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No stirrups November. The month of the year that riders everywhere vow to drop their stirrups and brave the bouncing and sore legs to better their riding…

But does dropping your stirrups really help you be a better rider? Or could it actually create bad habits?

The answer depends on what you do when you drop your stirrups, I’ll explain more in this week’s video!


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70 Responses

  1. Working on cantering and keeping my horse in a canter. I cant seem to keep him going and i lose balance. I think lm gribbing but not eure.

    1. Amy,
      when I was learning to lope (canter), I was told to sit on my pockets. Although I do Western riding, you might try that. I always try to think of my pelvic bones – can I feel them and is there an even weight on both.

      1. Connie, Callie also uses the idea of sitting on your pockets! It is important though not to round too much in the lower back 🙂

        -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    2. When most of us are learning to canter we usually do things that hinder our horse from keeping a good and continuous canter rhythm. Most of us curl up and tip forward above the waist and grip with our legs and/or feet to stay on. Also, because we are often afraid of the bigger and faster movement, we also have rigid hips and body in general. Our horse feels all of this, and the kind horse simply falls out of canter into trot or walk. It will take time and practice to be good at keeping your balance and keeping your horse in a forward rhythm. Let gravity and your balance keep you on the horse by pretending you are suspended downwards from your helmet. Feel you are connected to your horse by your 2 seat-bones. To keep that connection, your pelvis “scoops” forward with each canter stride. You moving your pelvis forward with your horse without driving/pushing your pelvis forward (think: allow your horse to move your seat-bones for you) will help the horse to maintain its canter stride. This takes time to learn to allow. 🙂

      1. Thanks for sharing with Amy, Faith! Any tension can definitely block the forward movement we are looking for in the canter!

        – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    3. Hi Amy, Karin had a great suggestion of taking a video of yourself! It can give you a better idea of what is going on. If you notice you are gripping, here is a video from the blog to help you with that – How to Stop Gripping When You Ride.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  2. Hi Amy, are you able to get someone to video you while you are cantering? Seeing some footage is much easier to see what is going on while you are cantering.

  3. Could you do a video about foal care and training? I also have the same problem as Amy Midthun. A saddle fitting video would be great too. Or mabye you already have one, I can’t remember.
    Also, I have a mare who can’t stand having her feet picked up! Do you have any suggestions for that?
    I just finished your better riding in seven days course! It was great! I will be watching the Balnced riding course next.

    1. Hi Elise! We have a video for just about anything 😉 We have this video about Haltering a Foal. There are several videos here on saddle fitting: Is Your Horse Pain Free? Interview with Dr. Harman, How Saddle Fit Affects Riders: Interview with Jochen Schleese, and What Poor Saddle Fit Does to Your Horse with Terry Peiper.

      We also have this video with a horse name Zelli who had never had her feet trimmed and there are several clips on how Callie worked through that with her!

      Hope these videos help 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  4. I’m starting to work on the cantor once again
    How do you go into the cantor with a horse who has a tendency to bolt and or jump into the cantor
    He is a sensitive Dutch wb
    He’s getting better but am wondering if you have any thoughts on this topic :))

    1. Hi Jen! I want you to watch this video we have on the blog about Sensitive and Reactive Horses, as well as check out our free mini series on Understanding Your Horse. Is he a generally reactive horse? How does he do on the lunge line? I would start with working more within the trot and getting bigger trot then asking him to shorten his stride and going back and forth like that. I would also recommend that when you do canter transitions you don’t allow him to keep cantering on and on, ask for him to come back to halt and then ask for the canter again for a few strides. I hope this helps!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  5. Zara and I are learning reining (Western) and flying lead changes and sliding stops are what we are currently working on. I have been trying to know what it feels like to be on the correct lead, but I am never certain when she is vs when she is counter cantering.

