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How do you dishorse?

YORK RACECOURSE, YORK, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK : Frankie Dettori executes a Flying Dismount from Stradivarius after winning the Yorkshire Cup at the Dante Meeting

If you turn to page 1 of the 1976 Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship you will find instructions on how to dismount.

Page one. That’s how important this is.

I’m not going to walk you through how to get off our horses, but I am going to talk about the words/terms we use to say when we are doing just that.

There are two ways to separate ourselves from our mounts and that is with intention and without intention.  

This week I’ll cover the intentional dismount and next week I’ll cover the less favorable unintentional dismount.  

Hop off or jump off

There’s not much to say about these words other than they tend to suggest a level of ease and springiness, which is rarely the case. Perhaps slide is a more accurate word. Nevertheless, we remain steadfast in the usage of the words hop and jump.  

Sadly, it’s our instructors who commonly use one of these words and it’s generally said directly before they hop on to show you how it’s really done.

“Here, just hop off and I’ll get on.” This is said, almost exclusively, in a breezy tone to prevent an emotional reaction. If irritation is present in your trainer’s voice, well then, you’ve done something quite wrong and had better hop off.


This is a standard word we use, and we’ve been using it for 444 years, according to my calculations. However, before we started using it regarding horses, some 40 years earlier it meant “to remove or throw down cannons from their mounts.”

By the time the 1600s rolled around dismount also meant “to throw or bring down from a horse.” It’s unclear what you might have thrown or brought down from a horse all those years ago, I’m thinking straw but that’s conjecture.   


The definition for this word is “to dismount oneself from a horse.” It sounds like an archaic word. Unless you say, “I’m gettin’ off dis horse” but that’s just poor use of the English language.

The word-forming element, dis, shows up in many commonly used words like dishonest, disallow or discard. It means “lack of” as in a lack of honesty, or “the opposite of allowing” or “apart, away” as with discard.

Dis comes from the Latin dis, which, as you can see, has gone unchanged over the centuries, and it means “apart, asunder, in a different direction, between.” It’s easy to see how we ended up with words like dishorse and dismount.

Asunder. This is a word we should use more often.


I like this word very much. The first time I heard it I was in the UK and the announcement on the train suggested we be careful as we alight from the train. I enjoyed that I was alighting as I was unaware I knew how to do that.  

We can also alight from a horse, though we rarely, if ever, use it in this context.

The word comes from the Old English word alihtan, meaning to “get off, make light” as in lightening the load. And what rider doesn’t want to consider themselves a ponderous load?


Whether you alight, dishorse, or just plain old dismount, at least you know you have a few options in the matter.

Next week I’ll tackle the enormous list I’ve gathered about the ever-humbling experience of coming off without intention.


Feature image: Frankie Dettori’s famed flying dismount.

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