The No-Stirrups November Project Week One Recap

No-Stirrups November

We’re just over a week into the No-Stirrups November Project! How’s it going so far?

I’ve noticed a lot of the comments people are leaving on various NSN posts are along the lines of, “This’ll be easy! I always ride bareback.” Which is fair. But I’d argue that you can still make NSN a challenge. If you ride bareback but usually sit the trot, try posting. Look up some interesting equitation or horsemanship patterns and work on those. Do some trail obstacles. OR, here’s a crazy idea. If you really only ever ride bareback, see if you can borrow a saddle (if you don’t have your own) and use it for the month of November. Having spent most of the last 18 months without a saddle myself, I can attest to the fact that while bareback improves your balance, riding in a saddle with correct leg position is a different skill.

Whatever you decide to do to make this month a challenge, please share your thoughts in the comments, and let everyone know how it’s going for you. And now, here’s my week one No-Stirrups November Project diary.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Riding lesson day. I didn’t know if my instructor would be celebrating No-Stirrups November or not, and I didn’t mention it to her. Yes, I’m wimpy, but I’m also not crazy. I was mounted on one of my favorite schoolies, but I’m not sure how I would have done without stirrups. She’s quite narrow and I have trouble keeping my leg on her, much less keeping it still and in position.

And that’s exactly WHY I need no-stirrups November. In any case, I wasn’t subjected to it tonight.

Soreness from Sunday’s no-stirrups ride is minimal, but not nothing. Based on the diagrams of human muscles that I just Google image searched, I think it’s my hip adductors that must be feeling it the most. I think those are underutilized muscles, except for some reason I feel them now when moving my foot from the gas to the brake while driving. I’m not sure what to make of that.

My high school riding instructor used to refer to no-stirrups work at “The Thighmaster.” It was the mid-90s and that reference was relevant. I think it’s still accurate, though, even if it is dated.

Actually, I’m pretty sure this was already weird in 1991.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I didn’t ride today, but I did think it was a good idea to meet up with a friend for a five-mile run. During the run I felt fine, but after sitting down in my car for the 10-minute drive home, my legs felt like they were made of lightly rotted wooden posts: Unable to bend, but still feeble enough that they might snap if I stepped wrong. Maybe if I’m going to put my body through this torture I should pay more heed to the principles of warm-up, cool-down, and stretching.

Consider this your PSA.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The return of standard time means riding after work is a challenge, so I opted to ride in the morning. Not pre-dawn in true November Project style, but in the before-work hours.

I attempted to do more posting trot than I had in my last ride, and I think I succeeded, but the ever-increasing pain caused me to lose form toward the end. I noticed Snoopy started to look tense through his head and neck for the last few strides of the trot. I took that to mean that he felt his rider off-balance and was probably wondering what the heck was wrong with me. I owe him many carrots for putting up with this.

I decided to reward myself for all my hard work (?) by going to the nearest Starbucks and buying a flat white, which is a poor financial decision, but I justify it by pointing out that it has 12 grams of protein, making it a good post-workout recovery drink.

By the way, Starbucks, if you’re reading this, feel free to sponsor the rest of my No-Stirrups November and you’ll get tons of high-quality mentions on my blog like the one you just read. Call me.

Note to readers: Please never take nutrition advice from me.

Thursday, November 5, 2015.

Didn’t ride today, but Snoopy came up to meet me at the gate when I went out to give him his daily snack. Usually he makes me walk out to get him. I guess he’s not too upset with me.

Friday, November 6, 2015

I watched a few Grand Prix tests at the U.S. Dressage Finals this afternoon, then went directly to the barn feeling inspired. After powering through a warm-up walking and jogging around the perimeter of the farm and a few circles at the posting trot on the grass field, we headed toward the ring to polish our dressage skillz.

I couldn’t get Snoopy to canter a circle. To be fair, I only started asking him to canter again about two months ago after not having done so for about two years for a few different reasons which I won’t bore you with. In those two months, he has cantered some lovely circles, but the ring was pretty soggy and he was being overly cautious about the puddles. So instead we did a couple of ugly laps around the full ring and then left when other people came out to ride, mostly because I immediately felt self-conscious about my stirrupless riding skills (or lack thereof.)

Yeah, I know. Take me off the long list for Horsewoman of the Year.

Other than that, it was a pretty good ride that clocked in at just under an hour. I felt good about it. Snoopy seemed indifferent.

US Dressage Final

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I spent a few hours at the Horse Park watching more dressage tests before heading over for an early afternoon ride. Something about standing in the cold with the sun on my face made me super sleepy. I kept thinking about the couch, a pile of blankets, a cup of tea and a library book, but I was determined to get in a ride before going into full lazy Sunday mode. Unfortunately, Snoopy seemed to be feeling the same way, so our ride got off to a slow start. That was followed by a slow middle and a slow end.

I did push myself to do more posting trot. When we got to the arena, I did some trot-canter-trot transitions in each direction, which did inspire Snoopy to offer a more energetic gait. I use the word “energetic” loosely.

Still, another good ride. I do miss my stirrups, but I feel like this challenge has been good for me so far. Onward to week two!

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Leslie Potter is Sr. Associate Web Editor of Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieInLex.


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