How to Mount and Dismount

I have seen many different variations of mounting and dismounting both disabled and able-bodied riders. I recently went through all my notes on this topic and compiled the following detailed descriptions about the ways I learned to mount and read about. I wanted to share because this was one of the hardest things for me to learn to be coordinated at doing. If you find other ways work best for you, or find corrections in this compilation, please leave a comment! This is not the final word, let’s collaborate.

The following is written from a task-analysis viewpoint (the steps of dis/mounting) with tips for the instructor’s and volunteer roles, what to say, and reasons listed below each step.

p.s. If this seems like an excess of information, it probably is. But that is how I roll.

Mounting and Dismounting

  • Tips
    • 70% of TR accidents happen in the mounting block, so minimize the time you spend in it!
    • Mounting/dismounting can be difficult for the horse, rider, and staff. It should be completed as quickly as possible.
    • Horse may become impatient with standing still, thrown off balance, and experience back strain. Try to make it the best experience possible for them.
    • Using a mounting block, ramp, or lift is easier on a horse’s back and can help prevent soreness, especially when used several times a day.
  • Hand placement
    • Keep hands on non-sensitive body parts
      • The outside of the leg (not the inside)
      • Below the knee (not the thigh)
      • On the shoulder blades, ribs, or hip (not under/inside the arms
  • Body mechanics
    • Keep your feet shoulder width apart for a wide base of support
    • Lift with legs and abs, not your back!
    • Keep your head up and tighten your abs
    • Stay relaxed
    • Move slowly and in control
    • Keep the weight close to your body
    • Keep your upper body aligned
    • Pivot using your feet instead of twisting your back
    • Breathe in before lifting, and exhale while lifting
  • Mounting notes applied to all methods
    • Safety/tack check
      • Bridle fit, extra leathers in keepers
      • Girth tight
      • Stirrups down – if using a rising platform lift, make sure the stirrups clear it or flip them over the horse’s neck so the platform doesn’t catch the stirrup when it is lowered
      • Reins out of the way – up on neck or knotted so they don’t catch on the block/lift or the rider doesn’t get tangled in them
      • Rider helmet/clothing check
    • Have a reason for mounting one particular rider before the other.
    • Do not stand between the horse and the mounting block
    • Mounting blocks/ramps/lifts should always have an offside barrier to ensure the horse is the correct distance from it. This can be another mounting block or the rider’s sidewalker, but never an actual wall, fence, or rail.
    • Always call an off side assistant when needed, so the instructor stays on the near side with the student
    • An off side block helps keep the horse straight
    • Don’t let the leader help the kid mount, their job is the horse
    • Western saddle may need a covering for the horn
    • In the winter beware of riders’ jackets catching on the saddle!
    • Explain to the rider and volunteers the type of mount
    • Ask rider to stay away from the edge of the mounting block (for safety) and to remain still (so they don’t scare their horse, for the mounting block situation is similar to the wild where big cats jump out of trees or off cliffs onto their prey)
    • Direct sidewalkers where to be.
    • Leader leads horse into mounting area and squares the horse up
    • Kid asks leader if the horse is ready
    • Then step close to the horse with the rider
    • Use task analysis and explain to everyone what you are doing during – go slow and controlled.
    • Use one of the methods that follows.
    • Once mounted, it is preferred to wait until halted away from the mounting area to put their feet in the stirrups, in order to minimize time in the mounting area.
    • If the stirrups fall below the mounting block, do not put the rider’s feet in until out of the mounting area. If they did so before, their foot could get squished between the block and the horse.
  • Dismounting notes applied to all methods
    • Choose a safe place to halt.
      • Have the horse facing the direction the rider will be leaving so they pass the horse’s head, not the rump. (For example, if the rider is exiting out the front of the arena, don’t have them halt to dismount with the horse facing the rear of the area – unless the rider is going to practice leading their horse through a turn and to the front of the arena.)
      • If rider has difficulty walking, be as close to the gate as possible.
      • Stay away from the walls of the arena as dismounting close to them can create unsafe situations.
    • Make sure riders are safely distanced apart.
    • Always dismount to the ground if possible, as dismounting to a block or lift is more dangerous.
      • Mounting to a block/lift may be required if the rider is overweight, has MS, needs reduced stress, etc.
      • If use block and rider’s feet hang below the block, take their feet out of the stirrups first and keep the feet/legs up when you enter so they don’t get caught or squished.
    • Always call an off side assistant when needed, so the instructor stays on the near side with the student
    • Have a reason for dismounting one rider before the other.
    • In the winter beware of riders’ jackets catching on the saddle!
    • Beware of low tone (wed noodle body) – keep legs together to strengthen/stabilize landing.
    • Use task analysis and explain to everyone what you are doing during – go slow and controlled.
    • Use one of the methods that follows.
  • Determine method based on:
    • Rider’s abilities and disabilities
    • Rider and horse’s heights.
    • Rider’s ability to walk up steps or not
    • Rider’s use of a wheelchair
    • For pictures of methods, see the Special Olympics Equestrian coaching guide p. 76+

