Category Archives: self confidence

No stirrups November? No problem!

At first they thought I was joking…an entire month of lessons without stirrups? But why?

When I first started implementing “No stirrups November” a few years ago, I think most of my students lasted around 2 weeks before convincing me into letting them have their stirrups back. It’s not as if we didn’t practice without stirrups over the course of the year, but we never made it the full month. But this year, we ARE going to make it to 30 days!

I know it sounds scary (and trust me, I know how much it can hurt!) but riding without stirrups is a challenge, it takes us out of our comfort zone and it makes us better riders.

Most coaches would agree that riding without stirrups is necessary for all riders:

“Those looking to bring their riding to a higher level will benefit greatly by riding without stirrups. Riding without stirrups will help to make a rider more balanced, stronger and secure in the saddle. The most important reason to make it a consistent part of a rider’s weekly riding routine is that it will help improve your seat. By improvising your seat, you will improve your feel, and by improving your feel in the saddle, you will ultimately become a better rider. Once a rider has put in the time and effort to develop a world class seat, it’s equally important for the rider to maintain their seat by riding without stirrups on a consistent basis.” (USHJA certified trainer Scott Lico)

We are now into our 2nd week of “No stirrups November” at Foxwood. I have started all of my students off slowly, with each rider going without stirrups for a little bit longer at each lesson. For our beginner riding students, who are still working on developing their balance, no stirrup work may simply involve taking their feet out of the stirrups at a walk and then putting them back. A small exercise but with big benefits – not only improving their balance but their confidence.

Our novice riders are confidently riding at the sitting trot without stirrups and are building muscle strength to try posting trot without stirrups, while our intermediate and advanced students are working on bending exercises as well as cantering without stirrups.

So, what really ARE all of the benefits of riding without stirrups?

1. Strengthening the leg
Everyone knows that riding without stirrups is a common exercise used to strengthen a rider’s leg, so a month without them is a great way to focus on just that. The rider’s leg becomes stronger and more useful in the long run.

2. Improving leg position
This goes along with strengthening. Posting off of the stirrups is a common mistake that many riders make and they don’t realize that they are doing it. When there is no stirrup iron to balance off of, the rider must use their muscles to hold their leg in place in order to stay on their horse. This helps eliminate any instability of the rider’s leg and it improves correctness.

3. Preparing the rider
Any rider that shows may know that sometimes in an equitation class, they may be asked to drop their stirrups. It also prepares the rider for any situation, whether at a show or at home, that involves them losing a stirrup and then subsequently, their balance.

4. Building balance and improving a rider’s seat
It is easy to stay in the saddle when 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 when riding “green” horses or more difficult horses.

5. Developing confidence
Not every rider is keen to ride without stirrups as there is always the fear on falling off. Working at their own pace, improving with each lesson without stirrups, gives each rider a sense of accomplishment.

We are going to be stronger by the end of November and who knows?
Maybe my students will suggest we continue it into December…and add some jumping WITHOUT stirrups;)

Until next time,
Robyn

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Still smiling after a “no stirrups november” lesson

A new year, a new passion – you’re never too old to horseback ride!

Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of riding a horse or maybe, you’re simply looking for a new hobby but one is never too old to experience the love that can be found at the barn! I’m always interested to hear from my “senior” students what made them decide to ride and recently, my student shared the following with me:

“As many little girls did, I grew up loving horses. I had pictures of them all over my bedroom walls and much to my parents chagrin, I definitely thought they should buy me one for my birthday. I never did get that horse I wished for; however, I was lucky enough that my parents paid for a few lessons, which I enjoyed very much.

Eventually, we moved and that was the end of my riding except for the occasional trail ride. My love of horses always did stay with me; however, a busy life of raising three amazing children and working full time kept me busy. Although we lived very close to many horse farms, it never occurred to me to pick up riding again until only a few years ago.

I have now been riding for almost 2 years and I got back into it quite by accident. When my youngest child was six, a friend mentioned to me that she was riding at Foxwood Farm in Bradford. She was part of a ladies group called “Hags on Nags” that rode once every other week, just for fun. My friend mentioned that occasionally they had a “bring a friend to riding night” and I asked her to invite me the next time there was an opportunity. So, I did go to that next “bring a friend to riding night” and I was hooked. It was so much fun and I knew that I had to continue. My kids were a bit older and I felt that I could afford to spend some time riding every other week. Each time I rode I learned something new – it was a challenge and so much fun I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. Eventually, every other week turned into once a week as I wanted to improve and I was loving it so much.

Recently, I had an interesting experience. It happened on a Tuesday, which is my riding day. Normally, I am excited to get home and get changed to head out to Foxwood Farm; however, on this particular day, I had had a crazy day at work and I was feeling tired and cranky. On my way home from the office I thought about cancelling my ride but I thought to myself, I know if I go I will feel better. So, off I went to the barn, part of me thinking I could stay home and put my jammies on and have a quiet evening…but I have to say that I am so glad that I went to the barn that night! I had such an amazing ride! It was just one of those lessons where everything went well. George, the horse I rode, and I were totally in sync and it was such a great feeling. I am so happy that I pushed myself to go and didn’t stay home and have a quiet evening. If I had stayed home that night, I wouldn’t have experienced that great ride and turned that frustrating day into a good one.

I wanted to share my story in the hopes that other adults might take the sport up again or if you have never ridden before, that you might give it a try. I can think of many reasons I enjoy riding: it’s a challenge, I get to spend time with great people and I learn something new every time but the best reason, really, is how it makes me feel – which is happy. I hope you give it a try and find out your own reasons.”

With the right horse, coach and attitude, horseback riding can be enjoyed for many, many years. Thank you, Jen, for sharing your story with us. I am a very happy coach when I see all my students leave their lesson with a smile and there is always a great, big one on your face when you are at the barn 🙂

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