Some of the links below are for companies that I believe in, use and partner with. When you make purchases after clicking the link, I may be compensated for sending you their way.
The tradition of no stirrups is deeply embedded in the hunter jumper world. It inspires fear, thighs of jelly, sore Abs, and George Morris memes aplenty. Every year equestrian bloggers celebrate this fine, painful, seat developing tradition with No Stirrups November.
We share our ride plans (or aftermath), helpful exercise and sometimes – funny slips and slides. I’d like to invite you to participate and share so we can empathize with sore muscles and the difficulty of getting up from the toilet.
For my non-riding friends, let me explain. When we ride, sinking our weight into our heels and keeping the balls of our feet in the stirrups helps to balance and support the rider. It also has a tendency to let us not use our seat and weight distribution aids as effectively as possible. One of the keys to an effective rider is an independent seat – meaning that your core balance keeps you in the saddle without depending on your legs clamping on to the horse. Essentially, riding without stirrups is strength training for equestrians. It also an essential safety issue for riders as losing your stirrups over course happens frequently.
So how can you work #NoStirrupNovember in your rides?
If you’ve ever done an interval program like Couch to 5k or tabata work outs, you know that there is power even in small periods of challenging work. If you don’t regularly do no stirrup work, this is a great way to start. After your warm up, when both you and yourself are in balance and going well – drop your stirrups at the walk for 5 to 10 minutes. Now, it won’t do you much good to just amble aimlessly around the arena. There is plenty of work to be done at the walk – transitions within the walk, walk – halt – walk, serpentines and circles, and (if you want to get a little crazy) two point at the walk. Sounds boring? Try it. An honest 10 solid minutes of marching walk with no stirrups working through those exercises. Better yet, do the same thing outside the arena!
Get On The Lunge
Want your seat stickablity and feel to improve by leaps and bounds? Take some no stirrups and no reins lunge lesson on an appropriately steady horse with an instructor who understands the physiology of riding. When you don’t have to worry about steering, you can focus more directly on the feel of the gaits and developing the muscle memory of following the horse’s movement instead of simply reacting to it. It doesn’t matter what your level of riding is, you can benefit by stripping things back down to basics and seeing where the holes in your position are.
George Morris swears by 1 45 no stirrup ride a week for riders of all levels – including advanced flat work and jumping.
Play Summer Camp
Do you remember the games you played at riding camp? Touching the horse’s ears and tail, wind milling your arms one at a time, and all those other fun little things that helped you develop balance and feel without feeling like you were drilling? Revisit that. Get together a group of friends that now how to laugh at themselves to make it even more fun.
Whatever Your Working On
Anything you do in your regular ride can be a part of your no stirrup ride when scaled down according to your confidence and strength. Start small with short intervals and build.
I had my first ride of the month today. It happened to be after ten days of no riding due to weather and trip to SC. It also happened to be during a slow and steady drizzle. Yes, that’s right – fresh horse, out of the groove rider and a rain slick saddle.
I didn’t come off. There were a couple near misses but I stuck it. I did a solid warm up at the walk, trot and canter concentrating on keeping Elf-Pony forward and soft and my hips in a good, even alignment. Then, I did the same exact this with no stirrups (although a bit abbreviated and minus the canter as the rain started really coming down). I found that when my balance would get shaky it made the Pony nervous so I focused mostly on keeping myself realxed and breathing and him soft and listening. I might not be able to make it up the stairs in the morning. For the rest of this month, I’ll be posting updates here on Wednesdays. Are you participating? Grab the button, post your #NoStirrupNovember ride report and link up each week! I’ll be featuring some of my favorite linked up posts here on the blog and on my social media. I’d love to hear what exercise you’re finding helpful!