By John Fisher of The Home Ranch, Granby, CO
Let’s not beat around the bush. Why do you stand up in the saddle when your horse is urinating? Although this question may sound humorous, what is probably more humorous is that I have developed an obsession with this question
I operate a guest ranch in Colorado, so already my sanity comes into question.
It all started about 10 years ago. We had a new wrangler in from Virginia. This woman had an incredible resume with numerous credentials in the horse industry. She was giving instruction to a group when one of the horses started urinating. “Stand up! Stand up!” she cried. The befuddled guest remained motionless. “Stand up in the stirrups when your horse is urinating!” she demanded. The poor guest hadn’t noticed that the horse had changed positions and was now urinating. Myself, having never heard of such a thing stood helpless in amazement. This was something big! Shame on me. I had been riding horses for years and I never once stood up while a horse was urinating. Think of all the pain I personally inflicted on all of those horses! I discussed this new concept with this wrangler later that day. She explained to me in very technical terms about why it made sense to get off the horse’s kidneys and many other anatomical functions that went along with it. Those credentials of hers were impressive, and gosh I had learned everything I know from country hicks.
My mind is always seeking answers, and apparently those credentials never quite impressed me to the point that they fully convinced me. Recently, while attending a horsemanship clinic with a horseman that I like and respect, a horse started urinating, the woman stood up in the saddle, and he pointed out that standing in the stirrups was a good habit to develop. “That’s what riding a horse is all about – developing good habits.”
Why do you stand in the stirrups? The question burned inside of me. I couldn’t ask the question in front of all these people. They paid good money to ride in this clinic, I couldn’t waste their time and money with my silly question. Ten minutes went by, my stomach was churning, we were going over the importance of impulsion when my hand went up.
“Marty, I’m really sorry but this has been bugging me and I can’t stand it anymore. I’ve got a question.”
“Go ahead John.”
“Well you see, everything that you have said today makes sense to me. Pay attention to the horse – he tells you a lot, etc… Why do you stand in the stirrups when a horse urinates?” (Some laughter from the crowd) “No, I’m serious. Has a horse said ‘man that feels good’ or has anyone done any research that proves that we should do this?”
Marty’s reply – It just makes sense, you get off the horse’s kidneys.
Now for the kicker. Well, I had to admit that I’ve done some experiments on myself with tightening my belt and placing it over my kidneys and other unmentionable things. Frankly, I found no difference. I still did not have an explanation that was satisfactory for me.
Well, it is now two months later, and I’ve done considerable research trying to find an answer to my question. I’m not convinced. All of the horse gurus have done a wonderful job improving the lives of horses and riders the world over and have been able to explain to me all sorts of mysteries regarding the mind of the horse, but I still don’t have a good answer to my question.
I would like to offer another theory on horses urinating. I think that they would prefer us to sit right where we are during urination. If you’ve ever noticed, a horse almost goes through a ritual to get ready for urination - this is true whether we’re on his back or not. Male or female, they get prepared and get balanced before the moment. I’m not suggesting that folks go to the lengths that I do, but imagine yourself, male or female, without the aid of a toilet, wearing a 20-pound backpack getting prepared to urinate. Then the backpack makes a major move on your back. It would be rather uncomfortable to now proceed, but you must.
The act of urination has nothing to do with the kidneys. The kidneys are involved in the process of making urine, but it is the bladder that is relieved during urination.
This may seem rather trivial, but so much of the horsemanship that I learned was because so and so said this, or does this. With the progression of good horsemanship, I would like proof that we should stand in the stirrups. I’m waiting.