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a(nother) no stirrups question

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  • a(nother) no stirrups question

    Ok, so in an attempt to improve my riding I am focusing on no stirrups work this winter. I usually ride 3-4 times a week and am currently doing 5 mins of no stirrups each ride. I want to up this to 15 mins each ride plus one completely no stirrups ride each week or maybe every other week.

    So, here's my question - can you do no stirrups work 'wrong' in such a way that it is ineffective in improving your leg/seat? I generally feel pretty secure without stirrups at all gaits and am good with jumping little x's without stirrups, but when I am doing the posting trot I feel that I am gripping too much maybe with my thigh and that this is perhaps incorrect... So basically, since I'm doing this on my own without eyes on the ground to tell me what's wrong... I don't want to spend 3 months doing a ton of no stirrups work (which I don't enjoy other than the sitting trot haha) and not have it help. Is there a "right way" and a "wrong way" or just kicking off your stirrups and riding and staying on = stronger more secure legs/seat?
    'Not all those who wander are lost.'

  • #2
    I find no stirrup work to be really great for improving my habit of standing up over a fence. However, it does not fix problems with your hands or timing quite the way riding without reins does. That'll really show you where your issue are. However, I realize not all horses will jump without you at the steering wheel.

    I imagine riding without stirrups could still allow you to pinch with your knees over a fence or allow your lower leg to swing back. Not sure. You definitely want to make sure you're not using your reins to pull yourself into 2-point if you don't have the strengh to do it with your body.

    Personally, I definitely favor no-reins riding, atleast over fences. It's a great problem solver. I drop my stirrups on the flat from time to time because I have a tendancy to grab with my legs at times. Dropping my stirrups gets me to relax and stretch my legs.
    Tru : April 14, 1996 - March 14, 2011
    Thank you for everything boy.

    Better View.


    • #3
      No stirrups work is great for your position, balance & security but I've found that posting w/o stirrups is counterproductive b/c it makes you grip with your inner thigh and knee. Work sitting & 2 point instead.


      • #4
        I love the effects of no stirrup work at the sitting trot and canter. I find that posting isn't as effective. The sitting trot work really helps to strengthen my whole leg position and my core. While I don't think that posting an jumping are a bad thing w/o stirrups, I think it's not as productive IME. I like to just increase the amount of time I ride without stirrups and try to get to the point where I can do a whole dressage school without them. I try to produce comparable results as those that I get with stirrups: forward, straight, supple, consistent contact, even geometry, etc. rather than doing exercises like jumping little jumps that basically just force me to "cling" to the horse.
        "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals" Immanuel Kant


        • #5
          Originally posted by Duramax View Post
          No stirrups work is great for your position, balance & security but I've found that posting w/o stirrups is counterproductive b/c it makes you grip with your inner thigh and knee. Work sitting & 2 point instead.
          Oh I so agree with this! One thing that has helped me is to ride without one stirrup at the posting trot. I pretty much just focus on keeping the correct position and don't worry as much about what my horse is doing. Just make sure that you drop the stirrup on the inside as it's really hard to drop the outside stirrup!


          • #6
            I actually find no stirrup work is bad for me with my current horse. I am short and have short legs. My horse has a really big barrel and is really uncomfortable and painful to ride because of his spine. I will ride with three thick pads and still feel his spine. The apex of his barrel hit my legs just below my knees. I really can not "wrap" my lower leg around his barrel. No problems with other horses and I love riding bareback.

            With his and my anatomy I end up pinching with my knees and perching to get off of his spine.
            Jacobson's Saddlery, LLC
            Society of Master Saddlers trained saddle fitter


            • #7
              Yes, it can be done wrong or rather without value.

              You see riders practicing with toes down like they are bareback, this will not help you and man many riders do this when they drop their iron. Keep the toes up. Also depends what saddle you are in to how you distribute leg. Have someone watch you in both saddles and give you pointers to look for, many many bad habits are hard to un do when practiced incorrectly, I spend a life time un doing bad two point learned from hours and hours of grabbing mane and standing from lesson programs in peoples youth :-( Same goes for practicing 2 point, half seat, jump position until failure (holding it until you tremble, BS practice in balance and not to failure) is not the way to learn to be in balance without gripping~ :-) Perfect practice makes perfect not lots and lots a mediocre practice
              To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart


              • #8
                Originally posted by FuzzyTB View Post
                Oh I so agree with this! One thing that has helped me is to ride without one stirrup at the posting trot.
                That's a great exercise! It's actually harder than riding w/o both stirrups!


