A mounting block, horse block, or in Scots a loupin'-on-stane is an assistance for mounting and dismounting a horse or cart, especially for the young, elderly or infirm. They were especially useful for women riding sidesaddle, allowing a horse to be mounted without a loss of modesty. They were frequently located outside churches or kirks for the use of parishioners attending services, etc. In Yorkshire some were built at the top of steep lanes, where the rider would remount after leading his horse up the slope.
Mounting blocks today are primarily used by modern equestrians who are a) beginners b) people who have difficulty mounting (either a tall horse, a short person, or someone with some mobility impairments) and c) people who feel that use of a mounting block reduces strain on the spine of the horse, particularly at the withers. Modern mounting blocks are usually made of wood or of molded plastic.
Mounting blocks were usually made from stone or wood and prior to the era of the motor car they were very common. Some have three or more steps leading up to a platform which gave extra height and therefore easier access to the saddle and less chance of falling when dismounting. A few had a wall or some other support to one side of the steps, as at Saint Boswells. Some were built as memorials and bear inscriptions. They were built with bricks, ashlar and even occasionally from a single stone block, whilst an example at Shewalton Mill in North Ayrshire is a glacial erratic boulder located in the mill yard.
Using a mounting block
A horse is best mounted using a mounting block because it is easier for the rider to mount the horse, it puts less strain on the stirrup leathers when mounting and it decreases the chances of the saddle slipping to one side when mounting, thereby reducing the chances of a fall and possible injury to the rider. A horse or pony is most frequently mounted from the "near" side, that is the horse's left side.
Decline in use of mounting blocks
Mounting blocks were a common feature up until the late 18th-century. They are still used at equestrian centres, but are no longer a common feature of inns, churches, farms, country houses, etc. in the United Kingdom, where they were once almost an obligatory feature.
The generally poor condition of roads up until the late 17th-century in Scotland for example, meant that most passenger transport by horse was literally on horseback. For instance, wheeled vehicles were practically unknown to farmers in Ayrshire until the end of the 17th century, and prior to this sledges were used to haul loads as wheeled vehicles were useless. The roads had been mere tracks and such bridges as there were could only take pedestrians, men on horseback or pack-animals. The first recorded wheeled vehicles to be used in Ayrshire were carts offered gratis to labourers working on Riccarton Bridge, Kilmarnock, in 1726.
Once wheeled vehicles became commonplace the need for horse mounting blocks would have greatly decreased, thus mounting block as a permanent fixture went out with changing times. You didn't need one for getting into carriages, and thus as roads got better and fewer people rode, the need decreased. With the invention of the automobile, the need for the public mounting block vanished and they now are used exclusively by equestrians or retained as historic features at old inns, kirks, etc.
A Loupin' on stane poem
Tam o' Crumstan
"A loupin' on stane is a very good thing,
Standing stones, stone rows, etc.
At Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway, the remains of a 'stone avenue' are known as the Loupin' Stanes due to the similarity with said structures. The Wolfcleuchhead, 'Loupin' Stone', Mounting Steps or Mounting Block is in the parish of Roberton, Scottish Borders. This stone bears two carved heads and lettering; on the other the name 'Wolfcleuchead'. These names have arisen either from the appearance or the actual re-use of these stones.
Examples and sites of mounting blocks
- In Aberlady, East Lothian there was a Loupin' on stane with six steps. It figures in a 1935 photograph in the Valentine collection held by the St. Andrew's Photographic Archive.
- The kirk of Saint Dodins (NT 2832 7261) at Duddingston in Edinburgh still has its Loupin-an-stane.
- East Kilbride in Lanarkshire has an ancient Coaching Inn which is still in use today. Outside the inn is the "Loupin' on Stane", used by coast passenger and horse riders to assist in mounting and dismounting.
- At the front of Rowallan Castle in Ayrshire stood a perfect example of an old loupin-on-stane.
- In front of Jedburgh's Bank of Scotland branch, in the grounds, is the "Loupin' - on - stane". At one time, this was the house of one of Sir Walter Scott’s friends, Sheriff Shortreed.
- In the yard at the old Shewalton Mill on the River Irvine in North Ayrshire is a glacial erratic boulder that was retained as a useful loupin on stane.
