Fancy joining the #NoStirrupsNovember movement? Here are our top tips for making riding without stirrups that little bit easier…
1. Stretch first
“One of the best exercises to do before you ride without stirrups is to lie on your back with your right leg bent up. Take the sole of your right foot on the floor close to your bottom and place your left ankle across your right thigh. Remember to repeat on the other side,” says British young rider eventing coach Emma Fisher. “This exercise helps to open out your hip, groin and lower back.”
2. Warm up yourself and your horse with stirrups first. And don’t try to ride without your stirrups for long periods straight away as this is likely to prove uncomfortable for you and your horse alike. Build up gradually and frequently check your horse’s back for any signs of discomfort along the way.
3. Cross the stirrups over in front of your saddle so they are not in your way and use a neckstrap or breastplate for extra stability.
“If you are going to ride without stirrups it’s important to have a neckstrap so you have something to put your finger through if you lose your balance or your horse spooks,” reveals international event rider Ibby Macpherson.
4. Ride in a safe environment such as an enclosed space.
“Be sensible. Don’t ride without stirrups when out on the road or in the middle of a field in the pouring rain on a horse who has just come back from a holiday,” continues Ibby.
5. Start in canter (ensuring you have warmed up first).
“Canter is easier than trot so start with that, get the feel for it and relax before changing to trot. It’s important not to go against the movement but to go with it,” says Emma.
6. Look ahead.
“Look up and focus on certain points in the arena, don’t look down as your position will change. If you look ahead with your body tall and heels pushed down you will find the whole experience of riding with no stirrups easier,” advises international showjumper Yazmin Pinchen.
7. Concentrate on your breathing.
“By thinking about your breathing it stops your upper body getting rigid in anticipation and helps you to relax,” says Emma.
8. Push your shoulders back.
“Bring your upper body up and really use your core muscles to help find balance and comfort. It’s not an easy exercise if you are not used to it so using your legs and core is really important,” adds Yazmin.
9. Keep your hands soft.
“Stay soft in the hand and don’t rely on them for balance, use your legs and engage your tummy,” says Yazmin.
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“The more you tense, the harder riding without stirrups is so try to relax, sit deeper and move with the horse rather than against him,” adds Emma.
“Try not to grip with your legs. Keep your knees and thighs relaxed, wrap your legs around your horse and ensure your toes are pointing forward,” says Ibby. “Engage your core and don’t brace against the movement, allow your body to go with it.”
11. Have someone on the ground.
“Not only is having someone on the ground important from a safety perspective but it’s also useful to have someone watching you, reminding you of the basics like looking ahead, while letting you know if your position changes when you don’t have stirrups,” concludes Ibby.
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