Mounting: Left vs. Right

While we’re on the topic of mounting (see previous post) here’s a few more thoughts!

Why we mount from the left

It comes from riding horses in the military. Xonophon (350 BC) explains how to mount from the left while holding your spear. Later, cavalry officers wore the sword on the left so they could draw it with their right hand, making it safer to swing their right leg over the horse (since the left one had a sword hanging by it – for pics to understand see here). Today we still mount from the left due to tradition, and for efficiency since most of the buckles you want to check right before mounting are on the left (throatlatch, girth, halter if you keep it on, etc). (I hear from this tradition comes the kickstand on bicycles and motorcycles being on the left, but that’s beside the point).

Reasons to continue mounting from the left:

  • Consistency for the horses (they know what’s coming, routine is calming)
  • Horse is not trained to mount from both sides (better fix that)
  • Mounting block/ramp/lift is built to be used only for mounting from the left

Reasons to mount from the right:

  • The rider physically cannot mount from the left and needs to mount from the right as an adaptation
  • There is no other option (you fell off your horse on a narrow trail with a cliff on his left and incline on his right and no way to turn around and you would rather ride than walk) (or you fell off and sprained your left ankle)

Reasons to alternate which side your riders mount from:

  • Prevents sore backs (mounting from one side makes the horse’s muscles one sided from bracing always the same way)
  • Helps the horse stay better balanced (mounting from one side makes the horse’s muscle one sided causing muscular imbalance; but note that horses new to being mounted on the right side may need some time to learn how to keep their balance)
  • Changes up the lesson for the horse a little (combats boredom)
  • Prepares the horse for riders who can only mount from the right
  • Teaches the rider balance and coordination on both sides of their body

That last reason caught my attention. As we discussed last week, a rider may learn to mount from the block or ground, but to save our horses’ backs we go back to using the ramp/lift. In this case I think a nice next step in progression is to teach them to mount from the other side. It’s a good skill to know in case you are in a situation where you can only mount from the right side.

For some additional fun, here’s a great article from Strides a few years ago by Lisa Wysocky called “A Therapeutic Riding Lesson From the Horse’s Point of view”  that explains the mount from the horse’s perspective really well!

Do you mount any of your riders from the right side? Is it for an adaptation, or benefit of the horse?


Action, Lynn. “Why Do We Mount from the Left Side?” CHA Featured Article.


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!


2 thoughts on “Mounting: Left vs. Right

  1. I just love your article and actually did know the reason for mounting from the left. When I am asked why we mount from the left I tell them the story, BUT I always follow with “But the horses has never read the history books so the real reason is the tack manufactures put all our buckles on the left. But it really doesn’t matter and a horse should be able to be mounted from either side!” I always get a giggle from my student’s parents, Who by the way are usually the ones asking. I think we will have a right side mounting week. I know I feel awkward and weak getting on from the right!

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