Fall means a lot of things for the riders of any discipline in the equestrian community. Horses are body clipped, blankets are coming out of storage, hay sheds are filling up, and show seasons are almost over.
One of the perks of fall afternoon schooling sessions is that they almost always end with a walk in the brisk air surrounded by fall colors and a beautiful sunset. However, one of the less anticipated events (for some) of the fall is without a doubt... "No Stirrup November."
What is "No Stirrup November"?
There are many guesses and assumptions but no solid evidence to support who started this trend or coined the phrase.
One thing seems certain, the rise in popularity has been growing by leaps and bounds since 2013. On November 1st many equestrians all over the world will be dropping or removing their stirrup irons on a quest to become a better rider.
How Can No Stirrup November Help My Riding?
If you're anything like me then you get super motivated watching the top riders at Indoors, especially all the Big Eq kids. I am always flabbergasted watching the winning rounds of Medal and Maclay Finals. Like half the time I don't even notice that they have NO STIRRUPS, it looks so effortless.
That lights a fire under my lazy amateur butt to get my schooling in gear. In addition, many trainers focus on no stirrups in November as a tool to tighten up the lower leg & thigh muscles, while fine tuning the rider's position.
Equitation is judged on the rider's position and use of aids while on the flat and over fences, which frequently includes a test of the top riders. The test may include jumping without stirrups, counter canter or even trading horses with another rider. Judges look for impeccable position, quiet leg, seat & hands combined with subtle communication with the horse. The master equitation rider can perform complex tasks in the saddle while making it seem effortless to anyone watching.
What Are The Benefits Of Riding Without Stirrups?
The benefits of riding without irons is beneficial for everyone, regardless of your discipline or age. Mastering this exercise allows riders to reach another level of feel, balance, and suppleness in the saddle and can effectively solve a variety of rider issues.
Loose lower leg?
-Try some jumping position & trot work without stirrups.
Find yourself leaning?
-Drop those irons for some trot work.
-You guessed it - Drop your irons.
Having trouble riding with a deep seat?
- Are you seeing a trend yet?
Stand by a schooling ring and the most common calls from trainers to riders stem from balance, contact, and feel. Feel can be hard to explain, you're literally feeling your horses body and mind through your leg, seat and hands, while also trying to think ahead and anticipate what aids you may need to use next. Is my horse straight? Is he drifting left? Why is he leaning on my reins?
In addition to teaching the rider to maintain a sense of balance, building core strength and improving the feel of the horse underneath, it also is a study in confidence building. When a rider achieves proper balance followed by a tight leg and seat, the rider is able to handle anything unexpected that comes their way, saving those unscheduled dismounts for another day.
Some Pro Tips For No Stirrups November
- Wear comfortable clothes. This is not the time to break in those new boots or saddle. Check out the Kerrits fall lineup for comfortable clothing to ride in.
Start slow. Start by dropping your irons in that opening walk around the ring or when you're cooling out.
- Short on time? Go for a bareback ride, it counts!
- Buddy up.The challenge is more fun with friends! Plus the whole accountability factor.
"You're not a turtle!" It's easy to shrink and curl up into a ball while riding without stirrups. Remind yourself - don't be a turtle! Stretch up tall, pull those toes up and think about how worth it this is going to be.
- Relax and let go. Try not to squeeze too much with your knees.
- Stretch before you get on! Make sure you're properly warmed up before you start.
- Listen. Pay attention to both your body and your horses, if it hurts or your horse is starting to act up, it's time to take a break.
Set goals. Set a goal for each week & the end of the month, adjust as needed.
Don't over do it. There's no prize for staggering into work crippled the day after dropping your irons. It's actually counterproductive, as you'll be less likely to want to ride or do more no stirrups. Rome wasn't built in a day!
- Know your horse. If you haven't ridden in a week or your horse is fresh let him have a spin on the lunge line to get the sillies out before swinging a leg over.
Farm House Tack Adult Amateur "Drop Your Irons" Challenge
We suggest you start at 2 minutes and work your way up to 5 or more the first week depending on your stamina and fitness levels. Remember - No prizes for crippling yourself. Feel the burn and then take a break.
- Drop irons & walk 2 times around the arena
- Jumping position at halt for 15 seconds
- Post at walk 2- 20 meter circle (not sure on the 20 m, it's about 65' or 5 canter strides)
- Jumping position at the walk across the long sides of your arena
- Sitting trot 2 - 20 meter circles
- Posting Trot - Across the short sides of your arena
- Jumping Position at the trot on the long sides of the arena
- Sitting trot on short sides.
- Posting trot 1 lap in each direction around the arena
- Practice up & down transitions walk - posting trot 2 laps in each direction
- Jumping position at trot 1 full lap around the arena
- Posting trot 4 circles or 2 serpentines across the arena
- Up and down walk trot transitions on the long sides
- Canter 1 lap in each direction
Bonus exercises anytime after week 2
- Jumping position at the walk or trot over ground poles
- Sitting trot to a small crossrail
- Break out the lunge line & take turns with your buddy on being lunged without stirrups
- Practice no reins and no irons on the lunge line
Tag us on Instagram ( @farmhousetack ) with your NSN pix! I'll pick one random winner on 12/2/2020
to win an exclusive Farm House Tack Saddle pad. No purchase necessary, contest valid to U.S. residents only.
Be sure to follow us on our social pages and watch (or participate with) our very own Lizzie as she takes on the "Drop Your Irons" challenge!