Since this is an equestrian body positivity group, I figured I’d have my first real blog post be about this topic! I’d like to share a personal experience I had involving ground mounting:
Back when I was in college, I had an internship with a friendly couple who had a side business of breeding quarter horses. They had a cute little place with a small stable, arena and lots of pasture. I didn’t really have a set title for what I was doing, I was mostly just a stable hand. And then the day came where I was asked to ride a few horses. Please keep in mind, I had only been actually handling and riding horses for around 1 1/2 to 2 years at this point. I got into the horse industry later than most as I didn’t grow up in it. At this point I could walk, trot and could canter but I wouldn’t look pretty doing it.
Right before my first ride at this internship, I had asked if I could use something as a mounting block to get on. It had then become a rule that I am absolutely NOT allowed to mount a horse unless it’s from the ground. Their reasoning being that if I’m ever on a trail that there is not always going to be an object I could use to mount. It was at this point where it would become a routine for me to try and mount a horse from the ground for 30-45 minutes. If I remember right, there was only one day where I successfully mounted a horse from the ground. The rest of the days were a complete struggle.
One of the first few days where I struggled to mount the horse from the ground, I specifically remember being told that “there are lots of western riders bigger than you that mount from the ground”. I had never once thought that my weight was the problem with why I couldn’t mount from the ground. There were many factors as to why I had a harder time ground mounting. I believe the main one was the fact that I had NEVER mounted from the ground before! In college, they ALWAYS had us use a mounting block. And even when I told them that, they still continued to have me struggle to mount from the ground.
That one comment just ate at me for the longest time. I felt humiliated every single time I tried to ground mount after that. But after a few years, do you know what I gathered after having more experience in the industry?
1.) Ground mounting (extensively) is NOT good for your horse’s back! The fact that they had me continue to try and ground mount over and over was ridiculous. I didn’t realize how much of a problem this was until later when more research came out and I read studies regarding the subject.
2.) Using a mounting block versus mounting your horse from the ground does NOT determine your riding ability! You can be a good rider and use a mounting block! By the time I actually got on a horse after struggling to get on, I was so worn out and humiliated that it affected my ride overall.
3.) Plus-size people can ride horses and their weight doesn’t determine their riding ability. It was assumed that I was self-conscious about my weight when I didn’t even think about my weight until that comment was made.
4.) Words CAN hurt. And sometimes they can mentally scar people. I haven’t forgotten that day because it impacted me when I had my guard down. I struggle with anxiety and depression and once they said that to me, my thoughts just started snowballing to the point where I felt ashamed of myself.
5.) And lastly, I found it very interesting how different the Western and English worlds can be. One mounts their horses from the ground. The other very rarely ever mounts their horse without a mounting block. I think that the western world could definitely start adopting the use of a mounting block more frequently.
If you take away anything from reading this, have it be that everyone has their own ways of doing things and that a little kindness and compassion can go a long way. Don’t assume that a person’s size, whether that be tall, short, heavy-set, skinny, or somewhere in between, determines how they ride. YOU CAN BE A GREAT RIDER AND USE A MOUNTING BLOCK! :)