Saturday, May. 25, 2024

No Stirrups, No Problem: Five Rides To Remember



The end of November is in sight, and for those participating in the #COTHLoseTheLeathers challenge, that means time is running out to complete your rides. Need inspiration for the final push? Here are five examples of riders defying the odds in the face of an unexpected lack of stirrups, plus a bonus no-saddle performance.

1. Most riders would pull up if a stirrup leather broke before the halfway point on the daunting CCI5*-L cross-country course at the Badminton Horse Trials (England), but most riders aren’t Mark Todd.

In this infamous 1995 ride aboard Bertie Blunt, the legendary Kiwi showed why he earned the FEI’s “Rider of the Century” title by jumping two-thirds of the course without his left stirrup. He still had to navigate such notorious obstacles as the Vicarage Vee and the Lake, but “Toddy” managed to finish clear and was sitting fifth after cross-country. Bertie Blunt didn’t pass the jog the next day, but the pair returned to Badminton the following year to win.

2. Louise van Dijck, 15, channeled some Mark Todd-esque grit during the 2018 FEI Pony European Championships in Bishop Burton, England, when her stirrup leather broke early in the course. The Belgian rider piloted Gasmann B Van Het Juxschot safely through water, hedges and corners while supporters cheered from the sidelines.


3. If we didn’t tell you that Harrie Smolders rode most of this jump-off at the 2017 CSI2* Ghent (Belgium) without his left stirrup, you might not have even noticed. Discerning ears will hear a snap when Smolders and Emerald NOP land from the first jump, when Smolders’ left stirrup falls to the ground, but the rider’s leg stays steady through rollbacks, combinations, and even Emerald NOP’s post-round bucks to win the class.

4. H&M Reveur De Hurtebise jumped Malin Baryard-Johnsson out of the tack halfway through their course at the 2011 FEI Helsinki World Cup qualifier. Baryard-Johnsson held on by the heel of her boot and regained her balance, but she didn’t have time to get her stirrups back before the next jump. She continued without them and finished third.

5. Despite the video quality, there’s no mistaking this resourceful rider as Karen O’Connor on Park Hall at the Kentucky Three-Day Event. Park Hall lost his footing on a turn, and O’Connor was left dangling by one stirrup. Park Hall stood still while O’Connor did everything humanly possible to get back in the saddle, but the most impressive part of the video may be after O’Connor is properly mounted again, she simply points Park Hall to the next jump (three strides away) and continues as if nothing happened.



Elaura Cieslik is the epitome of calm in this video from the Salon-de-Provence racecourse in France. When 4-year-old First Wood’s saddle slipped under his barrel, Cieslik simply leaned over the horse’s back until the saddle was out of the way, then swung astride and galloped home bareback, winning the race. 

Be sure to pick up the Chronicle’s Nov. 18 & 25 Equitation Issue for more examples of famous riders losing their stirrups and continuing on like it’s no big deal.

Thank you to the prize donors for the Chronicle’s #COTHLoseTheLeathers challenge. They include:

Kickapoo Ponies
Hollins University
Tucker Tweed
Straight Arrow
Country And Stable

Have you signed up for the Chronicle’s #COTHLoseTheLeathers challenge? Ride 12 times for a portion of each ride without stirrups in November, and you can be entered into a drawing for prizes. The first 500 riders who submit a completed form tracking their rides beginning Dec. 1, will receive a ribbon. Learn more at the COTH Lose The Leathers Facebook group.



Follow us on


Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse