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How do you help someone with medical issues get off a horse?

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  • How do you help someone with medical issues get off a horse?

    Is there a suggested way to help someone with medical issues off a horse? I have a friend who is a very experienced rider, but has been having issues with migraines that can be debilitating. I am newer to riding, and have been hanging out with her when she rides, as a safety measure. I'm concerned she may have an issue while riding, and need help off her horse, when she might not be thinking clearly.

    And please, only post with advice, no suggestions she shouldn't ride. She works closely with her neurologist, who knows she rides, and is taking safety precautions. Her horse time is healing, and doctor approved.

    Last edited by MaxineSteele; Aug. 13, 2019, 01:37 AM.

  • #2
    Does the rider have a warning the migraine is coming on? Many migraine sufferers report they get an aura or visual disturbances.

    Where does she ride? I have seen mounting blocks that are useful for people with mobility problems, basically huge wide tall blocks where you can step off easily and there are easy stairs down. Therapeutic riding places will have good models of these. If she is riding in an arena, these could be useful.

    However, I would go over all this with your friend. Have her tell you what her attacks are like, and have her tell you what she can and can't do in the case of one, and what she would like you to do. If she is an experienced rider, she will have some muscle memory of how to get off, probably more than you do as a beginner! So ask her what helo she needs. No point worrying or speculating about what she needs until she tells you. Maybe she can get off fine, and sit down, and all you need to do is hold the horse and put it back in the stall.


    • #3
      I don't have advice, but just want to thank you for being such a good friend to her! IMO horses are the BEST medicine, but she is blessed to have someone like you to watch out for her.
      Graphic Design & Websites


      • Original Poster

        She used to have warning, but medication changes have blunted that warning, unfortunately. She didn't have a recommendation for a way to get her off the horse if she isn't coherent. We've had LONG talks about what's going on...I'm just hoping for help with the mechanics of the worst case scenario.. I've been there for several of her attacks, so I know what we are getting into.

        Google searching for dealing with an unconscious rider comes up with how to drape a rider across the saddle for carrying. Not quite the same thing as

        downen. Thanks, and I agree, horses are the best medicine.


        • #5
          My first thought in reading this is so nice you are willing to help your friend.

          Having said that, IMO, if you are concerned that you may have to help your friend if she is unconscious you should receive some training in how to not only help your friend but how to keep yourself "safe" as you help her get off her horse without hurting your own body in easing her to the ground.
          When you start to observe, you become more effective... your movements soften, you see more, you are more available to becoming a team member. Be an Observer first, a Handler second.


          • #6
            The first thing I would consider is how good is the whoa on the horse she is riding.. are you going to be dealing with a dancy /antsy animal or will it stand still no matter what is happening. The other thing is to get her feet out of the stirrups so should she fall she’s not in any way attached to the horse. A thump from landing on the ground won’t feel great but being dragged could kill her.

            Probably a big three step mounting block will help so you can get up to her, and when she gets off it’s not so far to go. A platform would be even better and work with teaching the horse to stand next to it no matter what’s going on.


            • Original Poster

              The horse is pretty solid, so I'm not worried about antsiness.....the getting her feet out of the stirrups and the mounting block ideas are good suggestions.

              @wheresmywhite. I totally agree, some training on how to handle it would be great. I mean, I have training as a life guard and first aid training....where do you get "removing an unconscious person from a horse" training? I'm not being sarcastic, I genuinely have no it's a pretty specific skill set...


              • #8
                I have MS. With certain saddles I have ENORMOUS problems dismounting, GP saddles, dressage saddles, A-frame Western saddles, basically any saddle that does not give me a solid point to lean on with my hand so I can get my seat out of the saddle easily.

                What works for me for dismounting in one of these saddles, or when my MS is just too bad and I am too weak to do it myself, is to have someone press my knee against the saddle (pushing on the outside of my knee joint). Then I can get my body working again and get off the dang saddle.

                The first time I just I was on an 18.2 hand horse. There I was stuck over 6 feet above the ground (Wintec wide GP on a WIDE horse.) I finally got off by using a high platform but I realized I had to come up with another solution since it is HARD on me to step down where I cannot see where I put my foot.

                Even now, riding in my jumping saddle, there are some days in the heat of the summer when I have to ask my riding teacher to help me down my pressing my knee into the saddle. Once she does that my body will work properly and I can dismount without much problem.

                This solution requires having someone else around to help me for a second or so, I would have no way to get down sometimes if I were alone.


