No-Stirrups November


I’m sure I’ve said it before, but having a senior horse is a mixed bag. At his advanced age and with more than two decades under saddle, there isn’t much that Snoopy hasn’t experienced before. He’s not above spooking, mind you, but I don’t really have to worry about him doing anything wrong or unexpected. I can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

On the other hand, with our show-ring days pretty much behind us and no big training goals to work toward, things can get kind of dull. We wander the same trails around the farm and repeat the same routines in the arena. It’s a big, exciting day when someone has left some groundpoles out for us to incorporate into a ride. Riding is always better than not riding, of course, but it would be nice to feel like I was accomplishing things every once in a while instead of just clocking hours in the saddle.

Enter no-stirrups November. This is where riders forego the aid of stirrups for the month of November in order to improve their strength and balance. I’m not sure where this idea originated, although according to this site, it started as a challenge between a couple of friends. In 2011, it became a fundraiser for the Horses for Heroes riding program at Therapeutic Horsemanship of St. Louis. Other farms and riders participate simply for a new challenge.

I suspect November was selected because it makes for a catchy name (No-Stirrups February sort of falls flat), but I think it’s good timing. The days are getting darker, forcing many riders off the fun trails and into lighted arenas. Show season is over for most of us who aren’t in Florida. And we’re right in between the leftover Halloween candy and the nonstop holiday goodies that come around Christmastime. I know I could use some extra intense workouts in my life right now. On the other hand, if you have a young or sensitive pony who gets a bit stirred up by November’s chilly winds, maybe No-Stirrups August would be a better choice for you.

In any case, I’ve started on this journey, and I will fully admit to taking a wimpy route. I haven’t removed the stirrups from my saddle altogether. I’m simply dropping them to do some posting trot and canter drills, then picking them up again. And sometimes I’m using the ol’ bareback pad, which doesn’t have stirrups but is much easier to stick to, so it’s kind of cheating. Also, I have not let my instructor in on this plan, which means my jumping lessons on Dreamer the Schoolie are safe from stirruplessness. So it’s really No-Stirrups November While Riding Snoopy on the Flat and Even Then Only Sometimes. Still, I’m somewhat proud to say that I’m feeling the burn, and by December, I expect to be able to finish a grand prix course without stirrups, should the need arise.


We’re more than a third of the way through the month already, but it’s never too late, right? Anyone else taking up the no-stirrups challenge? Let me know how it’s going in the comments below.

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