November, a most revered month. Some people look upon this month with a certain dread of the many patchy, scraggly moustaches they will encounter (read: Movember). Horseback riders look upon this month with their own variety of dead.
Welcome to No-Stirrup November.
For thirty days, coaches everywhere tell students to drop their stirrups and trot on. The goal – to build strength, balance and security over fences. No stirrup work is the most effective way to develop riders who are “tight in the tack” – those who won’t part company with their horse during a overjump, stop or run-out.
No-Stirrup November isn’t just for hunter/jumper riders. It’s great practice for anyone who’d rather not hit the dirt when their horse volunteers some unexpected acrobatics. My thighs of steel have saved my neck countless times, so I’ve become a big advocate for the exercise. But I’ll be frank with you – it is not easy. No-stirrup work brings out a deep muscle burn and takes a lot of practice to master.
If you can do the following, you can keep your stirrups this month:
- At a sitting trot, drop your stirrups and pick them up again
- At a rising trot, drop your stirrups and complete four laps around the arena
- At a canter, drop your stirrups and complete four 20-metre circles
- At a canter, drop your stirrups and transition to the halt without tipping forward
- With stirrups, keep your lower leg at the girth while jumping an obstacle (your lower leg should not slip back)
If you can’t complete the above exercises, kick your feet out of those bad boys. You’ve got some work to do.
Tell me – how do you keep your legs strong for riding?