No Stir­rups, No Prob­lem

Try this ex­pert ad­vice to keep you and your horse com­fort­able in work with­out stir­rups.

Dressage Today - - Content - By Ann Gup­till

Try this ex­pert ad­vice from Ann Gup­till to keep you and your horse com­fort­able in work with­out stir­rups

Work with­out stir­rups is a great tool for rid­ers in any dis­ci­pline. It may be un­der­used in dres­sage but can be in­cor­po­rated into train­ing pro­grams in small doses that will reap pos­i­tive re­wards. “No Stir­rups Novem­ber” is well known to hunter rid­ers but, I find, less so in the dres­sage world. With the tra­di­tional end of the com­pe­ti­tion season, be­fore the start of win­ter show­ing for those who live or mi­grate to warmer cli­mates, this chal­lenge can be a good tool for dres­sage rid­ers, stu­dents and in­struc­tors.

What are the ben­e­fits of work­ing with­out stir­rups? Why is it so fre­quently rec­om­mended?

Rid­ing with­out stir­rups al­lows a rider to reach an­other level of feel, bal­ance and sup­ple­ness in the sad­dle and can be used to ef­fec­tively solve a va­ri­ety of rider is­sues, at any level of train­ing.

No-stir­rup work can help a rider in­crease aware­ness of her own biome­chan­ics as well as the horse’s. Rid­ing with­out stir­rups will teach the rider to main­tain a sense of bal­ance, build core strength and im­prove her feel of the horse un­der­neath her. This feel is de­vel­oped by learn­ing to ride in rhythm and with the move­ment of the horse.

Do I need to be con­cerned about mak­ing my horse’s back sore if I work with­out stir­rups?

As a rider, you must be sure to carry the weight of your body over your legs and not take all of your weight in your seat. With­out stir­rups to sup­port your weight, you must be sure to stay tall in the sad­dle and keep your ver­ti­cal align­ment (shoul­der/hip/heel). It is also im­por­tant for a rider to stay sym­met­ri­cal from left to right, car­ry­ing an equal amount of weight on both sides of the body and seat, keep­ing the shoul­ders and hips level and not col­laps­ing or lean­ing in ei­ther di­rec­tion.

What can I do to pre­vent my horse from be­com­ing back-sore as I work with­out stir­rups?

When start­ing work with­out stir­rups, it is im­por­tant, as with any new ex­er­cise, that it be done in mod­er­a­tion and in­tro­duced in small in­cre­ments. The best way to con­di­tion horses and rid­ers to no-stir­rup work is to use in­ter­vals of work with and with­out stir­rups. A new ex­er­cise pro­gram needs to be started slowly for both the rider and the horse.

For ex­am­ple, after a good warm-up of walk, trot and can­ter to be sure the horse’s back and the rider are warmed up, take the stir­rups away for a few laps or a few min­utes, then re­turn to stir­rup work. Grad­u­ally in­crease the du­ra­tion of the no-stir­rup work. It is a good idea to al­ter­nate the no-stir­rups work with ris­ing trot and stretch­ing the horse over his back. This will al­low both the horse and rider to stretch. Re­mem­ber, it is es­sen­tial that your carry your body weight over your en­tire leg and not take all of your weight in your seat alone. To be sure that the rider does not use the reins for bal­ance it is a good idea to have a safety strap at­tached to the front of the sad­dle. The rider can use this to cen­ter her­self and re­bal­ance as needed. She can keep her reins in hand and just use an in­dex or

pinkie fin­ger on the strap or grasp the strap with her whole hand if needed.

What are good ex­er­cises to do on the longe line with­out stir­rups?

