By Becky Shipps
We’re just past the midpoint of #NoStirrupNovember and guess how many times I’ve ridden without my stirrups? Zero. Big fat goose egg. And there’s a really good reason why: I don’t want to.
I came from an old school riding system where every young and capable rider rode without stirrups regularly. As a junior equitation rider, I quite frequently rode and jumped without irons because there was a very good chance your Maclay or Medal test could and would be jumping or flatwork sans stirrups. I could and did win 3’6” junior equitation classes after testing over fences without stirrups. I know exactly how much strength and body control it takes to be able to hold yourself still and quiet while flatting or jumping. And right now, I don’t have it.
“And what might my stirrup-less seat do to my horse’s back? I’m not willing to find out.”
But what I do have is a lovely horse with a beautiful trot that has so much suspension at moments that I wonder how he even has functioning suspensory ligaments left. I spent years as a younger adult learning to sit that trot and it was damn difficult. The reality is that now, after taking a few years off and getting a little older, I’m not the same rider that I was. Now, riding without irons would mean a boatload of crippling back and hip pain even if my horse is obedient and the ride is uneventful. The kind of pain that would make my day job a nightmare for many days. And what might my stirrup-less seat do to my horse’s back? I’m not willing to find out.
To all those adult amateurs in a similar situation – those of us who aren’t quite strong enough or able to ride without irons like our younger or more athletic counterparts – I say we make November about being fitter and stronger, not about riding without stirrups. There’s plenty of other exercises you can do with stirrups to increase rider fitness that virtually anyone can do with less risk to their horse’s back and their own. My personal favorite is to see how long I can stay in my half seat. It helps improve my legs, core, and balance plus my horse enjoys it too. Everyone wins.
So keep your stirrups if you want to. Don’t give into the fad. Getting stronger doesn’t mean you have to cripple yourself.