Croup Mount

  1. Stand on left side
    1. If mounting from the ground, the rider should face ¾ toward the horse’s rear, so if the horse starts to walk they can just catch up as they swing up
  2. If more advanced rider, grab reins with left hand so they can control the horse
    1. The inside rein is kept slightly shorter than the outside to angle the horse’s nose in
  3. Left hand on horse’s neck in front of withers or front of pommel (reins fall on left/your side)
    1. Look at the sidewalker or the horse’s ears, so they’re not looking down
  4. Left foot in stirrup, if the stirrup is above the mounting block (poke toe in or use right hand to help)
    1. If the stirrup is below the block, don’t use it or their foot might get squeeze between the horse and the block
  5. Right hand on pommel
    1. Not on cantle or their leg will run into it
  6. If from ground, may need to bounce lightly and jump
  7. Straighten left leg and swing right leg over
    1. Make sure they don’t drag their right foot over the horse’s rear
    2. Make sure they don’t poke the horse with their left toe
    3. Support rider’s left leg with your leg via leg block
    4. Support rider’s trunk with left arm and open hand
    5. Support rider’s right leg with your right hand below the knee, open hand, or grab pant leg behind calf
    6. Off side person’s right hand on their shoulder supports their trunk
    7. Off side person’s left hand helps rider’s leg over croup below the knee (at the calf), open hand
  8. Sit lightly into saddle
    1. Make sure they don’t plop down or they’ll hurt the horse’s back
    2. Control descent using above support or both hands on their hips
    3. Can count “take 5 seconds to sit – 1, 2, 3…” to help slow them
    4. Can put your right hand palm down on the far side of the cantle so the rider “slides” down your forearm into the saddle
  9. Find the right side stirrup, if the left one was used
    1. If no stirrups were used, wait until you’re out of the mounting area to halt and find them
  10. Take up the reins
  11. Make sure rider is balanced and centered in the saddle
  12. Ask the rider to tell their horse to walk on

Crest Mounts

  • Due to
    • Tight adductors
    • Limited Range Of Motion
    • Non weight bearing

Crest Mount “Standing Pivot Transfer”

