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Riding without stirrups - a good idea? Yes? No?

May 03, 2021
HRM - 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 a lot of adults (usually those that are returning after a long break or learning from scratch).

The notion 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. This is a 'trial by fire' method of instruction. After many falls they (usually) eventually learned 'to stick on' and ride after a fashion. Later, some would 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). 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. It is not good for horse welfare either.

Don't get me wrong, 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 (without overthinking things as adults tend to do).

Look out for a future blog article called Learn to Ride like a Child Again.

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 do fall off you will not land as lightly as you used to do.

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

So IMHO 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 rather than to attain a good position and balance in the first place - a big difference.

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

How can you learn more?

Make sure you sign up for this HRM FREE 23 page PDF checklist 10 Common Position and Balance Checks for Riders. Start learning how to be the best rider you can be.

About the checklist:

''Working through this checklist was enlightening to say the least - really great.'' Sarah Harrison


Make sure you like my Facebook page Dressage Tips and Tricks

Learn more about the HRM approach here or have a look at the Horse Riders Mechanic online Course and iron out all those rider biomechanic problems that are really holding you back.

About the course:

''This course has enabled me to make great progress with my riding, I never knew most of this stuff, even though I have been riding for years.'' Angie Brown

''The value of this course is astounding Jane, for less than the price of a private lesson with you (which was brilliant by the way!) I have been able to work through the whole course in my own time and make rapid improvements. I cannot thank you enough! June Watson


Jane Myers - AKA The Horse Rider's Mechanic