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Horse riding without stirrups - a good idea? Yes? No?

May 03, 2021
Horse riding without stirrups - a good idea? Yes? No?

I probably have a different viewpoint about this subject from that of many other riding coaches. My viewpoint comes about from teaching many adults (usually those returning after a long break or learning from scratch).


Where does the idea of riding without stirrups come from?

The idea that riding without stirrups is a good idea comes from the traditional background of riding instruction that is very much military-based (and still prevails today).

In the military, young recruits were (and probably still are) put on the lunge and made to trot around without stirrups for long periods of time. This is a 'trial by fire' method of instruction. After many falls they (usually) learned 'to stick on' and ride after a fashion. Later, some would go on to become good riders, but some would learn to hate riding and give up at the first opportunity.

Yes, this method worked, but it is not efficient (or humane) or good for horse welfare. If adults that are not in the military are taught in this gung-ho fashion, there are a lot of dropouts understandably and not surprisingly.


Is it good for young riders to learn to ride without stirrups?

As a youngster, I rode for a huge amount of time without stirrups and without a saddle in fact. And this benefitted me enormously. But that is because as a youngster you are usually able to relax and move with the horse without too much thought. Younger riders do not tend to 'overthink' things as adults tend to do.


What can happen if an adult rider is made to ride without stirrups?

 But as an adult you will tend to 'overthink' things plus:

  • You are usually not as supple/flexible as you were when you were young.
  • You are more likely to have confidence issues that you might not have had when you were young.
  • You are well aware that if you fall off, you will not land as lightly as you used to.

All these factors mean that if a coach pushes a client into riding without stirrups, this can be a mistake and counterproductive. It can result in a downward spiral of events, with the rider losing confidence and balance, gripping more (not good) etc.

If a coach pushes a client into riding without stirrups, this can be a mistake and counterproductive.


At what point should a rider begin to ride without stirrups?

So I feel it is never a good idea to push a rider into riding without stirrups. Riders should keep their stirrups until they feel confident enough to ride without them. At that point riding without stirrups can be introduced to affirm that the rider has achieved a good position and balance, and further improve their seat, rather than to attempt to attain a good position and balance in the first place - a big difference.

Make sure you also read this article or watch this video www.equiculture.net/blog/hrm-your-stirrup-length-what-is-just-right



How can you learn more about rider biomechanics?

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