Planning to challenge yourself for No stirrup November? Buckle up for another one of my annoyingly vague answers!
Riding without stirrups CAN be helpful toward the goal of a more secure seat, but NOT if it causes you to grip, bounce, slip or tighten.
When I was a kid, we had to earn our stirrups. This was back in the days of the drill sergeant instructor who was allowed to yell at kids. So I faithfully posted the trot without stirrups until I earned mine. I learned to trot and canter and jump without reins or stirrups. What I learned, however, instead of a secure seat; was how to pinch with my knees and tighten my low back for security. I didn’t fall off much, but I did not gain a supple, following seat that did a lot of good to a horse. It took me years to unlearn it.
When I teach people how to develop a secure seat, I am VERY careful to avoid doing things in a way that creates tension for stability. We don’t sit the trot endlessly until you “get” it, we practice a stride or two with posting and walk breaks. The body remembers, and develops muscle memory. And trust me, not many of us need more tension in our lives.
Don’t get me wrong- I love to use stirrup dropping as an exercise In seat stability. But used in careful, constructive ways, they build a supple seat and a long leg. If you aren’t careful, it builds a tight back, short leg, and inelastic joints (plus one unhappy horse’s back!)
So, if you have a good instructor, a good sense of humor, and a horse with a back who can tolerate a jostle or two, go ahead and drop your stirrups. But bouncing around, gripping, sweating, and tightening for a whole month won’t do you or your horse much good at the end of 30 days.