2019 Walkabout TourBuckeye, AZ
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When you’re ready to mount your horse for the first few times outside the arena, play it safe by flexing his head halfway around to his side. This is a safety precaution so that if the horse takes off or bucks, you’ve already got his head bent around so the worst thing he can do is move in a tight circle. With the same hand you’re flexing with, grab some mane to give yourself something solid to hang onto as you step up in the saddle. Always step up (and step down) from the horse’s shoulder, especially with a reactive horse, in case he gets frightened and tries to kick you. Even if your horse is docile, this is just a good practice to follow for your safety.
You could let your horse look straight ahead and keep him on a big, loose rein as you got in the saddle. Imagine what would happen if, as you were throwing your leg over the saddle, a deer came bounding out of the trees. At that moment, you’re in a very vulnerable position, and if your horse’s head isn’t flexed to the side, he can take off and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Even though you have no issues while mounting the horse in the arena, since you’ve got him in a new environment and he’s probably a little nervous, always practice safety first. You don’t need to bend his head around every time you mount him, but I would recommend doing it the first few training sessions you do with him outside the arena. If you always assume your horse is going to react and do something silly, you’ll stay safe. But the moment you let your guard down and assume he’s quiet, I guarantee you’ll get hurt.