  1. If rider can walk, rider backs up to horse
    1. support trunk with hand at hips or ribcage
    2. use your knee to block the outside of their knees as needed
  2. If rider is in wheelchair:
    1. Wheelchair brakes locked
    2. Help rider scoot to edge of seat
    3. Place your knees to the outside of theirs to prevent excessive abduction of their hips
    4. Lift them from their hips into standing
    5. Pivot so rider’s back is facing horse and they are in a position they can sit sideways on the saddle. Make sure you turn by moving your feet, not just twisting at the waist and injuring your back.
  3. Rider puts one hand on your shoulder and one hand on the horse (doesn’t hug you)
  4. Rider gently sits down on saddle
    1. offside helps guide hips
    2. Instructor helps gently lower the rider
    3. Can count “take 5 seconds to sit – 1, 2, 3…” to help slow them
  5. Move both rider’s legs to midline/crest while pivoting rider’s trunk to face forward
    1. support rider’s hip with right arm while holding under knees with left arm
    2. off side supports rider’s back with left arm (super important!!!)
    3. if rider is more flexible, may not need to bring both legs up and instead just swing right leg over
  6. Rider swings right leg over horse’s neck, can use hands to help
    1. Off side uses right arm to help rider’s leg over crest
  7. Slowly lower rider’s legs into position
    1. If high tone, legs well probably be on the horse’s shoulders – ride a few laps like that to let the horse’s movement and warmth loosen them, then halt and an see if you can bring them down further

Crest Mount “2 Person Mount” – from a Rising Platform Lift

  • Use if the rider is in a wheelchair and unable to help themselves mount via them methods above
  1. Bring the rider out to the lift, along with a strong sidewalker.
  2. Lock the wheelchair in place.
  3. Raise the lift.
  4. Ask the leader to bring the horse through.
  5. Unbuckle rider from wheelchair
  6. Person 1 places hands/arms under rider’s armpits
  7. Person 2 holds rider’s calves/ankles
  8. Make sure everyone is ready
  9. On the count of three both Persons lift up and place the rider on the horse, aiming the rider’s seat for the correct position, and the legs just off the left side of the horse’s neck – off side Person helps guide hips to the correct spot
  10. When seat is in right position, off side takes right ankle/calf, both legs are separates and brought as far down as they can go (while Person 1 continues to support upper body)
  11. Quick readjustment if needed – pull pants up to help rider sit forward
  12. Person 1 and off side support upper body
  13. Left lift down as soon as possible (make sure stirrups don’t catch on lift)
  14. Get out of the mounting area before making any further adjustments

Wheelchair Transfer Mount

  • For non-weight-bearing riders with strong upper body (allows rider more independence and dignity)
  1. From ramp, position wheelchair facing the same direction as the horse, as close as possible.
  2. Rider moves to edge of chair and places right leg on seat of saddle.
  3. Rider grasps handles/horn/pommel.
  4. Instructor stands behind rider and places hands under rider’s thighs (discuss hand placement first).
  5. Count to 3 then rider pulls self onto horse as instructor lifts, and spotter guides rider’s right leg across saddle.

Lift Mount – Sure Hands

  1. Place the wheelchair parallel to the horse, next to the saddle.
  2. Lock the wheelchair in place.
  3. Unbuckle the rider from the wheelchair.
  4. Put the arm hooks under the rider’s armpits first.
  5. Put the leg hooks under the rider’s upper legs second.
  6. Raise the lift until the rider clears the wheelchair and is high enough to pass over the horse.
  7. Move the rider over the horse and align them above the saddle.
  8. Lower the lift until the rider is sitting in the saddle but the arms are still slightly supporting.
  9. Unhook the leg hooks. Always do this first because if the horse moves or takes off the arm hooks can still support the whole rider and keep them safe, but the leg hooks can’t.
  10. Unhook the arm hooks. Make sure the sidewalkers are supporting the rider’s upper body as needed.
  11. Move the lift out of the way.
  12. Leave the mounting area.

