The other week, after a young client asked for what must be the one thousandth time, which side she should get off, I decided it needed explaining.
She knows perfectly well which side to dismount, because she can correctly tell me which side she got on, and which is the near side. She just forgets to switch her brain on. To keep things straightforward for little people, I explain that we lead the horse from the left, and we put the bridle and headcollar on from the left, so we mount and dismount from the left too.
Then her Mum piped up, “Why do we mount from the left?”
Fortunately, I had looked it up previously when I was asked before.
If you take a trip back into the olden days, you will see knights in shining armour riding horses. Now most people are right handed, so use the sword with their right hand. Which means that the sword needs to sit over their left hip. Now imagine you have a long bar of metal being over your left leg and try mounting the horse from the right. It`s nigh on impossible because you would have to be exceedingly flexible at the hips to be able to swing your leg that high. As well as having a bombproof horse who is not going to spook should the sword thump onto his back. So this is why we mount on the left.
Researching further, I found that the Ancient Greeks mounted from the left, or vaulted from the left, as they hadn`t invented stirrups, as their spears were stored on their left side.
So why do we still mount from the left? Research has shown that mounting puts pressure on the horses back and can cause crookedness. There are two reasons. Tradition – both horses and humans are creatures of habit. The horse is a prey animal, so has predominantly monocular vision, which means that they may accept something on one side of them, but not the other. For example, you know that horse which walks quietly past the dustbin on the right, but spooks when it is on their left. So we train horses to accept mounting from the left and those which are docile when being mounted traditionally could behave unpredictably when mounted from the off side. Can you imagine if there were no rules when training horses, and you went to mount an unfamiliar horse, and mounted from the wrong side?
Of course we should train horses to be mounted from both sides in case our situation requires mounting from the off side…