Why do people mount horses from the left side?

Michael C. Westlund
Clarkdale, Arizona

The custom dates at least to Medieval times. Most warriors were right-handed; they carried their weapons on the left side so they could more easily pull the sword from the scabbard. They mounted from the near or left side so the sword would not get in the way.
Horses, like people, are creatures of habit, and the tradition continued on into modern times.
One notable exception is seen in rodeo. Since calf ropers compete against the clock, they mount and dismount from the right side, enabling them to get to the calf and make their tie faster.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian, board president of the Arizona Historical Society and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015.

If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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