Croup Dismounts

Croup Dismount – no stirrups

  1. Halt the horse.
  2. Step in for the left side sidewalker.
  3. Reins on the horse’s neck
    1. So the rider doesn’t get caught in them.
    2. For more advanced riders, teach them how to hold on to the reins to keep control of their horse.
  4. Feet out of the stirrups
    1. So they don’t get caught or take the saddle with them.
    2. Beginners may need help, advanced riders should do this themselves.
    3. Check with the offside sidewalker to make sure the other foot is out.
  5. Hands on the horse’s neck, lower your upper body, look to the right.
    1. Ask they to look toward the offside sidewalker, as this helps twist their body in the right direction.
    2. Helps to say “Give your horse a hug”, “lean forward,” or “bend your elbows”
    3. Advanced riders can hold their upper body up with their arms
    4. Their hands should stay on the horse the whole time
  6. Swing left leg over the horse’s rear
    1. Don’t hit the horse’s rear or you could hurt/surprise him!
    2. Offside sidewalker helps lift their right leg over the saddle if needed
    3. Support the rider’s upper body by standing with one foot in front of the other, keeping your back straight, and your left forearm in front of you parallel to the ground pushing above the rider’s hip; with your right hand receive the rider’s right leg and bring it alongside the left leg so they both point toward the ground
    4. Make sure the grab at the calf, no higher, watching where you touch, avoiing the inside of the thigh..
    5. Sidewalker on your side may help bring the leg over the rump so you can focus on supporting the rider’s upper body
    6. Advanced rider may need only slight help with their leg or a spot
  7. Rider can now put right hand on the cantle
  8. Slide slowly to the ground
    1. Keep you left arm against their hip (or rib cage, or shoulder blade) and use it to push/support, move your right hand to their back or shoulder to help guide, and use your body as a chute for the rider to slide down slowly, sandwiched between you and the horse. It is recommend to keep you body at a slight angle toward the front of the horse so you can use your shoulder, side or knee as needed (not your chest). Do not place either arms under the rider’s arms.
    2. Don’t lean back but keep good body biomechanics, back straight and knees bent.
    3. Bend your knees to lower yourself with the rider as they descend, or you may lose control of the descent and your hands may slip into no-touch places.
    4. Advanced rider may only require a hand on the back or spot
    5. Advanced rider can slide down on their right hip
    6. For a very large rider, push your whole body weight against them to slide them down slowly, and have the offside sidewalker support the horse to keep him from stepping over as the heavy rider tends to push the horse over as they slide down, and also hold the saddle in place. If it’s a western saddle, you can grab the sides to pull your body forward for added push against the rider.
    7. Small children you may need to just hold underneath their arms and lower them to the ground.
  9. Feet on the ground, bend your knees, and stand!
    1. If they don’t bend their knees the landing could be jarring/painful, and they could easily lose their balance and fall backward.
    2. Make sure their feet land next to the horse, not under! If you go slowly you should catch this.
    3. Keep a hand on their back/shoulder or up to spot, just in case they fall backward.
  10. Run up your stirrups.
  11. Give the horse pets.
  12. Walk away from the horse safely
    1. Some riders may need assistance walking by holding your hand or elbow.
    2. Make sure they walk away by the horse’s head, not his rear.

Croup Dismount – one stirrup

  1. Halt the horse.
  2. Step in for the left side sidewalker.
  3. Reins on the horse’s neck
  4. Right foot out of stirrup – left left foot in.
  5. Hands on the horse’s neck/pommel, support your upper body, look to the right toward the offside sidewalker
  6. Swing left leg over the horse’s rear, without hitting it.
  7. Can now put right hand on the cantle
  8. Take the left foot out of the stirrup. Don’t leave the foot in and step down, for if one loses their balance, or if the horse moves, there is only one foot to catch oneself with.
  9. Slide slowly to the ground
  10. Bend your knees to land
  11. Run up your stirrups.
  12. Give the horse pets.
  13. Walk away from the horse safely