    1. Connie, what I would recommend is asking for her canter and closing your eyes (if you feel comfortable you can also just keep your eyes ahead) and seeing if you can feel if she on the correct lead before you look down and see if the inside front leg is leading. If she is counter cantering it will feel more unbalanced than if she is on the correct lead. I love reining – I have a Quarter horse mare who I used to do a little reining with! I’m excited to hear about your progress 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    1. Laura, is this something you are working on for your horse? Do you find yourself leaning to one side? Do you put more weight in one stirrup then the other?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. I don’t keep my left leg on so going down the straightaway we tend to drift toward center. I need to catch the drift coming out of corner. I also catch myself pushing right leg forward A little. Pull right leg back where it belongs and horse straightens. I also collapse sometimes so core engagement is where I am too.

  6. I am working on starting to canter my new horse. He is 16 and experienced and I am just coming off riding a very irritable mare for the last 4 years that would threaten to buck me off all the time. I did learn some really bad habits while riding this mare, such as gripping and leaning forward when I asked for canter and also not moving my hands with her mouth and shortening my reins. My new horse is a very forgiving horse but I don’t want him to be uncomfortable or create some bad habits with him so I have been riding with a neck strap so that I don’t pull on his face and it does help me keep my hands more balanced. I am concentrating on leaning back and relaxing and breathing and all of it is coming together.

    1. Teresa, riding with a neck strap is a fantastic idea for you! I would work first on working within the trot, getting faster trot and slowing it down that way you work on the cue for faster movement. Also, if your horse lunges well it might be a good idea to teach the canter voice command from the lunge line!

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  7. Thank you for talking about “No stirrups November”. There is a lot of discussion about it in various online groups. I know in our lessons you have had me drop my stirrups to help lengthen my thigh, as well as bring awareness to my “sit bones”. However, I do see posts in other groups about riders working to lengthen the time they can do a stirrup-less posting trot. I can’t see how one can do this without gripping with the knees. I assume you believe this would be counter-productive to a good seat?

    1. Yes, that is what we want to avoid and can often happen from doing too much without stirrups it can cause a grip with the knees and any grip with the legs can block the horse’s forward movement!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  8. I have been riding since March. Love it. I am having a hard time getting the horse to do a faster trot. He tends to slow down,and I feel ,because of that I am overworking my legs

      1. Thank you so much. My instructor is awesome,but at times I can’t quite figure what she wants. Maybe this link will help. She informs me I am to hard on myself. I know next step will be cantering. I can’t wait. So excited. Who thought that in my late 60’s I would take up riding.
        I have groomed and cleaned up ……… love every aspect.

  9. I have started this summer putting a lot of pressure on feet while in the stirrups. This has been causing me alot of pain after I ride. How can I stop this bad habit?

  10. I’m working on keeping my knees down and not putting my lower leg behind the girth when I am just riding along, not asking for lateral movement. At the walk, I am concentrating on using my core muscles and seat to keep forward motion in my horse and not using the reins so much to ask for softening.

  11. I am working on keeping my hands quiet instead of jerking up and down at the trot. I know I need to keep my elbows soft,but easier said than done. I’m also trying not to break through my torso and apply my core.

  12. I am working on staying square in the saddle (not leaning into turns) and also seeing my distances to a jump (starting with cantering ground poles).

    1. Hi Margi,if you click here and watch this video you’ll see a clip on how to maintain stability in turns! Also for seeing distances, I would recommend riding a lot of small gymnastic grids, like Callie demonstrates in this video, We’re working on a jumping course so there will be more on that topic coming soon 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  13. Great video. I don’t as much pressure now to go crazy during no stirrup November!
    I really need help with my leg position when I ride. I tend to move my legs too far forward and toes too far out. Any tips for

