No Stirrup November

Every fall I try to include “No Stirrup November” on my riding calendar. I have found riding without stirrups has helped me with my balance and to develop a better seat.

Please remember I AM NOT A TRAINER and am just sharing my experience, as each and every horse and rider combination is different. I start by riding for 10 minutes with my stirrups crossed in front of my saddle after each ride. Then I gradually add a few minutes each time I ride to reach my goal of riding 30 minutes without my stirrups. I also plan on riding without stirrups at least once a week for the remainder of the year.

In Europe students are often taught to ride without stirrups so they naturally develop their seat and balance. Additionally it is not uncommon for them to learn vaulting on a horse before riding as it helps with their sense of balance as well.

Another realization I made is that I was riding in the arena a lot more now than in the summer months. So I took this as an opportunity to review some of the prior exercises I have learned over the years. Hopefully this will make my arena riding more enjoyable, challenging and be beneficial to my riding skills.

Some of the exercises I have tried without stirrups include:

1) The Spiral Exercise- I always start this exercise at a walk and then move onto the trot and canter after mastering it at the walk first. // 6-87.pdf

2) Serpentine the entire arena.

3) Half Halts.

4) Turn on the Forehand.

5) Turn on the Haunches.

6) Leg Yield.

7) I complete a Figure 8 over a ground pole. I set up a ground pole and then do a figure 8 pattern with the pole in the middle.

8) I count my strides before a pole at the walk, trot and canter. I place a single pole on the ground and one stride before it I count one, then I try to guess two strides before and so on. Once I master the walk I move to the trot and then the canter. I try to guess up to 6 strides before the pole, but you pick your own number. This has helped me judge my distances better.

9) I have found using poles on the ground to be a great exercise with or without stirrups. I use between 1-4 poles spread at different distances depending on walk, trot or canter.

10) I perform a lot upward and downward transitions.

11) Practice picking up the stirrups without looking.

12) Practice, Practice and more practice.

After riding without stirrups I started to wonder why was the stirrup invented and what is the history behind it? The stirrup dates back to the military and war and I found Steven Till’s link quite interesting //

The reason I enjoy riding so much is there is always something new to learn or master. I hope you find this blog helpful and motivational and hope you will share your thoughts or experiences riding without stirrups with us.

Cowgirl Logic:

“Rules of an Equestrian #306: When it comes to horses, you NEVER stop learning.”


Happy Trails,


Joyce Ferreiro


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