On the trail, it's safer if your horse will stand still for mounting. (For how to teach your horse this lesson, see Julie Goodnight's "Mount Up!" Natural Horsemanship, The Trail Rider, March '09.) As part of that lesson, you'll longe your horse to make him work if he takes an errant step. To ready your horse for longeing, you'll secure the reins so he won't trip.
"Tie split reins in a knot around the horn," Goodnight says. "Pull the end of single-loop rope reins through under the pommel, up through the gullet and up and over the horn (shown). You can also loop the reins around the horn, twist them a few times under your horse's neck, then run the throatlatch through one rein to hold the twists in place."
Also, hold the longe line safely. "Neatly coil the slack in small- to medium-size loops, so the longe line is easy to use and so you don't trip," says Goodnight. "And don't wrap the line around your hand; if your horse applies pressure to the line, he'll take out the slack and injure you. Worse, if you hand becomes stuck in the wraps, he can drag you, risking injury and even death."
As you send your horse out onto a circle, play out the line carefully, keeping your hand free from tangles. As you approach to mount, hold the loops in your left hand. Also grab some mane with your left hand, so you're holding the loops and the mane, as you'd normally hold the reins and mane as you mount.
Julie Goodnight (www.juliegoodnight.com) lives in central Colorado, home to miles of scenic trails. She trains horses and coaches horse owners to be ready for any event, on the trail or in the performance arena. She shares her easy-to-understand lessons on her weekly RFD-TV show, Horse Master, and through appearances at clinics and horse expos held throughout the United States. She's also the international spokesperson for the Certified Horsemanship Association (www.cha-ahse.org).
Heidi Nyland (www.wholepicture.org) is a lifelong horsewoman, equine journalist, and photographer based in Longmont, Colorado.