  14. Funnily enough I have been doing more or less what you suggest this month without realising there was such a thing as No stirrups November …I suspect you may have mentioned the idea of doing the trot in short bursts in a previous video since this is exactly what I have been doing
    I have found it very useful and have now found that my stirrups are more comfortable one hole longer
    I have increased the length of time I do the trot and also experimented with varying the tempo …mainly more extended on the straight and slightly slower on the bend at the narrower point of the school
    So now I wonder whether I should try canter ? Would it benefit me ?
    My horses have quite a nice canter but none of them have a smooth canter to trot transition which I imagine is more to do with me than them
    So ….
    please could you let me know if there are benefits to cantering without stirrups and how might I improve my downward transition from trot to canter
    Thank you so much for your free videos which I have recently discovered and watch on an almost daily basis
    I cannot currently afford lessons or to join the training journals ,though I am hoping my friend Heather might and I might be able to peep at her videos
    I hope to be in a position to join the training journals in the near future and in the meantime thank you again for the free resources

    1. Hi Tracy, I would wait to canter until you are feeling really solid at the trot. If you do feel ready to try the canter having a friend put you on the lunge line might not be a bad idea that way you can control the situation! I would also recommend only doing a few strides of canter then going back to walk or trot!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  15. I’ve been riding bareback on a quarter horse and like you said if I trot too long I start gripping. So I’ve been doing the few strides and really felling my hips swaying right and left with her movement without having leg contact and I am sure this will help my balance in the saddle.

    1. Tamra, that is a great way to work through it doing short spurts and not exhausting yourself to the point of gripping! Click here to watch a video we posted on the blog about How to Stop Gripping!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  16. Wildfire and I are working on pole bending at a canter. Fire would prefer to just bolt back rather than weave through the poles and back up again before running to the finish line!
    She actually can do a nice flying lead change if she doesn’t forget about the poles! She knows a lot of verbal cues so I find myself excitedly telling her, “Poles, Fire, Poles!” And it’s often as if she starts to run and then you can feel her thinking, “Oh yeah, I gotta run through these things!” We are probably rather comical to watch at this point as we try to get it in sync.

  17. No stirrups November makes me very nervous when I think about cantering and or jumping without them. My last lesson was an hour long with stirrups removed and at the end we were expected to canter. I was overwhelmed and exhausted therefore it didn’t prove to go very well but I couldn’t end the lesson until I did it. Now I’m super intimidated for the next lesson for fear that we are jumping without them!

    1. That sounds awfyl!!! I can’t imagine having an instructor who intimidates me. Mine will push me but she knows what I am capable of. However, if I truly voice my feelings (like if I really am struggling with my bad knee or hip that day…or just a messed up mindset!) she will back off. From my viewpoint, which is far from expert, this does not sound like it is good for you to be able to move forward with confidence! And without confidence, well, I don’t see how anyone can progress without it.

    2. Alicia, I would recommend voicing your concerns to your instructor. If you don’t feel ready to be doing that it is important for your safety to let it be known to your instructor!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  18. Feel like I have disappeared for a bit!
    Enjoyed watching this…thank you Carrie….as you know I found a wonderful new ranch near me with good trainers….and am feeling fortunate as I have continued to gain confidence ……learning to canter in 2 point position with a lesson horse holding on to horn) and it has allowed me to feel the the movement in my ankles and of course my pelvis…and whole body…I have become relaxed and am breathing!……and have started to let go of the horn and be with the horse……thrilled!……my feet and hands are forming new good body memory as you have talked about….. bringing Cita this week
    Ready to look at our course again with new eyes….and am sure I will learn at a whole different level…..thank you so much!!!….leslie……….ps I am at a place where they do listen to me……and what I am learning from your courses…..

    1. Leslie, haven’t heard from you in awhile! Glad to have you back 🙂 I’m happy to hear that you and Cita found a great local trainer.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  19. Hi all, I’ve been working on getting a good contact through relaxing my arms. Didn’t really realize how tense they were before I started focusing on contact but achieving that on a school horse, even for a few minutes, feels wonderful.