- Outside the Old Person's Cabin in the main street of Kilmaurs in East Ayrshire is a large sandstone block which was a horse-block or Loupin'-on-stane. This large sandstone block also has a concavity in its upper surface which is reminiscent of the 'plague stones' which would be filled with vinegar into which money could be placed either as gifts to the church or as gifts to the sick. It has possibly been reused, however no local traditions survive concerning it. An example of a plague stone used by lepers survives at Greystoke village church in Cumbria.
- Outside the Cellars Inn at the seaside village of Maidens in South Ayrshire were a set of Loupin stanes which are said to have been used by Robbie Burns.
- Oxnam in the Scottish Borders has a loupin stane outside the kirk.
- On the shores of Loch Lomond, this old priory is the scene of a curse, for after the Battle of Culloden in 1746, where Bonnie Prince Charlie had his Jacobite uprising quashed, the Marquess of Tullibardine fled for his life. He came to Ross Priory and asked James Buchanan, 5th of Ross, for a safe house. James however secretly sent word to Dumbarton Castle and King George’s soldiers duly arrived and took him away as a prisoner. The Marquess called to Buchanan with a curse There will be Murrays on the Braes of Atholl land when there’s ne’er a Buchanan at the Ross. In fulfilment of that curse, all three sons of that marriage died before their father- the last of them breaking his neck at the “loupin’ stane” at the front door.
- The old village of Rossie in what is now Perth and Kinross, was demolished by the 7th Earl of Kinnaird about 1795 when constructing a park for Rossie Priory. All that remains are the parish church, a fine market cross which stood in the centre of the village and a stone called the 'Loupin-on Stane' at Map reference: NO 2921 3072. The Loupin-on stane formerly stood by the village inn door.
- At Mertoun Kirk, beside the driveway up to the church, is a red sandstone loupin an stane with a set of steps up the back allowing the rider to come forward some 4 feet above ground level. Unusually it has a side wall, acting as a 'hand rail', to help the person mounting.
- A Welsh example of a mounting block at Tanylan near Ferryside in Carmarthenshire has a set of steps leading up to a platform with the gable end of the house on the persons right-hand side. It stands on two short wall supports and the space below was used as a dog kennel.
- An English example of a mounting block stands outside a former public house on Welsh Row in Nantwich, Cheshire. It has four steps cut from a single stone block and probably dates from the 17th or 18th centuries.
- The Treaty Stone in Limerick, Ireland originally served as a mounting block for horses.
- In Minnigaff, Dumfries & Galloway, a louping-on is illustrated by MacGibbon & Ross as standing next to a market cross which bore a sun-dial.
- At Walton-on-the-Hill in Lancashire the old church font was set up as a mounting stone outside the nearby public house.
- At Chollerton in Northumberland a fine example stands by the churchyard gate.
- At Nevern church in Wales the church of Saint Brynach has a wall based mounting wall.
- Tam O'Crustan
- Book of the British Countryside. Pub. London : Drive Publications, (1973). p. 302.
- Loupin-on stane
- Mertoun Kirk.
- Mounting a horse or pony from a mounting block.
- Strawhorn, John and Boyd, William (1951). The Third Statistical Account of Scotland. Ayrshire. Pub.
- The History of East Kilbride
- RCAHMS Database
- The Youth's magazine, or Evangelical miscellany, pub. 1863, page 87, accessed 21 October 2007
- Eskdalemuir loupin stone
- Loupin' on stane
- Chalmers, Francis Edit. (1903), Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland. Pub. The Caxton Pub. Co., London. Vol.2. P. 931.
- Town Trail
- Ross Priory.
- Rosie village
- Images of England: Mounting block at right hand of numbers 26-30 (even), Welsh Row (accessed 21 October 2007)
- "an irregular rough hewn block of limestone which once served as a mounting block for horses." The Treaty Stone — National Inventory of Architectural Heritage website, accessed 23 October 2007
- MacGibbon, T. and Ross, D. (1887-92). The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries, 5v, Edinburgh, Vol. 3, P. 502.
- Westwood, Jennifer (1985), Albion. A Guide to Legendary Britain. London: Grafton Books. ISBN 0-246-11789-3. p. 241.
- Nevern. Accessed : 2010-04-01.
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