Mounting a horse (and leading a horse) on the left is standard procedure. Ever wonder why?

Mounting a horse: Why do we mount and lead horses on the left? Is this just because horse training has always done it this way? Tradition? Style? Habit?

Actually, it turns out that this time-honored way of mounting and leading horses has some science behind it.

Previous research has shown that a horse’s left eye is the 'rapid-reaction' eye: A frightening stimulus presented to a horse’s left eye will produce a stronger and faster flight reaction than if it presented to the right eye.

It turns out that this affects how horses react to handling as well. Researchers trained horses on a series of tasks. One group was trained predominantly on the left and another group was trained equally on either side. These tasks required them to interact with people in a variety of situations.

The researchers found that most horses, regardless of how they were handled, favored their left eye and wanted to keep people in their left line of vision. You may have noticed this when trying to longe your horse. Going left is fine, going right is spooky. Early horse trainers probably noticed this, and incorporated leading and mounting horses from the left as part of good horse training practice. July 2009 Animal Cognition

Copyright Denise Cummins, PhD

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