                • #9
                  MaxineSteele you would get that training volunteering in a therapeutic riding center. Unconscious isn't an issue I've dealt with but there are a lot of debugged dismount options for people in various stages of disability. I would look up suggestions in that related literature or maybe find a program in your area and see if there's an instructor who would work with you both to train that dismount.

                  If there's truly the likelihood of a full sized adult going unconscious on you, I'd say the only truly safe method is going to involve two or three people. Obviously, in a pinch we all do what we must.
                  If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                  • #10
                    poltroon thanks for the suggestion. I know that when helping another person, keeping one's own body safe is just as important. I know first responders like paramedics/EMTs along with therapists know how to protect themselves but wasn't sure where else to go to learn.
                    When you start to observe, you become more effective... your movements soften, you see more, you are more available to becoming a team member. Be an Observer first, a Handler second.


                    • #11
                      Just to give perspective on the 2-3 people issue, when we are working with a medically fragile and adult sized person with limited communication skills, we'd have one person controlling the horse, one person managing the dismount, then ideally one person on the offside and one person spotting/physically supporting the person managing the dismount. The offside person is used to swing the leg up either in front of or behind the saddle and support the hips while the dismount is managed. This care is especially important when the rider exceeds 100 lbs and is medically fragile - feeding tube, muscle spasm, etc.

                      However, the instructor is also practiced at pulling the rider from the horse solo, as we might need to do in an emergency. But, as you mention, it's hard to do this without risking injury to one or both parties.

                      IME dismounting procedures are often customized just a bit for each rider depending on need. This page has some tips:
                      If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                      • Original Poster

                        Those are some great suggestions, thanks! Fingers crossed we won't need them, but it's definitely helpful to have ideas, and a place to look for more info. It's so nice to have a community to ask these questions of without judgement!


                        • #13
                          Is she truly unconscious or conscious but seriously inhibited? My suggestion would probably be a place to safely tie the horse next to a tall, wide mounting block with a railing and steps. You can tie the horse, then get up to her level to help swing her leg over the horse and guide her onto the block (large enough for both of you to stand/sit). This would assume the horse ties safely and the rider is capable of supporting her own weight, at least for several seconds. If she is totally unable to move or support any weight, I think you would need at least one other person, in order to protect both of you from injury. If you can find some kind of lightweight harness or belt for her to wear that you could grab in case of emergency, that may also be a good idea so you can help guide her. Whatever you decide, be sure to practice while she is coherent, before you need to do it.


                          • #14
                            In a real emergency, tge safest way to dismount a rider quickly with least risk of injury to rider or helper is to grab the waistband of their pants (or, preferably, their belt), and pull them back and down off the side of the horse towards the back at about a 45° angle from the horse in as smooth a motion as possible. This allows you to then use your body to slow the rider's descent to the ground and protect their head without torquing your back, and pulls their feet backwards and free from the stirrups (or will pull the stirrups right off the stirrup bars if their feet get stuck in the irons for some reason). This method also allows a smaller helper to safely assist a bigger rider off a taller horse.

                            this is what we use in an emergency at the therapeutic barn I work at, though we have transfer belts our riders wear over their clothes that have handles on them specifically for use in emergency dismounts. I have dismounted riders this way and I have had helpers much smaller than me dismount me in this way as well during volunteer training sessions (I love getting to be a demo rider for this sort of thing!). I suggest practicing a couple times before you ever have to implement it in an emergency so you know how it feels.
                            Curious about Trans* issues? Feel free to ask!
                            Saving Pennies To Get My Own Canoe


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Equisis View Post
                              My suggestion would probably be a place to safely tie the horse next to a tall, wide mounting block with a railing and steps. You can tie the horse, then get up to her level to help swing her leg over the horse and guide her onto the block (large enough for both of you to stand/sit).
                              Please no. Tying a horse to execute a complicated dismount is asking for a disaster. I wouldn't do it with my quietest trained therapy horse, and I certainly wouldn't do it with a horse unaccustomed to alternate mounts & dismounts in a high-stakes situation.

                              Does your friend think she'll be able to follow directions, but perhaps not initiate/make decisions? In that scenario, if you can make sure her feet are out of the stirrups and then just talk through/spot her dismount, it should be relatively uncomplicated. Lean forward, swing leg over, and then you can use your body and the horse's body to control the slide to the ground.

                              But if it's just the two of you and she's suddenly so incapacitated that she can't participate in the dismount, getting her feet out of the stirrups and the horse away from obstacles so she can fall clear is the best you can hope for. That sort of scenario takes at least three people to make it moderately dignified, and you won't have that. Don't feel bad about it. Keep yourself safe so you can manage the situation after she parts company with the horse -- securing both horses, getting her to a safe location, etc.