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The Emergency Dismount

By: Galadriel Billington

10:29AM Apr 8, 2004

If you ride for long enough, you are going to have a fall. It happens to everyone, eventually. A fall doesn't have to be scary or dangerous, but when you ride you are relying on your balance to keep you astride, as well as the balance of the horse under you. You may be jolted out of your seat by a few rough strides, your horse may trip, you may have a sudden sliding stop due to a terrifying, horse-eating monster (possibly a rabbit or a bird, or a flapping plastic bag).

When you lose your balance, you don't have to take a nose dive. If you have some control over how you fall, you can keep yourself more safe. The Emergency Dismount is for when you've lost your seat so completely that you ARE going to come off, one way or the other. If you keep a death grip and try not to fall, then when you fall, you will be uncontrolled. But with the Emergency Dismount, you try to land on your feet. This is much better than landing on your head, or your hips, or falling headfirst, or trying to break your fall with your arms (good recipe for broken arms!).

There are several safety measures you can take, to minimize the effect of any fall. You can always wear a helmet; you don't know when you are going to fall, and you don't have enough time to zip over to the tack room and grab your helmet on the way down. You may feel dorky wearing a helmet, but think how much more dorky it would feel to wear a wheelchair.

I should mention that I take my own advice; I don't even hop on bareback "for a minute" without my helmet. I have a husband, dogs, and horses who need me. It would be selfish of me to take myself away from them because I refused to wear a helmet. There are people (and horses) who love you, who would be distraught if you were injured or killed. Please wear your helmet Every Time, Every Ride.

You can also wear a shoe with a sturdy heel of at least 1/2". (For guys sensitive about wearing "heels," a cowboy boot is perfect.) The heel should prevent your foot from sliding through the stirrup.
kick feet out The Emergency Dismount:
  • Kick your feet out of the stirrups.
  • Drop the reins.
drop reins
  • Lean forward and grab hold of the neck in a "hug." You're off balance; you need a handle. There's a great big handle (the horse's neck) right in front of you!
grab neck
  • Slide off the horse, to whichever side you're off balance. So if you're falling to the right anyway, just slide off to the right.
  • Use that handle (the neck) to help you maintain some control over your speed and direction as you dismount; with practice, you can land on your feet. Make sure to push away from the horse. You don't want to get knocked over or down by his body as he goes past you, so try to land a little bit away from him.
mantain control
  • As your feet hit the ground, try to keep to your feet and possibly back up a few steps. If you're already off balance, you may still fall. Try to do it away from the horse.
  • Now, go catch the horse!

It is very important to drop the reins, and also to kick your feet entirely free from the stirrups. You don't want anything holding you to the horse; you want to be free and clear when you land. Don't worry about the horse getting loose; if you are in danger, protect you. If you hold the reins, you can pull the horse off balance and onto you when you land. If you don't get your feet clear of the stirrup, they can get caught as you jump clear. Try to avoid this :)

Part of the reason you hold onto the horse's neck is so that you can have some control over WHERE you fall--and try to push away from the horse when you land. You are trying to land on your feet, but if you don't, you want to fall to the side of the horse, not underneath. You don't want to keep hugging the horse for dear life. Just use the neck as something to balance with as you slide off, then LET GO and find a safe place to land.

flying dismount
the Flying Dismount

The Emergency Dismount works well if it is a habit. If you can Emergency Dismount from any situation when you are in control, you are likely to be able to Emergency Dismount automatically when you lose your balance. Trying it for the first time when you are falling can be difficult. It helps to practice it so that it is automatic. Practice first at halt, to get the idea. Then at walk, then trot & canter. Once you feel comfortable doing an Emergency Dismount in a controlled manner, you may be much safer the next time you need it, when you're not under control anymore.

Now that we've been serious about falling off, let's have some fun:
How Hard do you Hit the Ground when you Fall?
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.