Friday, November 6, 2015

No-Stirrup November!

I've been riding for two years now, and decided to start the third off by participating in No-Stirrup November for the first time.  Although I have ridden stirrup-less at the walk a couple times, and bareback at the trot, this will be my first time riding without stirrups for extended periods of time.  Riding western trail has really improved my ability to use my legs for steering; I am much less reliant on my hands than I have been in the past, and I know that I can ride on a loose rein without using it for turning now.   Now it is time to solidify my seat.  I will do that through riding without stirrups.  I am starting slow,  but I'm hoping to work up to riding longer and to riding the canter.


 Since Lucky has been on a mini-hiatus these past couple months and the whether has finally turned cold, and I lunged her before both rides.  It's part of my routine anyways, and besides allowing to let Lucky buck her crazies out, it gives me the opportunity to work her and prepare her for being ridden. When I lunged, I worked on flexing her head to the inside, bending her body, keeping her in an even rhythm, and making her become round.  With Lucky, getting roundness and bend often takes many repetitive light squeezes because she often looks to the outside.  I tried to catch her before she looked to the outside.  The lungeing on the second day was more successful than the first.  Laura lunged Lucky for a bit before me, showing me how to keep Lucky's head bent to the inside by squeezing the line just before Lucky looked to the outside.  She also showed me how to keep Lucky's body bent and how to prevent her from leaning, which she did by pointing the whip at Lucky's girth, using it as an inside leg.  Ideally, a horse she be flexed to inside, bend along their ribcage, and round, what Laura calls "the sweet spot."  She always waits until this moment before making any transition. After a while she handed the line over to me.  Under her guidance, I worked on the same things at the walk, trot, and canter.

No-Stirrup November

The improved seat, increased strength, and yes suffering(no pain, no gain, right?) of No-Stirrup November begins for me.  The first day, I only rode for twenty minutes or so.  Laura lunged me so I could focus on my position as I rode, although I did work on spiraling the circle in and out, so I did control Lucky in some respects.  

The stirrups come off for the month! No turning back now. ;)
The walk was not too taxing, though I could still feel my thigh muscles working.  It was the trot that was the real killer.  Although I was riding without stirrups, Laura wanted me to rise at the trot rather than sit, which proved quite strenuous to say the least.  My lower leg swing and I could barely rise out of the saddle.  What Laura was discovered is that I have been bracing against the stirrups and using them to rise out of the saddle, rather than supporting myself with my calves and only moving my knee and thigh to post.  My legs are also often far behind me, but that is something I've known for a while. More no-stirrup work should fix both of those things! My thighs were like jello afterward; it is strenuous work.

Click here for video.  I'll have a comparison video next month.
I would say that I did better the second day.  Again, I was lunged and focused on getting my position correct: my legs at the girth, my elbows at a 90 degree angle, my upper body straight, and my inside shoulder bent slightly back.  I was successful at the walk.  However, it was more difficult at the trot.  During the trot, I sat for a circle before posting, and posted in short burst of a few strides at a time. When I did this, I felt I bit more solid, but my hands, which held the reins with no contact, were not as still as they should be.  Still, I worked on it and did quite of bit of trotting, but only for several times around the round pen at time, as I did not want to get fatigued.  

Afterward, I rode around the ranch on my own for several minutes, trying my best to not use my hands to turn Lucky.  I was able to turn Lucky in the trail and on twenty meter circles with just my legs!  

The no-stirrup work will continue throughout November, and maybe even through December.  I'm hoping that I can try cantering without stirrups by the end of the month; I'm sure the work will greatly improve my canter.  That's the goal anyways!  It will be tough, but it will be worth it! Is any one else doing No-Stirrup November? 


  1. Sounds like a tough lesson. I do hate posting without stirrups. I'm doing NSN, but I don't have to post, so it's not that bad.

    1. It was! Cool that you are riding without stirrups too; good luck with it.

  2. I incorporate no stirrup work into my rides all the time and my legs STILL get sore afterwards! Good for you for making the commitment. I'm sure you'll love the results at the end of the month. :)

  3. congrats on 2 yrs of riding! NSN is gonna be hard haha (sadly i can't participate this year) but you'll be so much stronger by the end of the month!! :)


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