Crest Dismounts

Crest Dismount – 1 person

  • For the rider that needs to dismount over the crest due to lack of flexibility, tight leg muscles, a shunt, etc. – but can walk on their own once they’re on the ground.
  • This can be scary and slightly dangerous, so explain everything clearly and calmly, directing everyone, the whole time.
  1. Reins out of the way so the rider doesn’t get caught on them.
  2. Feet out of stirrups.
  3. Hands on horse’s neck.
  4. Bring both legs up at the same time to the horse’s neck/crest.
    1. Offside sidewalker supports rider’s back and helps bring their right leg up.
    2. Your side sidewalker supports the rider’s back.
    3. You bring the rider’s left leg up.
  5. Bring right leg over the horse’s neck/crest, so both legs are side by side.
    1. Offside sidewalker supports rider’s back and helps bring their right leg over.
    2. Your side sidewalker supports the rider’s back, as the rider will need to let go and maneuver their hands to let the leg pass.
    3. You bring both legs together and take control of them.
  6. One hand on the pommel and one on the cantle, turn sideways in the saddle so they are sitting sideways facing you.
    1. Offside sidewalker supports the rider’s hips as they turn.
    2. Your side sidewalker supports the rider’s hips as well.
    3. You control the rider’s legs and bring them to the side.
  7. Take a moment to relax, find their balance and a comfortable position sitting sideways, and everyone take a deep breath.
  8. Put both hands on horse’s neck, or one on the neck and one on your shoulder.
    1. Not the pommel because it pulls on the horse’s withers.
  9. Dismount by turning onto their hip and sliding down.
    1. You support their left hip with your left hand – it helps to grab their belt loop/clothing.
    2. On the count of 3 you’ll help them twist onto their side and slide down the horse on their hip.
    3. Go slowly and slide them down, using your left hand to pull their left hip so they are facing the horse’s head and sliding down with their right side against the horse; use your right hand to make a corridor.
    4. Not twisting at all is more dangerous because they tend to want to put their hands on your shoulders and land on you.
  10. Or dismount by turning onto their belly and sliding down. (Depends on where their shunt is).
    1. Thread your right hand through the rider’s knees – under the rider’s left knee and over their right knee – and keeping your left hand on their hip/back.
    2. Rotate the rider onto their belly as you slowly lower them. Spotter holds at rider’s shoulders and helps roll to stomach.
    3. Rider descends to the ground facing the horse.
  11. When they land, stabilize them.

Crest Dismount – 2 person

  1. Step in for sidewalker and have them go get the wheelchair – so the instructor remains with the student at all times.
  2. Rider’s wheelchair is placed parallel to the horse’s left side; lock the wheelchair.
  3. Feet out of the stirrups.
  4. Person 1 (Instructor or Sidewalker) is in charge of rider’s upper body
    1. May stand behind rider and reach up under their arms
    2. Or rider may cross arms in front of chest, and Person 1 reaches around the rider’s sides from behind, crosses their own arms in front of the rider’s chest, and grasps the rider’s wrists.
  5. Person 2 (Instructor or Sidewalker) is in charge of rider’s legs and stands in front of rider.
  6. Offside Sidewalker controls offside leg and stands prepared.
  7. Make sure everyone is ready.
  8. On the count of 3 Person 2 and Offside Sidewalker bring legs up together above horse’s crest.
  9. Person 2 takes right leg and brings them both together, holding behind the knees.
  10. Persons 1 and 2 slide the rider off the horse.
  11. Lower the rider slowly into the wheelchair.


  • >Notes from Instructor Training at Bravehearts, IL
  • Notes from Oct 2011 OWSC at Bravehearts, IL
  • Handout by Shea Center instructors
  • “Mounting and Dismounting Strategies” by Amy Sheets, NARHA’s The Instructor Voice, Summer 2004


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!

One thought on “How to Mount and Dismount

  1. Great information. I have also found that on a crest dismount to the ground that I have more control over the speed of hitting the ground if I “lock arms” with the rider – in other words I put my right arm around their left shoulder and they put their left arm around my right shoulder and I ease them down. My left hand is used to stabilize their right hip as they come down. Of course this depends on their ability and if they have issues with their arms/shoulders – it is not used.

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