What about dismounting from your horse, mounting block or not?

“What about dismounting? Mountaining block or not?”-Kim M

This question came in after my blog, “What is your opinion on mounting blocks? Is it easier and better for the horse?”.

In general I think proper dismounting is an under discussed subject. Dismounting without pulling on the saddle is just as important as mounting without pulling…but thankfully it is generally easier. I have had several equine chiropractors tell me that they believe much damage is done during dismounting improperly.

To dismount properly, in your mind, picture a rider who is dismounting after riding bareback. The rider would lean forward, swing both legs to one side and then slide down or push away from the horse. Most english riders are taught to dismount in a similar fashion. Riding in a western saddle is no excuse though. The saddle horn makes laying your belly down more difficult but it is possible to use your arms to support your weight directly over the horse. In the video below I love that my husband quickly warns our son about not pulling the saddle off during dismounting. This advice is a little ‘gem’ hidden in the rest of the video.

The true difficulty in a proper dismount is the landing. Sliding off a 17 hand horse and having a ‘perfect’ Olympic-gymnist-type landing isn’t as easy as it sounds. Especially if your knees, hips or ankles have any issues in their past. Again, the age, size and athletic ability of the rider will play a part. Learning how to properly bend your knees to absorb the impact is the key. If this is physically a challenge then you need to get creative.

If you think you will pull while dismounting then feel free to use a mounting block or whatever other safe object is nearby to decrease the need to jump or pull on your horse.

13 Comments

  1. Amber on January 10, 2021 at 3:05 pm

    I have a huge issue with dismount on our new horse that I have been working on. He is great to mount on the block. Stands until feet are in the stirrups and doesnt move until asked. He was an untouched stud for 8 years then proud cut before I got him. Great to ride, fun too, super smart…. but…. he wont let you go back to the block or even a simple fence for dismount (even if you ride him 8hrs!)… he will absolutely lose his sh@t with tearing and a bucking fit. If you do get near the fence or block, the minute you try to take your foot out of 1 stirrup, the Broncos ride starts again. I love how far we have got him…. but wont put the 14yr on because of this issue. We have checked the saddle…. it is a good fit… he hasn’t ever actually thrown me so I dont see his purpose to these fits and I keep side passing to the fence. Eventually once he is relaxed by the fence or block, my husband will come from the ground and hold him in place from swinging out and up…..

    Help!

    • Stacy Westfall on January 12, 2021 at 9:30 pm

      It sounds like he’s anticipating something during the dismount. It’s possible that someone poked him hard with their toe during early dismounts or something similar and now he is anticipating. Also, when he was a stud someone may have dismounted and been abusive (sorry but I’ve seen it done as a ‘correction’ for acting…like a stud). Have you considered getting a professional evaluation?

  2. Carol on October 25, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    I’m 79 yrs. had knee surgery and find that I have to have the mounting block to get on but slide off to dismount. Thanks for the blog.

  3. Susan on February 3, 2015 at 10:57 am

    I mount and dismount from a three-step-up platform. I had it built when I had a 17.3 Percheron. The “down” is very far away and my old knees couldn’t take it.

  4. Ida Marie Carlough on January 23, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    I taught my horses to stand by the mounting block when I wanted to dismount. It got to be funny as I was ending my ride my horses would walk to the mounting block without any encouragement. Sometimes while resting, they would inch closer to the mounting block. Of course I never got off unless it was my idea but they still had hope!

  5. Kim Meijer on January 22, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    Thank you Stacy! I enjoy reading your blog.

  6. Patricia Roy on January 22, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    I taught my horse to go to the fence for me to dismount. Usually it is the round pen fence and I can get off either side. Once I am off she moves her butt over as I step down off the fence. I think it is better then trying to step down onto the mounting block as you can have a tendency to miss a step and fall.

  7. Anna Patton on January 22, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Luckily for my horse I had a knee replacement and broken foot that could not be repaired so was forced to mount and dismount with a 3 step mounting block. I had trained my horse already to stretch out for mounting which works well to acustom the horse to stand while being mounted. The 3 step block brings my foot to stirrup height. I must also dismount with the block as my foot and knee can no longer absorb the force of hitting the ground from such a height. My horse is 16.2. and I am 5’4″. My horse is so accomadating I started noticing he would lift his left hind foot forward as I was swinging my right leg over the saddle. I started to correct him but then realized he was actually timing that move to help boost my momentum into the saddle! When mounting and dismounting out in the woods I find a downed tree or large flat rock that I can sidepass him over to. He is so willing and obediant I can park him anywhere and trust him to stand while I get safely on and off. Funny story…while trail riding with my husband we had stopped for a poddy break and I had parked him next to a downed tree. My horses head was in the brush and my husband said “You’re gonna have to back him up before you stretch him out.” Before I could cue him he already backed up and stretched out on his own! We just looked at each other in amazement and I said “He knows English!”

    • Emily Winn on April 24, 2020 at 2:41 pm

      Could you please send me a picture and dimensions of the block you are using to dismount? I have got to get something bigger than my mounting block to dismount on. My knees can’t take anymore. And I know it’s not good for the horse to have me dreading the dismount and turning it into a disaster every time!

      • Stacy Westfall on April 25, 2020 at 12:19 pm

        They come in so many sizes. I think it would help to know the hight of your horse and the step you can or want to make. I know I use a two step block with my horses but at dressage shows I see three step blocks because their horses are taller. I hope Anna chimes in too!

  8. susan on January 22, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    After surgeries on both knees, a broken navicular bone in my foot and a tibia/fibula fracture (the only horse related injury)
    over the last 10 years, I use a mounting block to get on and off my horse. I am grateful to still be able to ride and want to keep my senior horse’s back in good shape.

  9. Jessica on January 22, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    I really enjoyed this video! Newt is so well behaved! Do you show him?

  10. shelybo65 on January 22, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    No, I do not use one getting off, but thank God I have a patient horse as I have to “wake” my leg up before I dismount!

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