Mounting and dismounting are probably some of the most dangerous moments we fat old ladies have in riding. I’ve had all the accidents associated with both activities and I’ve learned my lesson – be careful!

So here’s my “safe dismount” procedure. This works for me. It may not be your safest way, so I just put this out there in case it helps.

First, I make sure – SURE – my horse understands I want him to halt, and stand for a moment, or two. I make no hurry to get off. I sit, contact in the saddle with both seat bones, until I am ready and I am sure he is ready for me to get off. This halt should take place in an area that is free of any sort of moving distraction like someone pushing a wheelbarrow, or cars being parked, etc. It should be level and solid, not on rolling gravel or wet areas, places with dips or extremely muddy, as safe a spot you can find. If possible, don’t face your horse straight towards the open barn door, it’s a bit safer on a slight angle – if something should spook him, he won’t run straight through the barn that way and you may have a chance to step away without being run over or knocked down.

Next, I throw down my crop and anything extra I might have in my hands other than the reins. And you shouldn’t have anything! My horses are used to me tossing down my crop, so they are accustomed to seeing it drop in front of us. You want to drop anything that could poke you or stick into the horse and make it move.  It’s a good idea to zip up your jacket so it doesn’t catch on the saddle or stirrup as you slide down and hang you up. We are not as young or fast or athletic as we used to be!

I gather both reins, with contact, in my left hand and place it up on the neck and take a good twist of mane in that hand. That hand will help me keep control of the horse and helps control my slide off.

Next, I stand up in my stirrups, brace my right hand on the saddle, drop the right stirrup, and swing the right leg over to be next to the left. I take my right hand and place it on the seat or pommel. This is the most solid portion of the saddle as it’s closest to the tightened girth.  (Not the cantle! You can pull the saddle down with you scaring the horse) This hand will hold my weight for just a moment while I kick the left foot out of the stirrup. Important! While I’m describing this movement, you have to remember this should not take a long time and it should not be drawn out because you are in a vulnerable position until you hit the ground, so be sure to practice the stand up, swing over, drop stirrup set of movements — and it is helpful to do this and teach your horse to stand, too.

Drop the right stirrup, swing it over and then drop the left stirrup before sliding down.

Drop the right stirrup, swing it over and then drop the left stirrup before sliding down.

Always, always ALWAYS drop the stirrup. You can’t hold yourself stepping down as you age and if you are less than in perfect shape, stepping down can be dangerous. Don’t hang yourself up – it’s the old way we used to dismount but it’s unsafe for us if you’re older and less athletic.

Once your stirrup is free of your foot, prepare to slide down off the side. Belly down – point your toes – control your slide – widen your feet – and land. Use your arms and hands to pull and hold as you drop down. Keep the mane and reins until you have both feet on the ground.

As I slide down the side of the horse, I face the saddle and point my toes to hit the ground before my heels – if you land flat-footed you can overbalance backwards (Yes, I’ve done that before.) You can also face front, and slide down, but I dislike twisting as I am dropping, and it also brings my left arm across my chest, making my elbow and shoulder vulnerable, so I prefer to face the saddle. If something should happen I can push myself away from the horse while letting go of the reins, instead of falling sideways, possibly directly on the the point of my bent elbow.

It’s also important to keep you toes pointed, keep your feet apart, reaching for the ground, let your knees and heels touch and impact, and stay straight when you land. The most important thing is to stay on your feet and straight; don’t worry about the horse, or the reins. We tend to hang on to stuff and we really shouldn’t — we won’t save our balance by grabbing reins and we just pull the horse’s mouth into us, making him even more eager to take off.

Don’t try to land on a mounting block – recipe for disaster, you can never get straight and if you aren’t, you’re going to fall under the horse. Don’t try to hold onto the saddle or breastplate, as it pulls the horse into you. If you feel yourself going, tuck and roll away from the horse – try not to fall flat or backwards.

When you land, take the first step toward the head of your horse, and get your reins for control. That’s the first thing you do when you are on the ground – from there you can run up your stirrups, get him his treat, etc., but make sure you are safely standing and have control before you start taking care of your horse and tack.

Good luck and be safe!