifications for mounting a horse from the left side as well as the origins and cultural import of this custom.
History of Horseback Riding
Horseback riding has been a part of human existence for thousands of years. Since they were domesticated in around 4000 BC, horses have been used for sport, agriculture, combat, and transportation. The first saddles were created in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and evolved into the modern-day English and Western saddles that we use today.
In the early days of horse riding, people did not use stirrups. So they had to mount their horses from the ground. As time passed, stirrups were invented, making it easier and safer for riders to mount their horses. However, the question remains: why do riders mount a horse on the left side?
Why Mount a Horse on the Left Side?
The ability to control the reins with the right hand while using the left foot to push off the ground and swing the right leg over the horse’s back is one of the primary practical benefits of mounting a horse on the left side. This way, they can mount the horse smoothly and safely without losing control of the reins.
Another reason why riders mount on the left side is because it’s easier for them to mount and dismount from a horse on that side. This is because horses are trained to stand still while mounted from the left side, and riders are trained to climb from that side. The horse might become agitated and move around if a rider attempted to ascend from the right side. It make challenging for the rider to get on.
Cultural and Historical Reasons
Mounting a horse on the left side has a long history in many cultures worldwide. The ability to draw their swords with their right hand while still holding the reins with their left enabled soldiers to mount their horses on the left side in antiquity. It gave them an advantage in battle and became standard practice in many armies.
In Western cultures, mounting a horse on the left side dates back to the medieval era. Knights would mount their horses on the left side because it allowed them to keep their sword arms free and ready for battle. As horseback riding became more popular among civilians, this tradition was passed down and became standard practice in the horse riding world.
Superstition and Beliefs
Mounting a horse on the left side also has some associated superstitions and beliefs. In many cultures, the left side is considered lucky or more auspicious than the right. This belief is based on the idea that the left represents the heart, while the right means the mind. Therefore, mounting a horse on the left side is believed to bring good luck and success.
Some cultures believe that mounting a horse on the right side brings bad luck because it is associated with death. This belief stems from the notion that the left side is connected to life. While the right side is connected to death. As a result, mounting a horse on the right side was avoided, and considered a bad omen.
Mounting a Horse Correctly
Now that we know why riders mount a horse on the left side let’s talk about how to do it correctly. The stages are as follows:
- Take the reins with your left hand as you approach the horse from the left.
- Stand facing the horse’s shoulder and hold the reins with your left hand, keeping a firm grip.
- Place your left foot in the stirrup and push off the ground, lifting yourself onto the horse’s back.
- Swing your right leg over the horse’s back and sit in the saddle.
- Adjust your stirrups and reins, ensuring they are at the correct length and tension.
It’s important to mount a horse safely and correctly to avoid injury to yourself or the horse. Always ensure the horse is calm and standing still before climbing, and never pull on the reins or use excessive force.
Comparing Mounting on the Left Side to Other Mounting Styles
While mounting a horse on the left side is the most common and traditional method. Riders may use other mounting styles depending on their preference or circumstances. One alternative approach is mounting from the right side, sometimes used in polo and other sports where riders need to mount quickly from either side.
Another mounting style is the “leg-up” method, where another person lifts a rider onto the horse. This method is often used in vaulting, where the rider performs gymnastic maneuvers on horseback.
Mounting from a high platform or crane is another option, which can be useful for riders with mobility issues or disabilities. This method is commonly used in para-equestrian events.
Each mounting style has advantages and disadvantages, and riders should choose the best method for them and their specific situation. However, mounting on the left side remains the most popular and widely accepted method. It’s also considered as the safest and most efficient way to mount a horse. Regardless of the method chosen, it’s important for riders to approach their horse calmly and confidently and to ensure that the horse is properly trained and prepared for mounting.
Differences in Mounting a Horse for English and Western Riding Styles
How a rider mounts a horse can differ depending on the riding style. In English riding, the rider typically uses a stirrup to mount the horse from a mounting block on the left side. The rider then swings their right leg over the horse’s back and sits in the saddle, with their legs positioned more forward and their weight centered over the horse’s withers.
In Western riding, the rider mounts from the ground on the left side. By using a stirrup and a short and wide horn on the saddle to help pull themselves up. Once mounted, the rider sits deeper in the saddle with their legs positioned more under their body. Allowing them to maintain balance during maneuvers such as turns and stops.
The differences in mounting styles between English and Western riding are rooted in the history and evolution of each discipline. English riding originated from the military, where riders needed to mount and dismount quickly and efficiently. On the other hand, Western riding evolved from the working American West cowboys, who needed to mount and dismount from their horses soon while out on the range.
While the differences in mounting styles may seem minor, they can significantly impact a rider’s performance and comfort. Riders must be familiar with both mounting types and choose the one that best suits their riding style and the specific situation.
Mounting a horse on the left side has a long history and various reasons behind it, from practicality to superstition. People mount on the left side for better control over the reins, for historical and cultural reasons, and due to superstitions and beliefs. Following the correct steps when mounting a horse is important to ensure safety and prevent accidents.
It is not advisable to mount a horse from the right side as it could be risky and could make the horse uneasy and shift around.
Riders hold the reins with their right hand because it allows them to use their dominant hand to control the horse’s movements and make precise adjustments.
Using a stirrup is unnecessary, making mounting a horse easier and safer. Without a stirrup, riders would have to jump onto the horse’s back, which can be difficult and dangerous.
A calm horse will stand still and allow you to approach and touch it without moving away or showing signs of nervousness, such as swishing its tail or flattening its ears.
Adjusting the stirrups and reins ensures they are at the correct length and tension for your riding comfort and safety. Improperly adjusted stirrups and reins can cause discomfort, pain, or accidents while riding.