Category Archives: building self esteem

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

How to have happy teens? Let them horseback ride the stress away

Horseback riding. By definition, is the sport or activity of riding horses; however, for those of us who ride, we know that it is far more than just that. We all lead busy lives and barn time is time away from work, home and school stress – which, for teenagers, is an especially difficult time in life.

Who doesn’t remember the challenges that we faced in our teen years, whether it was getting good grades at school, being part of a socially accepted peer group, finding the right part time job or just getting along with our families. Today, teenagers face far more pressure than ever before. University admissions are increasingly competitive, which means students are constantly striving to earn top marks in order to get into their university of choice. And then, there is the stress of social media. Being perfect. All the time. Because everything is posted whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. and everybody sees it. It’s an acceptance that many of us didn’t have to deal with but unfortunately, our children (and my students) do.

Stress causes many physical and emotional side effects such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety, sleep and eating disorders and even suicide. So, how do WE – as parents/adults – help our teens reduce their stress levels? Studies have been shown that exercise is one of the best ways AND combined with the love of an animal, it’s a perfect match! I teach many teenagers – in fact, they currently make up the largest number of my riding students. Yes, they have fun when they are here, taking “selfies” with their horses as they groom, snap chatting silly moments in the barn BUT…once they enter the barn, taking on the responsibility of caring for their horse and then concentrating on riding, I can see the stress they may walk in with, disappear.

One of my adult students came across this article written by Ella Innes which gives insight into how horseback riding can help with teen stress:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2613211/Spending-time-horses-make-teenagers-stressed-study-reveals.html

So, if horseback riding CAN and DOES relieve the stress of your teen, why not let them give it a try? Who knows, they just might start putting in as much effort into cleaning their room as they do sweeping the barn or grooming their horse;)

Until next time,
Robyn