The No-Stirrups November Project: Week Two Recap

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No Stirrups November Project

Monday, November 9, 2015

Riding lesson day. My instructor was again merciful and made no mention of no-stirrups November, but I do feel the benefits of all my practice rides sans stirrups with Snoopy. I do have trouble keeping my leg still on the narrow schoolie I ride, but I guess the best way to put it is that I feel less worried about it. Instead of focusing all my energy on trying to keep my leg from swinging, I remember the feeling of just balancing, and that helps me ease into a more natural position, which I think in the end actually DOES help my leg go to the right place and stay there.

Another weird side-effect of no-stirrups November? I’ve been riding Snoopy in a vintage Wintec all-purpose saddle. Without the stirrups weighing it down, the thing is like a feather. On an appropriately windy day, I swear you could tie a string to it and fly it like a kite. So when I picked up my usual lesson saddle today—your standard old leather number—it felt so heavy I actually looked twice to make sure I hadn’t somehow picked up two saddles. So, no-stirrups November: Making my legs stronger but my arms weaker, it seems.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

In the interest of making things less boring, I decided to reach back in the depths of my brain and pull up some of the equitation patterns I had practiced in my teenage saddle-seat-riding years. After a warm-up walking and trotting around the farm, we headed to the arena and practiced some basic patterns. It went…okay. I generally think of cantering as being the fun part of riding without stirrups, and while I feel like my position is better at the canter than the trot (or even walk), Snoopy was having some trouble cantering circles and I had the sudden urge to pick up my stirrups again so that I could just focus on getting him organized and not worry about my own position and balance. So, I guess I’m not perfect at the canter.

Interestingly, when I access the saddle seat section of my brain for those patterns, my default position in the saddle changes. I find myself wanting to roll my thighs in and point my heels away from my horse’s side. All-purpose saddles are not built for this position. I had to keep reminding myself that we’re hunt seat (or something) now.


No Stirrups Saddle Seat Equitation
A saddle seat equitation rider performs a pattern without stirrups at the 2015 Lexington Junior League Horse Show.

Friday, November 13, 2015

It was a super windy day, which gave Snoopy a bit more energy than usual. This meant his earth-bound jog became an actual trot, and I found I had a lot more to work on. Without stirrups, my upper body wants to tip forward as my legs start to slide back, and the added bounce made that more pronounced. It made the posting trot harder but more rewarding. That’s what no-stirrups November is all about.

I also decided to skip the arena and ride in the field instead. We did some cantering on a big circle on the grass and that went much better than when we’d done the same in the arena.

Overall, a fun ride.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

The weather turned warm. Not a bad thing, for sure, but it did turn Snoopy into his alter-ego, Sleepy McNapperhorse. Since he’d done so well on Friday, I figured we could take it easy. We did some trotting, but then instead of heading toward the ring to work on stuff, we went around the back loop of the farm. It’s the closest thing we’ve got to actual trails on the property, and we hadn’t been back there for a while.

Snoopy was alert, but didn’t jig or spook like he’s sometimes prone to do on those trails. It woke him up enough to keep things interesting.

At the end of two weeks without stirrups, I do feel like I’m getting better. My legs don’t start to hurt until I’ve done some sustained posting trot. When I get in the saddle, my position feels more natural and I don’t really think about the stirrups not being there—I just go ride.

Hopefully it’s going well for you, too. Let me know in the comments. And if you’ve fallen off the wagon, it’s not too late to get back on (without stirrups)! There’s still two weeks to go. Plenty of time to feel the burn.

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

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