crossed stirrups

Several years ago, someone decided that November should be “No Stirrups” month in the equestrian world. No stirrups? How will I ever balance myself? I could slip off!

Well, stirrups aren’t there to balance you and I’ve seen riders slide off even though they were using stirrups. But, riding without stirrups does take some skill and should not be attempted alone unless you are an experienced rider.

How long?

When I say “no stirrups” most of my students think they will be riding that way for the entire lesson. Not so. We usually start with only a few steps and work up to five or ten minutes.

The good news is, once you’ve ridden without stirrups, you will actually look forward to doing it again. Many of my riders ask to ride without stirrups during the cool-down part of their lesson.

But why????

Riding without stirrups is a great way to help a rider’s form or posture, strengthen core muscles, and becoming aware of your and your horse’s movements. You can walk, trot, and canter without stirrups, but only do as many steps as you are comfortable with when you start. Make a goal to increase the number of steps or the length of time you ride without stirrups each time you ride.

You may find that after a few times of riding this way, you will need less rein for downward transitions and less leg to upward transitions. You may find yourself more in tune with your horse and your horse will almost read your mind as you work your patterns.

If you are not comfortable riding without stirrups, your instructor may put you on a lunge line until you have more confidence in yourself and your horse. Once you have the feel, you can continue your lessons independently.

History

Actually, in Germany, most riding lessons begin with vaulting classes and the classical riding schools of Europe require three years of riding without stirrups. Now, that’s dedication. But, look at the finished rider – beautiful form and balance.

So, this month, let’s cross those stirrups over the pommel of our saddle and ride. At least for five minutes each lesson.

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.
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