The Short Fall: Falling from the Falsemount

If you are going to spend any time on horseback one thing is guaranteed:  at some point you will fall off.  This is inevitable, and most horse-wisdom agrees that you must eat dirt a minimum number of times before you're considered a rider.  One way to make this inevitability less traumatic, both physically and mentally, is to practise falling.  Which is why we ask you, for your blue spur to:

Conduct a safe fall and recovery to the feet from the falsemount.

There are three basic directions you are prone to falling when mounted:El hi lo 2

  • forward, over pommel of the saddle, and off the shoulder or over the horse's head.  This usually happens when the horse throws a sudden halt or a buck.
  • sideways, to either side of the saddle.  This can come from a sudden spin, or often, in mounted combat, from overbalancing while trying to reach your opponent.
  • backwards, over the cantle of the saddle.  Although less common in general riding, it can happen as a result of a bolt forward.  It's the most common type of jousting fall, and often the end result of a grapple or disarm.

Before falling from the horse or falsemount, practice falling from your own feet, in a squat, working up to standing.  Use mats, or soft outdoor footing.  In all falls, tuck your chin in to protect your neck, and if falling forwards curl your arms beside your head for extra support.  DO NOT stick your arms out to catch yourself -- you are much more likely to break an extended limb.

Forward falls

  • From the ground: Begin with your leading arm in beside and front of your face, elbow up, palm in.  Tuck your ear into your shoulder.  Let the back of your forearm be the first point of contact with the ground, and follow the line of your arm and should to roll forward and away.  Don't try for a perfect forward roll -- once you are on horseback you are better off rolling away from the horse.
  • From the falsemount:  you will not be able to practise falling directly forward (unless your falsemount can buck), so direct your rolls forward on either side of the neck.
  • If possible complete the roll away from the mount and regain your feet.

Sideways falls

  • These are similar to forward rolls, but the sidewaystemptation is much greater to try and stop yourself with your hands.  Instead, wrap your arms in front of your face and bring your hands beside your ears.  Twist your torso upwards so you fall on the back of your shoulder (shoulder-blade area).
  • These falls are harder to turn into a roll away from the horse, but luckily horses are usually moving in the opposite direction.  Depending on the angle of the fall you may roll to your back or your knees.  Rather than continuing the roll, simply get up from there.

Backward falls

  • From the ground: practise falling backward working up to having someone push you or sweep a leg out from underneath.  Your aim is to fall on the broad and fleshy parts, ie, your buttocks. In reality your will never have this trajectory from a horse, but it's good practise learning to fall backwards.  Extend your hands in front of you as you fall to help keep your head off the ground and stop you from rolling back onto your neck.
  • From the falsemount:  start by swinging one leg forward and across the neck of the falsemount.  You will need to rock your body backwards to do this.
  • Once you can do this smoothly, jump from the falsemount and land on your feet. This is the ideal way to fall!  However, from a galloping horse you may still fall backwards once your feet hit the ground, and this is where practising from the ground (above) comes in handy
  • Next practise NOT landing on your feet.  Begin with easing your seat to one side and letting yourself slide buttocks- or shoulder-first to the mat, similar to the sideways fall.  Finally, if you have nice cushy mats have someone push you off.

Other things to keep in mind

  • Let go of the reins.  This keeps you from getting tangled, and prevents you from hurting a real horse's mouth.
  • Kick your feet out of the stirrups to keep from getting dragged.
  • Move as far away from the horse as possible in your fall to keep clear of the hooves.
  • Know when to hold and when to fold.  Practise having people push you from the falsemount while you try to recover your seat.  This helps let you know how much imbalance you can recover from and when it's best to go with the flow and allow yourself to fall.  Clinging to a horse at all costs is more likely to get you caught under its neck or belly than a judicious emergency dismount will.
  • Practise the emergency dismount: drop the reins, put your hands on the pommel and swing both legs to vault from the saddle.  This is similar to a dismount, but with more energy and clearance.

