It’s here y’all. NOVEMBER FIRST. And what comes along with the month of November? No stirrups of course! Oh, and the continuing of Starbucks Pumpkin Spice lattes, Frappuccino, and cappuccino of course. I’m addicted to Starbucks. No-stirrup November, not so much. But to improve our equitation and make our legs stronger, as riders, we have to drop our stirrups at some point. Do you ever get just BORED with trotting around in circles without stirrups? Here’s some definitely not easy, but definitely not boring no-stirrup exercises to try. And after… be sure to treat yourself to a spa day and Starbucks.
No-Stirrup November Exercise #1
Drop your stirrups (if you’re comfortable enough you can just pull them off the saddle completely.) If you have an extra pair of gloves or even two socks, really any thin piece of fabric that you could still feel through your boots. I find that an extra pair of gloves work best but whatever works for you works for this particular exercise. Tuck the gloves between mid-calf and your saddle. You want to keep the gloves at mid-calf as you ride. As you get more comfortable feel free to move the gloves around. The gloves keep you mindful of having your leg on the horse but also not “gripping.” You still want to stay relaxed, just with light contact to keep the gloves in place.
No-Stirrup November Exercise #2
Set up four ground poles in a circle, be sure the circle is large enough for your horse to trot through. Most people recommend a 60 foot diameter circle, but if you need to adjust to better suit your horse it’s fine. Start out at a walk to ensure you are comfortable with this at a slower, easier pace. Hold your reins in one hand and put the other hand out in the air horizontally, as if it were a wing and you were soaring. Circle your outstretched arm clockwise, counter-clockwise, and any other motion you can think of. This helps you keep your position even when your other body parts aren’t in position. Be sure to switch directions (even at the walk) and also to switch arms. When you feel more comfortable, perform a sitting trot over the poles. The poles also keep your pampered pony thinking. Just because you’re working on you doesn’t mean your pony can’t work also.
No-Stirrup November Exercise #3
I think of this one as the deadliest of them all. It’s sure to leave your legs screaming when your lesson is over. TWO-POINT POSITION. *groan* I know, why is this always included in no-stirrup exercises? But it’s essential to strengthening our position. Of course we don’t want to just go in circles in two-point though. So to make it more fun and a smidge easier (as much fun and easy as two-point without stirrups can be) try holding the reins in one hand and with your other hand, hold the pommel of the saddle. This will help your balance if you’re new to riding in two-point without stirrups and it is also helpful to guide your horse using one hand sometimes. Start this exercise at the walk and as you feel more comfortable move into the trot. Take caution that you aren’t holding yourself up with your free hand, you still want your legs to get something out of this. Eventually you can take the reins back in both hands and work on your two-point itself without any aid.
No-Stirrup November Exercise #4
Since we all want to be prepared to impress George Morris if he ever happened to show up at one of our shows, let’s move on to going over fences sans stirrups. Start out going over small cross rails. You can start at the trot if you’re more comfortable doing such. Be sure that you keep your legs on your horses sides and that you are balanced. If you aren’t balanced and you go over the rail, you’ll know. Chances are, the landing will be quite rough. This is another exercise where the gloves from Exercise #1 come in just to keep you mindful of your leg. As you feel more solid you can make those cross rails verticals and canter if you’re up for it. Some people prefer to canter when they jump without stirrups while others feel more relaxed at the trot. Horses with a choppy trot tend to be harder to jump stirrupless than those with a smooth trot. But whatever you are comfortable with will improve your position if you practice correctly.
Be sure that you do give your ponies a break as yourself. These exercises are also tiring for them! Have any other no-stirrup exercises? Leave a comment and let me know!
PICK YOUR STIRRUPS UP AND COME BACK SOON!