I am the Riding Director at a horseback riding summer camp. Over the winter, I like to go through the program and re-evaluate our policies and procedures. My question is concerning our current emergency dismount. Presently the dismount goes as follows:
1) Make a “butterfly” with your hands so the reins are just resting on your thumbs.
2) Put your hands on your horse’s neck (not touching the saddle)
3) Bring your feet out of the stirrups, swing legs three times and jump off using your horses neck
4) If possible, bring your horse’s reins over his head and hold them (under shanks with right hand, extra rein in left hand)
First off, can you see anything wrong with this dismount? We have been using it for 30 years but, I know that doesn’t automatically mean that it’s right. I am considering changing the last part (#4): Instead of bringing the reins over the horse’s head, leaving them over the saddle horn and holding the reins under the shanks with the right hand. That way, if the horse is spooking, he can run away without getting the person stuck to him, causing rope burn or getting the reins around his legs. I would like to know what you think of my change and of our current emergency dismount. Thank You! Sincerely, Jennifer Willey Hi Jennifer, This is somewhat of a controversial subject. Whereas many of us used to teach the emergency dismount, in the past few years it has gone out of favor. Many people feel (myself included) that you increase the risk of injury to the rider by practicing the emergency dismount and also that it is often better for the rider to remain mounted than to bail off a moving horse. If it is truly an emergency worthy of an emergency dismount, it is probably not a real controllable situation. In my experience, I have seen too many sprained ankles and pulled muscles from practicing it, not to mention the aggravation the horse goes through at being repeatedly mounted. I have also had riders that were far too quick to jump off a moving horse and though I have not had any serious injuries this way, it is only by luck. On the other hand, my son (13 y/o), who is prone to ride bareback and bridle-less out in the pasture, was taught the emergency dismount from GaWaNi PonyBoy (a popular Native American clinician) and uses it frequently. I am very glad that he learned it. PonyBoy teaches the Native American technique of rolling off the horse. I have not seen his presentation on this particular topic, but you might want to check it out. He has a website at www.ponyboy.com. As for the specific question on your technique, the only thing I can see is that we do not recommend that the rider hold onto the reins at all, for the risk is too great of pulling the horse onto you if you lose your balance. While it would be nice if everyone remained in control of their horses, if an emergency dismount is truly warranted, it is likely the rider needs to get away from the horse (a horse being stung by yellow jackets comes to mind). I was glad to see you mentioned taking the feet out of the stirrups and you might want to emphasize it more by making that its own step. It is amazing how often people forget that one really important step. I know of one lawsuit where that was the cause of injury, the rider tried to do an emergency dismount but forgot to take his feet out of the stirrups and suffered a badly broken ankle. It is refreshing to hear of someone improving written policies. Just the fact that you have written policies indicates how well run your program is. Since I spend a great deal of time traveling around the country giving lectures urging professionals to establish written procedures, it is great to hear when people already have them, let alone, updating and improving them! It is a testament to your dedication to safety. Keep up the good work!