Falling with the sword in hand

In most cases we tell riders to drop their weapons when in trouble and look after themselves. That said, for combat purposes it is good to learn how to fall while holding a sword, recover your feet, and continue to fight from the ground.

  • Practise from the ground first.  The quillons, pommel and blade are all things you could injure yourself on during a fall if you aren't mindful.
  • Learn to fall from the falsemount without hitting it with the sword on the way down.  Your real horse will appreciate this skill.

None of these situations simulates the velocity and trajectory of being launched from a bucking or galloping horse, but by practising the motions of falling you can train your body to react in ways that will maximize your safety.

The Mounted Skills Workshops are vital for this.  Here you can work on falling in a controlled environment with the comfort of mats and the slightly taller wheeled falsemounts.  Our next Mounted Skills workshop is this Sunday, June 15th at Academie Duello.

Upcoming Classes & Workshops

Mounted Games Practice

Fridays 13  & 27 June
time: 5-7pm
cost: $5; $15 with use of school horse
pre-requisite: Riding Level 1

Practise your hand-offs, pick-ups, put-downs and flying changes to improve your chances at Carosella this September.

Mounted Combat Skills
Sundays, 15 June, 27 July
time: 1-4pm
location: Academie Duello
cost: $60 or 1 flex-pack credit

This on-the-ground session is vital for developing your swordplay, spear and wrestling skills and to sign off your green and blue spur checklists.  Sessions take place at Academie Duello on the ground and from the falsemount.

Prix Fiore Drills
Friday 20 June
time: 6-8pm
cost: $60 or 1 flex-pack credit
pre-requisite: Riding Level 2

Prix Fiore (our own term) is a Prix Caprilli dressage test with swords as well as jumps.  In this lesson groups of up to four riders will practise drill team manoeuvres, tandem jumping, moving from guard to guard, and exchanging choreographed blows from horseback.  Performing a Prix Fiore test is one of the pre-requisites for the Red Spur.

Cavaliere Classes
Saturdays, 21 & 28 June
time: 4:00 - 7:30pm
cost: $60 1 flex-pack credit

There are just two Cavaliere classes left before we take a break in July.  Note that the schedule has changed and classes are now the last two weeks in June.  Classes will resume in August.  If this is too long a time to spend out of the saddle, remember you can use your package credits for private riding lessons.

Open Barn
Come out and practice your horsemanship, riding or sword skills at our monthly Open Barn.  This is a chance to work on the areas you need to.  Riders must have their level 1 riding or equivalent, but those without level 1 can work on grooming, handling and swordplay.

date: Sunday 27 June, 1-4pm
cost: $10 to ride a school horse; for horsemanship or with your own horse, free!

Cross-country schooling
Friday 6 June
time: 6-8pm
cost: $60 or 1 flex-pack credit
pre-requisite: Riding Level 2

Starting at 6pm I will take two groups of up to 4 riders cross country schooling in the back fields.  Riders must have a minimum of riding level 2.

Intro to Mounted Combat Workshop
Sunday 6 July
time: 10am – 1pm
location: Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
cost: $149

A taste of everything in the program.  Learn about grooming and tacking up, get some swordplay fundamentals, and ride a horse with sword in hand.
prerequisites: none

Mounted Combat Workshop
Sunday 6 July
time: 1- 4pm
location: Red Colt Equestrian Farm Co-op, 12320 No 2 Road, Richmond
cost: $60

Swordplay from the ground, the falsemount, and from horseback.
prerequisites: Intro to Mounted Combat or permission from the instructor

Private & Group Riding Lessons

To make up for the lack of Cavaliere Classes in July I will be adding some extra private and group lessons.  I currently have spaces available on Monday evenings in June.  Some Wednesday & Tuesday spaces are available as well.  Contact me directly at jennifer (at) to book.

Mark your Calendars

Beginner & Intermediate Horseback Archery: Saturday 9 August

Carosella 2014: Friday - Sunday 12-14 September



Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.