Monday, July 22, 2013

An Unexpected Trial

 Part 1

I guess I take for granted the way my height aids my ability to reach the stirrup to mount. When I haven't ridden for a while, I have trouble reaching the stirrup and will usually use the picnic table seat or horse trailer fender to assist me. I tend to think of this need in terms of my age and how tall the horse is, not how short the rider so I didn't think in terms of what this short, heavy, young woman might need.

In my defense I would say I show against riders of all shapes and sizes. Rarely do I see people use mounting blocks. I am always amazed at the agility around me as I witness people putting their foot in the stirrup when the thing is hanging at their chest and I struggle to get on a horse from a bench or straw bale.

It's not that I don't know shorter people must reach a bigger percentage of their height to mount. It is more that I am used to seeing people do it so consistently and effortlessly that I took for granted that someone claiming she could deal with a green horse would be a person who could mount a horse like Percy with ease.

That is not, however, how it worked out. The horse stood quietly while the woman struggled to get her foot into the stirrup. I imagine part of the problem was she hadn't ridden in a while but her struggle appeared to be her weight.

With my oldest daughter being heavy I know the discomfort she has felt because of her weight. It has always saddened me to see "that look" cross her face so I have always tried to not be the cause of that pain in her or others.

Now with this woman I was embarrassed that I hadn't foreseen the need for a mounting block. I didn't mean to cause this woman discomfort but my oversight most certainly had. I could see it on her face and I wished I could take back the last couple of minutes. As it went, she had to ask for a mounting block before it actually dawned on me she couldn't get on the horse unless she had assistance.

I don't even own a mounting block. It is on my list of "someday hope to haves." I do have a couple of alternatives, a combination single step stool/storage container I use for clippers and a plastic milk crate. I sent the woman's daughter to the barn to retrieve the one she seemed to recognize as I described each item and its location.

The girl was so cute running off to the barn. Proud to be of use, she had beamed as she realized she knew the stool I was describing. The simple task changed her from bored and disinterested into a happy, willing participant in the afternoon's activities. My mistake may not have been helpful to the woman but it certainly affected the child in a positive way.

As she left for the barn, Percy studied the child intently as if he too had noticed the change in her demeanor. He locked onto her all the way to the barn and his gaze didn't falter while she was inside. He followed her all the way back to his side where she carefully placed the liitle step stool next to him.

Her mother tried to step onto the stool so she could again try to mount the horse but it was too close to the horse. The woman stepped down, picked up the stool by its handle, then dropped it where she thought it should be.

Percy had not worried about the stool when the child walked towards him with it or when it was carefully placed on the ground next to him but that thoughtless drop of the stool was more than the horse could take. As it hit the ground with a noisy clatter, the horse squirted sideways just like Rhythm had done.  The problem caused not by the unfamiliarity of the woman but by her carelessness.

As far as the horse was concerned, it was not the woman he feared but the green thing on the ground that had made all of that noise. He wanted nothing to do with that how. If this woman was going to ride this horse, he was going to need some schooling to get over this fear.

To be continued......

The Lesson.......More Unexpected Things


  1. I admit that I purposefully dropped the mounting block with a thud beside each horse I test drove while horse shopping. If the horse was going to spook over something like that, I wanted to know about it before I got into the saddle. The seller figured out what I was up to, so she forewarned me when a horse was not familiar with a mounting block. I went easier, and if the horse wasn't too concerned with it, I'd rock it a bit or stomp my feet on it to see if that brought out a reaction. The seller didn't take kindly to me desensitizing the horse and she yelled at me to stop farting around and just mount. She'd grip the lead rope with white knuckles while I mounted, even though I preferred that she stand back so I could see if the horse would walk off before cued to do so. Sometimes her reaction told me more about the horse than the horse did. If she seemed panicked by my gruff behavior, I knew the horse was too green for our purposes. But this lady did not advertise any of the horses as green. She claimed in her ads they were all perfect for any rider, including beginners. We drove all the way out to her place, and she suddenly changed her tune saying that none of the horses were appropriate for a beginner. A different situation from yours, but the mounting block incident in this post reminded me of it.

  2. Oh boy! not a good start, Funny she did not ask at the outset, I have been heavy all of my life and until a few years ago I could hop up on nearly any sized horse with no aids, funny I lost some , and some mobility with age and arthritis , and I now lighter do need a block. I just say so from the outset , no need to struggle or fight or yank on the horse

  3. It's always embarrassing to have difficulty getting on a horse. I was in a packing class a few years ago, and the instructor kept yelling at me because my technique was incorrect. He demonstrated a way to get into the saddle while putting very little weight on the stirrup. He made it look effortless, but the mechanics didn't make any sense to me. I wasn't heavy, or particularly out of shape, but I got more confused and flustered as he kept yelling and the other students watched from their lofty perches aboard their horses. Yep, it's never fun to struggle like that.

  4. I have ridden very tall horses for so long that I no longer think about getting on without a mounting block. I also do a lot of practicing, having my horse stand still next to a block, pretending to get on, fall off, etc, and I also drop the block next to them and even throw it under them.

  5. Some days are better than others, so I try to plan ahead if I'm going to need a mounting block, depending on the height of the horse and my own physical limitations. When dealing with green horses I always try to be proactive rather than reactive, and think ahead.

    This woman was TOLD the horse is green. She has no excuse to diss the horse!

  6. If she knew Percy was green there was no reason for her disruptive behavior with the mounting stool. I'm 5'5" and rode Erik who was 17-2 hands for years. I never could get on him from the ground the logistics didn't work. The only one I ever saw get on him from the ground was my daughter who is 5'10". I feel if you know you need a mounting block tell some one or bring something with you. I used to have a brush box with just enough leg height for me to get on with. I loved that box and someone stole it from me at the Hampton Classic. I was so mad.

  7. I don't *need* the block to get on. I use it to give the horse some relief from me bounding up mounting. It's not always a matter of body weight.

  8. I have a frozen shoulder. Can't pull myself up until it resolves. It's been a humbling experience.