Tips for a Better No Stirrup November
No Stirrup November is back again! For many riders, this is the dreaded month when the instructor says, “drop your stirrups.” And, those stirrups won’t be coming back for a month! While this seems like a new kind of torture for new horseback riders with aching legs after every ride, No Stirrup November was started with the intention of improving the rider’s legs and seat.
While sore thighs are pretty unavoidable when riding without stirrups for a month, we’ve put together a few tips to make No Stirrup November a bit better for you.
Instead of viewing this month as pure torture, get yourself in a more positive, progressive mindset. Riding with no stirrups can build your confidence, correct your position, and improve your balance very quickly. Make note of your progress through the month and use it as a motivator.
Find a No Stirrup Buddy
No Stirrup November is a lot more fun when you do it with a partner. Whether this is someone else at the barn or a close horse friend, you can keep each other accountable and motivated.
Wear Comfortable Clothes
Avoid breaking in new riding clothes or boots this month. You will want to focus entirely on your balance and not a blister from your new boots. New saddles are also not recommended.
Just like the gym, start with interval training rather than dropping your stirrups for an entire lesson. Begin riding without stirrups for 5 minutes, then with stirrups for 5 minutes. This helps build up your leg muscles and your confidence without stirrups. As you feel more comfortable, extend the duration.
Most riders stretch on a regular basis to help maintain flexibility. No Stirrup November brings additional tension to the muscles as you build strength. Add some time to your normal stretching routine and be sure to focus on your thighs and hips. Butterfly stretches and even sitting on a large yoga ball can help stretch out those sore muscles. Stretching before and after your ride can make a big difference.
These are not just for your horse. If you are feeling extra sore, soak in a warm bath with Epsom salts. Epsom salts help reduce inflammation and are restorative. You can even add a bit of aromatherapy for full-body relaxation.
Most riders’ first instinct when the stirrups drop is to clench and squeeze their legs tightly around the horse to stay on. Try not to squeeze and clench as you ride. Relax down into the saddle and find your center of gravity.
Listen to Your Body and Your Horse
If you are feeling extra sore or your horse is acting a bit silly, consider foregoing a no stirrup day. It can be counterproductive if you or your horse are not in the right mindset for a no stirrup ride. There is no award for the longest no stirrup ride and your long-term goals are more important.