There are a mul­ti­tude of ex­er­cises avail­able for rid­ers to use on the longe. This, of course, has to be done on a safe, ex­pe­ri­enced longe horse with an in­struc­tor who has a wide va­ri­ety of ex­er­cises to use. USDF Cer­ti­fied In­struc­tors must teach seat les­sons on the longe in their cer­ti­fi­ca­tion ex­ams so they are a very good re­source for this, as is the USDF Longe­ing Man­ual. All ex­er­cises need to be done with a horse who is ac­cus­tomed to rid­ers mov­ing around in the sad­dle with swing­ing arms and legs. It is also best to do the ex­er­cises at first with the rider lightly hold­ing a strap on the front of the sad­dle, and in a quiet, safe arena. Ex­er­cises on the longe help rid­ers develop in­de­pen­dent aids and im­prove sup­ple­ness, tim­ing and feel. The rider must main­tain a ba­sic balanced po­si­tion and keep lat­eral and lon­gi­tu­di­nal align­ment in mind when do­ing the ex­er­cises.

Up­per-Body Ex­er­cises:

Arm Cir­cles. Move your arms like you’re do­ing the back­stroke, al­ter­nat­ing left and right, while keep­ing your torso cen­tered. If cir­cling your out­side arm, be sure to keep the inside shoul­der back, facing the di­rec­tion of the cir­cle, aligned with the horse. •“T” Po­si­tion 1. Hold both of your arms straight out to the side, form­ing a “T” with your up­per body. Be sure to keep your hands as high as your shoul­ders. Once you are straight and steady, turn your trunk to the inside of the cir­cle, keep­ing your legs and seat even on each side of the horse and your hands/arms as high as your shoul­ders. Straighten, then turn to face the out­side of the cir­cle. Con­tinue al­ter­nat­ing direc­tions, twist­ing your trunk to face the inside and out­side of the cir­cle with­out al­low- ing your torso to col­lapse or fold or your legs to change po­si­tion. •“T” Po­si­tion 2. Hold both of your arms out to the side, form­ing a “T” with your up­per body, then al­ter­nate low­er­ing one arm from shoul­der level and rais­ing it back up. Hands to El­bows. Put your hands be­hind your lower back and touch the op­po­site el­bows. Re­move one glove and pass it to the op­po­site hand be­hind your back. Toe Touches. Reach down to touch your toe on the same side and then reach across and touch your toe on the op­po­site side of your horse.

Lower Body/Leg Ex­er­cises:

Legs Away. Lift your legs up and off the sad­dle out to the side. Keep your align­ment, hold­ing for a de­ter­mined num­ber of sec­onds then re­lax. Leg Scis­sors. Swing one leg for­ward while the other is stretched back be­hind the seat. Keep your torso cen­tered and shoul­ders level while your legs are swing­ing. Quad Stretch. Pull your heel up to your but­tocks and grasp your heel/an­kle with your hand on the same side. Start on the inside where the in­struc­tor can best see your align­ment, then switch to the out­side. It is im­por­tant to stay square on your seat and not col­lapse to­ward the leg you are lift­ing. An­kle Cir­cles. Twirl your toes clock­wise for five to 10 cir­cles, then counter clock­wise, work- ing both an­kles at the same time.

How do I know if I’m work­ing with­out stir­rups cor­rectly?

Your horse will tell you! If the horse re­mains happy in his work, sup­ple and over his back, you are suc­cess­ful. If you, as a rider, start to be­come more aware of your seat and its in­flu­ence and in a sup­ple way feel stronger and more con­nected in your seat and core, you are work­ing suc­cess­fully.

What should I avoid do­ing when rid­ing with­out stir­rups?

You should al­ways stay cen­tered in the sad­dle. If you be­come crooked it will lead to in­cor­rect work and can make both you and your horse sore. You should also carry your body weight through your

whole leg and avoid tak­ing the bulk of your weight in your seat or lower back. Here are some other things to avoid: s LEAN­ING TO THE INSIDE OR OUT­SIDE OF THE horse or sad­dle. Of­ten on the longe, the cen­trifu­gal force of the cir­cle can cause the rider to sit out­side the cen­ter, col­laps­ing the inside rib cage

• draw­ing your legs up, which in­creases

the weight in your seat

• pinch­ing with your knees, which blocks

the flow of en­ergy through your leg

• lean­ing back be­hind the ver­ti­cal with your shoul­ders be­hind your hips and/ or your lower legs in front of your seat. The ef­fect of this “chair seat” puts more of your weight in your seat and lower back and less in your legs.

