No Stirrup November
As many of you know, November marks the time when equestrians take part in the "No Stirrups November" challenge. Though it can be a fun challenge and a great way to strengthen your leg, most do not know the drastic effects this can have on your horse. In the end, a silly little challenge might be making your horse's back extremely sore.
In my opinion, No Stirrups November is a great motive to get people to drop their stirrups and have something to do during the downtime after showing, but just going no stirrups for a straight month isn't going to significantly improve your riding long-term on its own. Instead, you should be incorporating no stirrups into your regular riding routine. I'm not going to lie, it totally depends on the week I'm having and what I have coming up if I go no stirrups or not. I do try to drop my stirrups at least once a week as a small portion of my overall hack/lesson that day. Going no stirrups should be something done in increments. I have been told if I go no stirrups, wait a couple of days before I drop them again. Let your horse (and their back) rest and settle.
Don't forget, dropping your stirrups isn't the only exercise you can try to shake-up your riding routine, there are so many other things! For example, you can tie your stirrups (with a VERY breakable string) to your girth to help with leg positioning OR if you want to target your shoulders you could try the Equifit Shoulders Back or place a crop behind your back for a cheaper alternative. If you want to practice distances, try seeing how far you can count back to a pole (I once counted back from 65!) or place 2 poles apart and practice adding and taking out (responsibly!) strides. I like to set my poles at least 5 or 6 strides out to optimal use.
Another question I have gotten is: what can I supplement instead of no stirrups? I highly recommend keeping your legs and core fit for riding in general. Strong legs and abs help keep you balanced and land softer with and without stirrups. There are so many awesome workouts out there, so find which ones you love most! You could try the Peloton, dance workouts, at-home cardio, treadmill, or simply just calf raises. Bodyweight squats and lunges are two of the most effective exercises you can do to target all of the muscles in your legs and they can be done any time and anywhere! No equipment necessary! The opportunities are endless. Instead of No Stirrups November, maybe make it a time to challenge yourself and your riding in other ways!
All in all, No Stirrups November is not the best way to try to improve your riding long-term and it may be detrimental to your horse's health. In my opinion, it is best that you incorporate no stirrups into your riding routine in smaller doses throughout the year rather than concentrated into a full month. This consistency will do more for your riding long-term and will place less strain on your horse's back.