                • #9
                  Just wanted to chime in that you'll find a difference of opinion on how important it is to keep the heels down when you're working without stirrups.

                  There's at least one very successful dressage trainer who teaches that forcing the heels down adds tension to the legs and that when riding without stirrups, the legs should be relaxed, even if that means the toes are pointing slightly downward. I would imagine it would be easier to have a correct position (ie. avoiding having your pelvis tipping forward), regardless of what the toes are doing, in a dressage saddle than in an all purpose or jumping saddle.


                  • Original Poster

                    Wow, lots of interesting replies! Thanks!

                    So, the general consensus is that no stirrups work is most productive when done at the sitting trot and canter? That attempting to post without stirrups leads to the bad thigh grippage/leg tightness that I noticed and that this is not in fact helping me improve my leg position?

                    I do keep my toes up when riding without stirrups or bareback because toes down when doing anything other than ambling along at the walk feels all kinds of wrong to me.

                    I have done the drop one stirrup and post and I don't know why I didn't think of including that in the first place.

                    Any ideas on specific flat exercises that will help with leg position over fences? My leg has improved with more practice (I'm a re-rider who is a year in after taking a couple years off during college), but once the jumps get to about 3'3" and above I feel them slipping back, especially over wide oxers...

                    Thanks again this has been very informative!
                    'Not all those who wander are lost.'


                    • #11
                      you posted in eventing. in what event do you feel your position needs the most improvement?
                      my personal opinion is leave the stirrups on unless you have eyes on the ground to yell at you.
                      chaque pas est fait ensemble


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by NCRider View Post
                        forcing the heels down adds tension to the legs and that when riding without stirrups, the legs should be relaxed, even if that means the toes are pointing slightly downward.

                        Agreed! Forcing your heel down is posing. Dressage should not be posing. If you don't have stirrups your legs have the room to stretch out nice and long and you can really use them. Let your toes go down. So what? When you pick your stirrups back up your heels will go back down if your weight is in them and you are posting from your knee. Riding without stirrups, with your toes down will not effect what your heels do with stirrups present.

                        Every person that has ridden with my trainer rides like this and none of them have issues with keeping their heels down afterwards.
                        Last edited by katie+tru; Dec. 18, 2010, 10:59 PM.
                        Tru : April 14, 1996 - March 14, 2011
                        Thank you for everything boy.

                        Better View.


                        • #13
                          Not meant to hijack, but will those responding to OP also comment on what they do with their stirrups when they go without? Pull them off, cross them over the withers, let them dangle? I have a sensitive horse who can get set off by any of the aforementioned and am interested in what works for others.


                          • #14
                            If possible, my preference is to take them off completely. That way they're out of the way and don't get tangled in the reins, etc and I'm not tempted to take them back.


                            • #15
                              None of the horses I ride sans stirrups are bothered by just crossing them over. We lunge like that as well and have never had a horse freak out about it. But of course, when working with young/green horses we lunge them (without a rider) with the stirrups down and flapping away. Totally desensitizes them.
                              Tru : April 14, 1996 - March 14, 2011
                              Thank you for everything boy.

                              Better View.


                              • #16
                                I like to take them off if I'm not using them at all during my ride, otherwise I cross. I don't like them banging around on my horse's sides (or my shins!) but I also hate getting my reins caught in them when they're crossed.

                                In response to the heels thing, I was always taught and agree with the idea that forcing your heels down and toes up without stirrups has little point. If you pull your toes up when you're riding with stirrups, they'll slip off your feet. You should, however, have pressure properly distributed along your leg (ie not pinching with the knees or gripping with your thighs), and engaging your lower leg will keep your toes from pointing downward without having to think about it. Same principle as with stirrups, except your heels will be higher because you won't have the stirrup for weight distribution.

                                Sitting trot both with and without stirrups, as well as cantering without stirrups will help with core strength. Gripping with the thighs is not something you want to practice- when most people grip with their thighs, they roll back onto the back of the thigh, allowing their leg to slide forward and lose effectiveness. Something I've found effective in improving leg security is cycling through positions at the trot and canter, ex. sit two strides, half-seat two strides, two-point two strides, sit, etc. Focus on keeping a soft, steady leg and independent hands. It is really helpful to have some feedback from the ground when working on things like this... can you get a lesson or two, or have someone video you so you can see?