Is it bet­ter to sim­ply drop my stir­rups, cross them over the horse's withers or pull them of the sad­dle com­pletely?

The pri­mary con­cern is safety. The first choice is to cross the stir­rups over the horse’s withers in front of the sad­dle. If the horse is not com­fort­able with the stir­rups there or is un­set­tled, he may not be the horse to do this work with. Be­fore cross­ing the stir­rups over, pull the stir­rup buck­les down be­low the sad­dle skirt to get that bulk of the stir­rup leather out of the way be­fore pulling them for­ward and cross­ing them. When cross­ing the irons, be sure they are un­der the reins and if you are us­ing a safety strap at­tached to the pom­mel, be sure the strap is still ac­ces­si­ble.

Are there any spe­cific safety con­cerns that I need to keep in mind, other than the ob­vi­ous con­cerns of us­ing a safe horse!

Ride with­out stir­rups in a safe and quiet arena with min­i­mal dis­trac­tions. Re­mem­ber that a fa­tigued rider is more likely to make a mis­take, lose her bal­ance or in­jure her­self. Be care­ful to in­crease your no-stir­rup work in­cre­men­tally. As I men­tioned be­fore, it is ad­vis­able to have a safety strap on the front of the sad­dle. This can be used to cen­ter your­self, take a hold of if you feel like you are slip­ping and to be sure you do not bal­ance on the reins or the horse’s mouth. The rider has to have a de­gree of an in­de­pen­dent seat to be able to ride ef­fec­tively with­out stir­rups. If you do not feel cen­tered or balanced enough to ride with­out stir­rups around the arena, ask your in­struc­tor for a longe les­son.

What Should I Focus on When rid­ing with­out Stir­rups?

Bal­ance and sym­me­try in your po­si­tion. Focus on keep­ing the horse round and

over his back so his back mus­cles stay up and the ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles stay en­gaged to lift the back. When re­turn­ing to work with stir­rups, try to keep the slightly deeper, softer seat you ob­tained from the work with­out stir­rups. Be care­ful not to brace against the stir­rup irons but to em­u­late the feel you achieved with­out them. Some ben­e­fits of the work with­out stir­rups can be a longer leg, a more open hip an­gle and a leg that drapes bet­ter around the horse and lies com­fort­ably on his side.

How can I make rid­ing with­out stir­rups more in­ter­est­ing so I’m not fo­cused on my burn­ing mus­cles or other dis­com­fort?

Focus on the pos­i­tive ben­e­fits and have an end goal for your time rid­ing with­out stir­rups.

Work with­out stir­rups doesn’t have to be trot or can­ter work, it can be walk work on a horse who you trust. It is im­por­tant to be able to bring a feel of men­tal and phys­i­cal re­lax­ation into the no-stir­rup work. Work with­out stir­rups can be very ben­e­fi­cial for a rider chang­ing from an­other dis­ci­pline to dres­sage. Some of those rid­ers may need to re-ad­just their leg po­si­tion, lengthen and strengthen it to be able to ride with a longer dres­sage stir­rup. Hav­ing grown up as an event rider, I am of­ten sur­prised by rid­ers who have to stop what they are do­ing if they lose their stir­rups. I en­cour­age rid­ers to con­tinue rid­ing if they lose their stir­rups, as long as they are safe and can stay cen­tered in the sad­dle. They need to learn to re­gain their stir­rups with­out stop­ping and/or us­ing their hands to fix the po­si­tion of their foot in the stir­rup iron. This in­de­pen­dence of the aids is im­por­tant in all as­pects and styles of rid­ing.

Be­fore cross­ing the stir­rups over, pull the stir­rup buck­les down be­low the sad­dle skirt to get bulk out of the way be­fore pulling them for­ward and cross­ing them.

rid­ing with­out stir­rups al­lows a rider to reach an­other level of feel, bal­ance and sup­ple­ness in the sad­dle.

Bri­tish even­ter Wil­liam Fox-Pitt schools Ta­mar­illo with­out stir­rups at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.