By: Emily Harris
It is finally November, which means we are getting very close to the end of the year. There are so many things to look forward to, but every equestrian knows what the month of November means. I am pretty sure it has been forgotten who started No Stirrups November in the first place, but it has impacted riders across the nation. In preparation for “No Stirrup November” we want to share some tips with you to make sure that you are prepared and ready to go stirrupless when you go to take up the challenge.
Tip 1: Wear Comfortable Clothes.
Wearing comfortable clothes while going stirrupless is a must! You want to make sure that you will be comfortable while riding. It can be very frustrating when your clothes bunch up, rub, or twist while you’re riding. If you are uncomfortable because of your clothes, you will compensate and try to find a way to tolerate it by shifting, leaning, sitting hunched, etc. Which in turn will make your horse uncomfortable and your aids will be less effective.
Tip 2: Stretch Before You Ride.
Stretching is crucial for every ride, but especially for riding with no stirrups. Stretching will help to loosen you up so that you will be more flexible during your ride. Stretching will help you warm up your muscles beforehand so that you will not feel so sore afterward.
Tip 3: Warm Up Your Horse Properly.
This is very important because the horse is the one enduring through all of our no stirrups antics. Warming your horse up first will help to loosen up its muscles so that the horse will not be tense during your ride. Make sure that you walk long enough for your horse to get used to your movement before proceeding to a trot. While you are walking your horse, you can also do on-the-horse exercises to further loosen yourself up. When you feel like you and your horse are ready, you can move to a trot. I would suggest focusing on small intervals, especially if you do not ride stirrupless often. Make sure to take small walk breaks so that you can regain your balance. Once you add cantering, you may find that cantering with no stirrups is easier than trotting. That is okay!! Cantering has a forward motion that’s similar to walking, while trotting is more of a vertical motion due to the amount of suspension in the gait.
Tip 4: Keep Your Stirrupless Sessions Short.
Honestly, who wants to have to go stirrupless for an entire lesson, days on end? It does not sound too good when it is put into those words. Does it help with your riding? Yes, it does. But who said you had to ride for extended periods stirrupless? You don’t have to. If you think about it, most of us won’t even be used to that level of work. The best way to accomplish more is by gradually increasing your no stirrup work during your rides. Begin by riding with stirrups, then add about 5-10 mins without stirrups. As time goes on and you are better able to handle it, increase your time without stirrups. Adding no stirrup work gradually will help you and your horse get acclimated to it. It will also improve your balance faster because you will not waste as much time in the wrong position. Then when you feel like you are ready, you can try no stirrups for an entire lesson/ride.
Tip 5: Have Fun!
Having fun with your stirrupless rides is a great way to sweeten the whole experience! As riders, we often forget to keep things simple and enjoy ourselves because we want to reach our riding goals. Spending time with your horse and developing a closer connection is more important. Ways you can have fun without stirrups are: riding bareback/tackless, liberty work, playing Gymkhana style games (ride-a-buck, egg and spoon, barrels, etc), going on a hack or trail ride, the toilet paper challenge, an obstacle course, or even riding side saddle style. There are so many things you could do while riding without stirrups. The possibilities are endless! All you need to do is get CREATIVE!!
No Stirrup November is a great way to strengthen your body, improve your balance and position. It is also a good opportunity for you to practice no stirrup work for your next certification. As you move up the levels, you will need to demonstrate that you can ride competently without stirrups at different speeds, so you might as well go ahead and get your practice in. And if you get bored with it, change things up and do something fun! There are plenty of things you could do to make going stirrupless more fun and not so painful. All you need to do is think outside the box! And remember, even though November has been dubbed no stirrup month, you can practice no stirrups any time of the year!
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