It might make you feel good to be able to pull yourself up into the saddle from the ground, but it probably doesn’t feel so good to your horse. When you drag your weight up in the saddle, you pull down on your horse’s withers and put uneven pressure on either side of his spine. While a couple of mountings from the ground aren’t going to injure a horse, constantly dragging your weight up will eventually take its toll.
Using a mounting block can help keep your horse’s back healthy. So if you aren’t able to spring lightly into the saddle with a ”leg up” maybe it’s time to consider your horse and get a mounting block.
We climbed up and down — and carried around — different shapes and sizes of mounting blocks to see what works and what could work better. During our trials we found there are some things you should know to help you choose one that might work best for you.
Two step vs. three step. The main thing to consider when shopping for a mounting block is whether it’s just for you, or it’s going to be used by many people with different-size horses in a boarding barn situation. If it’s only for you, then consider whether you always ride in a saddle or if you sometimes enjoy jumping on bareback.
The mounting blocks we tried came in two styles: two steps or three steps. For the average-size person mounting an average-size size horse a two-step mounting block is usually enough. But for a short person with a tall horse, or for use in a barn where different people and their different-size horses share a mounting block, a three-step would probably be more useful. If you sometimes like to take a spin bareback, we found the extra height of a three-step made it way easier to get on.
Stability. The first things we looked for were how steady the block was when we climbed it and how secure we felt standing on the top step. Not a huge issue on the smaller, two-step blocks, but it is when you’re teetering up there on top of a three-step, especially if you’re trying to mount a green horse. While testing both sizes, we found ourselves saying that this block or that one felt unstable when it was sometimes a lump of dirt under it. So before stepping onto any mounting block, be sure it’s sitting level. The two-step mounting blocks we tried all felt fairly secure because they were lower to the ground. But wider was better and we still wanted a deep, wide top step to stand on.
Both the little Burlingham and Sportote two-steps were pretty stable, but the Horsemen’s Pride and Behlen Country’s Horseman’s Choice two-step blocks were wider and even more so. The Behlen Country block was even steady on uneven ground because it had an extra, one-inch-wide flange around the bottom. That, plus the deep, cleat-like treads on the steps gave us very secure footing in all kinds of weather.
For the taller three-step blocks, we found the width and depth of the steps, plus a wide base, were even more important. The wide, deep steps of the Horsemen’s Pride three-step made it surprisingly steady for a tall mounting block. While the Sportote three-step was stable, we felt a little shaky climbing up its small, narrow steps.
Storage compartments. Some of the mounting blocks had storage compartments built in. Sounded nice, but we didn’t find ourselves using them much and didn’t consider having one, or not having one, a deal breaker. The compartments were handy for holding extra treats, and maybe a camera, during an arena session, but we didn’t think they were suitable for long-term storage as the compartments might leak. The High Country Plastics two-step had a big, open storage bin underneath. The neat storage compartment under the top step of the Sportote three-step didn’t take on any water during several good downpours while we used it, so if you like the idea of a place to stash stuff while you ride, this is an attractive choice. While we liked this mounting block a lot for its height and good looks, the small, narrow steps made it more suitable for barns were a lot of children would be using it.
Dismounting danger. While it’s possible to dismount onto a mounting block, we don’t recommend it. We found the step to be too small a target and the risk of the horse moving and you missing it and stumbling down could create a scary situation. It’s better to practice dismounting directly to the ground by bringing your right leg over, kicking the left foot out of the stirrup and dropping directly to the ground. That way you also save your horse another torque to his withers while dismounting.
Bottom Line. Three-step: While the classy, good looks of the Sportote Big Step would add to any barn, and the locking storage compartment was cool, the narrow steps were a little small for adult feet. The Horsemen’s Pride three-step was not as fancy, but the safely-rounded corners and the wide, deep steps made it our first choice for a three-step model.
Two-step: All of the two-step mounting blocks we had performed well. If you’re going to be carrying it around a lot or putting it in the trailer to take along to shows or trail rides, both the Burlingham and the Sportote two-steps are ideal; small, lightweight, good carrying handles and secure safety treads. If you don’t need much height, the Horsemen’s Pride two-step had softer, safer corners and wider, deeper steps. If you need a big reach, the High Country Plastics two-step was amazingly tall, nearly as tall as the three-step blocks we had. And it was the only two-step with storage space underneath. But for its stable design and deep, safe, non-slip treads, the Horseman’s Choice from Behlen Country was our first choice, too.
Because it was nearly as tall as the more expensive three-step mounting blocks, and had the underneath storage, the two-step mounting block from High Country Plastics was our Best Buy.