Welcome to No Stirrup November

by Michelle Drum November 04, 2019 5 min read

Stirrups laying on the ground for no stirrup November

Fall means a lot of things for the riders of any discipline in the equestrian community. Horses are body clippedblankets are coming out of storage, hay sheds are filling up for winter & 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. One of the less anticipated events of the fall is No Stirrup November.


What is No Stirrup November and when did it start?

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 across the United States many equestrians will be dropping or removing their stirrup irons on a quest to becoming a better rider.


How can No Stirrup November help my riding? 

There is some evidence to support that with the end of the show season & equitation medal finals championships taking place around the country as the season draws to a close, that 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 thebenefits of riding with no stirrups/irons? 

The benefits of riding without irons spans multiple equestrian disciplines & age groups. 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

For example: 

Loose lower leg? Try some jumping position & trot work without stirrups
Find yourself leaning? Drop those irons for some trot work
Feeling unbalanced?  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 & 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. 



Here are some pro tips for No Stirrups November:

  • Wear comfortable clothes. This is not the time to break in those new boots or a 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 & curl up into a ball while riding without stirrups. remind yourself - don't be a turtle!  Stretch up tall, pull those toes up & think about how worth it this is going to be. 

  • Relax & 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 and / 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 Amatuer 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 & fitness levels. Remember - No prizes for crippling yourself. Feel the burn & take a break. 

Week 1

  • 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)

Week 2

  • 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 

Week 3

  • 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

Week 4

  • Jumping position at trot 1 full lap around the arena
  • Posting trot 4 circles or 2 serpentines across the arena
  • Up & 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 & no irons on the lunge line 

Tag me on Instagram ( @farmhousetack ) with your NSN pix! I'll pick one random winner on 12/2/19 
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 social for our annual '30 days of No Stirrup November meme series!' It will NOT disappoint! 

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