Riding without stirrups is a tried and trusted technique with known and established benefits to the rider. Working without stirrups promotes a rider’s balance, stability and seat depth and is a training tool used by many instructors and riders of all levels. It can encourage the development of an independent sit, a stronger and improved core, and calm, soft hands that don’t rely on the reins for balance.
Horse riding without stirrups is something that can be done in a private class or in a group. It is also very beneficial in a lunge lesson where the rider can also ditch their reins as they are not responsible for controlling the horse. This will allow them to fully concentrate on their position and get the double benefit of riding without reins or stirrups.
Here are 18 tips to help you perfect the art of riding without stirrups and really improve your riding skills.
18 tips to improve your driving without running boards
- Ride without stirrups on a regular basis – It gets easier! No stirrups can be a bit daunting at first, but stick with it. The key to learning how to do it is consistency.
- Do some stretching exercises away from the horse before riding – Lie on your back with your right leg bent up. Take the sole of your right foot on the floor near your bottom and place your left ankle on your right thigh. Work both legs. This can help open up the groin, hip, and lower back.
- Warm up your horse and yourself first -Do this with your stirrups initially. Obviously, there is additional risk when you ride without stirrups, so it is important to ensure that you and your horse are warm and flexible before proceeding.
- Travel in a safe enclosed space – Riding without stirrups can be tricky so take extra precautions to stay safe. Try to practice in a familiar place that is closed and that you know is safe,
- Make sure you have a neck strap or bib for added security. – can help to hold on when you feel your balance is challenged and prevents you from hanging on the horse’s mouth with the reins
- Do not hold leg in riding position – this is a common misconception and a mistake made by many cyclists and their instructors. The leg should hang perfectly loose even if the ball of the foot points slightly towards the ground. The toe hanger i.e. the stirrup is gone so there is nothing to support the rider’s leg. Holding the toe up will tighten the thigh and close the hip, making it almost impossible to sit properly and absorb the movement of the horse through the lower back.
- start gallop – Many riders and instructors suggest starting at a canter rather than a trot, as it is easier to sit down. But you will have to ride from a forward canter to a trot at some point in the session and this is probably the most difficult of all the transitions to riding without stirrups.
- Select a comfortable speed – If trotting without stirrups, always trot at a speed you can sit at, which can be shown to be slower than a normal working trot. If the trot is too big or too fast, it will end up bouncing, which puts stress on the rider and also on the horse.
- Keep your vision up and look straight ahead. – remember, the head is the heaviest part of your body and if you let your head fall forward and look down, it can throw you and the horse off balance
- Focus on your breathing and moving with the horse. – do not lean on the movement as this stiffness will make it even more difficult to sit well. Good breathing technique will help stop any tension creeping into your position and is helpful in regulating the pace of your trot.
- Keep your shoulders open so you can engage your core.. Make sure that your shoulders are sitting above your waist and that you are not collapsing forward or sitting behind the upright.
- Reboot regularly if you lose balance – If you feel like you are losing your balance and start to hold on to the reins, walk around for a while and try again or just remove your stirrups, you may be getting tired.
- try to stay relaxed – the looser you are, the easier it will be for you to move with the horse and not against it
- Don’t ride too long without stirrups – if you are tired or the horse has a lot of movement it is probably time to stop riding without stirrups – if it becomes too difficult then the temptation is to catch with your legs if you lose your balance which is totally counterproductive. Keep unbridled work limited to short periods, little and often.
- Try an easy sit horse first – Try and choose horses that are easy to sit initially; there is plenty of time to work on horses with larger, more expressive movement. Fast, sharp horses will also be more difficult to ride without stirrups, as it can be more difficult to focus on what the rider is doing if the horse always feels like he is trying to pick up his pace and run away.
- Have someone on the ground to help and guide you: It’s easy to not feel what your body is really doing, so an instructor or trainer can really help you out and develop exercises to make the session very beneficial. it is also safer
- Stay safe – take both feet out of the stirrups at the same time and then cross them at the same time – do not leave one foot in one foot out or cross one stirrup and not the other, as this can be dangerous if something spooks your horse
Last November many riders like Grace Owsley pictured above took part in No Stirrup November. Each person who took the challenge seemed to discover something new about their own promotion and was able to identify new things to work on for the coming year.
Always remember that riding without stirrups can be hard work for your horse and end a session by removing the stirrups and doing some work at an up trot, which takes weight off the horse and allows him to lift his back and lengthen his topline forward. and down. .
In addition to refreshing your horse, it can be helpful to move into a seated trot with stirrups before the lesson is over and maximize the benefit you can get from working without stirrups. But you should always keep your horse’s recovery time in mind.