    1. Simran, that is great to be aware of! Also, make sure you aren’t holding any tension in your hips – Wendy Murdoch always says that contact starts with the hips! 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. Thanks Julia! I wasn’t aware of that. I’ll try to look up what Wendy has said about contact, I’m definitely interested to find out more!

  20. I ride Western, but really enjoyed the experience of jumping (once) at Angelo’s clinic, so my instructor is happy to substitute “no stirrups” for “English.” And, since I want to try jumping, she is having me trot/canter at the half-seat for most of the lesson so that I can have really strong balance when going over the jump. I’m getting better – I can even trot several paces without my hands on Macs’ neck, but it’s so hard! As a bonus, we may try teaching Macs to jump a cavaletti at the end of the month – assuming my thighs last that long.

  21. I am working on using my seat/hips more than reins – new concept for me and pretty fatiguing, but I’m excited to learn this so that my hands are not interfering as they so often seem to be. I am riding an older thoroughbred who is exceptionally well trained and willing. We have decided to use a hackamore which I think he will like a lot.

  22. When I do ride, which is rare due to not having a saddle and needing to use a bareback pad, I focus on feeling my seat bones and having them be even, as my left leg and hip are weak and my leg tends to come up, causing my horse to go crooked as well. I also focus on awareness of tense muscles and trying to relax them. Riding bareback at a walk helps. Using stirrups makes the problem with my leg a lot worse, but without a saddle I can’t trot, much less canter.

  23. Hi all, my instructor noticed something about my leg length today when riding without stirrups. She mentioned that my left leg appeared longer than my right. I was riding a cob that was wider in the girth than I’m used to and this hasn’t been picked up when riding horses ‘narrower’ in the middle. Has anybody else noticed this sort of thing? How did you go about finding what the problem was? When I asked my instructor why she said it wasn’t important to know why, just to fix the disparity during the lesson itself. I disagree with this, and feel I need to know why in order to fix the problem, whatever it is.

  24. I’ve been working on cantering and just started cantering, however, I’m having trouble sitting the trot. I can sit the trot fine but I keep instinctively posting and it makes transitioning to canter hard. I know I have to sit the trot but my brain keeps telling me to post. I don’t know why! It’s extremely annoying and frustrating. I watched your sitting the trot video and I’m going to try some tips from there but for now, I guess it’s just a habit I’ll have to break somehow.

  25. Hi Callie, thanks so much for the wonderful videos you generously post for free. You break topics down into understandable pieces, which is so helpful. In this latest video you asked for training issues we viewers need help with and would like to see a new video on.

    I’m currently focusing on consistently achieving a relaxed, forward and collected walk with my 24 year old horse. We can get a good relaxed forward walk and I can feel him really reaching forward with his hind legs, but I know that’s not necessarily a collected walk where he’s carrying more weight on his hind end and less weight on his front end. My intent in asking is I’d like to help him work biomechanically correct and keep him healthy for as long as possible. Can you please show and describe key things I should be looking for or feeling that will let me know for sure we’re riding a collected walk? Thanks !

  26. Hi
    I have been enjoying the no stirrups November challenge and feel like it has really helped me to assume a better position on my horse
    None of my friends had heard of it so I wonder if it’s an American concept ?
    Anyway , I just wonder if there is a December challenge?
    One point for Callie …I find the videos really helpful but wonder if you might consider sometime wearing a helmet camera thus giving us an idea what we should be looking for as we sit on board ?
    My mare has started to carry her head lower as requested but I am wondering if her neck should be a little more arched ?
    If I stop she will arch her neck a little and I can feel a contact but once we start moving I suspect this may be lost
    Just wondering if it round be helpful to see what it looks like on board o Enid your horse
    Cheers !

  27. Good day,

    I have been riding bareback a lot, as this does help with the seat and balance, however, I do not notice any difference in my stirrups when I ride English or Western when it comes to riding with or without the stirrups.

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