As soon as the calendar turns past October, the equestrian world kisses their stirrups goodbye for the next thirty days—welcome to No Stirrup November.
There are many different opinions among different training and exercises that people do with their horses and No Stirrup November is no exception. (George Morris LOVES it.) I have heard both the good and the bad to going stirrupless for an extended period of time, so I made sure to look at both sides of the concept before bidding farewell to my beloved stirrups.
- Strengthens the leg. Everyone knows that no stirrups is a common exercise used to strengthen a rider’s leg, so vowing to take them away for an entire thirty days is a great way to focus on just that. There is no doubt that this exercise is going to make a rider’s leg stronger and more useful in the long run.
- Improved leg position goes alongside strengthening. Posting off of the stirrups is a common mistake that many rider’s make and don’t realize that they are doing. When there is no stirrup iron to balance off of, the rider must use their muscles to hold your legs in place and stay on the horse. This helps eliminate any instability of the leg while riding and improves correctness.
- Practice and preparation. Any rider that shows may know that a common test in the equitation classes is to drop your stirrups, and if you have watched any of the medal finals you know that it can easily weed out the top riders in a large class. It also prepares rider’s for any situation that involves them losing a stirrup or not having the correct stirrup length.
- Better balance and an improved seat are huge benefits from taking away stirrups. It is easy to stay in the saddle when the stirrups are there for support, but when there is nothing to rely on, it forces the rider to use their seat to remain balanced. A rider’s seat is an essential aid that becomes especially useful during riding greenies or tough horses.
- Muscle Soreness. This is kind of a given, and not a “con” for everyone. Some people don’t mind and even like the feeling of muscle burn after exercising. Since no stirrups is basically like leg day at the gym for an entire month, there is definitely going to be some soreness at the beginning. But you know what they say, “if you are sore, then you did something right”.
- Soreness in the horse’s back. This is a biggie and probably what I am most concerned about with all these riders swearing off their irons for a month. Some horses have more comfortable gaits than others, therefore some trots and canters are easier to sit to than others. Without the stability of stirrups, a rider can easily bounce in the saddle, causing a sore back. No Stirrup November should be about improving the rider without injuring or sacrificing the horse.
- Falling off is a pretty common thing to those who are new to no stirrups. The inability to balance off of stirrup irons can cause a rider to jostle and become unstable aboard their horse. This can lead to a wobbly rider falling off the side and landing in the dirt.
- Inconsistency. Honestly, no stirrups shouldn’t be something that is only done one month out of the year because everyone else is doing it. Dropping their stirrups is something that riders should be doing every single ride, every time they ride, no matter what month it is.
So the question is, will I be participating in No Stirrup November? The answer is yes, but I will be setting my own limits for both me and my horse.
- Start out slow. I don’t see how jumping in to a full stirrupless ride cold-turkey can be successful. All it would do is make me incredibly sore and more likely to not participate the next day. I will start by seeing how long I can withstand riding without stirrups at the beginning and work on challenging myself and extending that time period. Little bits of no stirrups throughout an entire ride can be just as helpful.
- Keep my horse’s back in mind. Ax has a very bouncy trot that is pretty hard to ride and is infamous for throwing his rider out of the saddle. That combined with the fact that my no stirrup work needs a ton of work, I am positive that there will be some jostling around while I am up there. That being said, my main concern is that his back remains pain free and strong. If I think his back is hurting him in even the slightest, I will be taking a break and putting my feet back in the irons.
- Use it as a starting point for the future. I am not afraid to admit that I definitely do not do as much no stirrup work as I should, and it shows. I am vowing to use No Stirrup November as a start up for no stirrups for the rest of year and the rest of my riding. I am hoping to gain enough strength that no stirrup work becomes easier and I am more inclined to drop them every ride.
I will be blogging my adventures of No Stirrup November in a wrap up from each week. I encourage everyone to join in and let me know how they are doing!
HAPPY NO STIRRUP NOVEMBER!