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No Stirrup November: A Guide for Equestrian Preparation and Recovery

Its that time of year again, time to cross your irons! The exciting and dreadful No Stirrup November is almost upon us. It's a time of year when riders ‘willingly’ ditch their stirrups and embark on a month-long journey that's part thrilling adventure, part grueling test of muscular strength and endurance. Today, we'll explore the perks, the cautionary tales, the art to surviving the month, and how to prime your body for this mini marathon.

No Stirrup November offers a whirlwind of benefits for those daring enough to accept the challenge. First and foremost, it's like a turbocharged fitness boot camp for your seat, core, balance, position and more. Riding without stirrups can teach you how to achieve a strong seat and a solid core, elevating your riding skills to the next level. It forges a deeper telepathic connection between you and your horse, transforming your partnership with more harmonious aids and responses. Lastly, it's a masterclass in perfecting your riding posture. Say goodbye to slouching; many riders emerge from November improving their posture because they now understand the right body parts, coordination and muscles needed for each transition and maneuver.

But, let's address the naysayers' concerns—No Stirrup November isn't all sunshine and roses. It's vital to listen to your body and pay attention to your horse and how well they respond.. The goal is to collectively make improvements by paying attention and taking breaks when it’s in the best interest of the team. Do regular checks pre and post ride to make sure your horse doesn’t have a sore back.If you or your horse is a bit too sore, take the day to go back to stirrups and recover for the next ride.

While soreness is definitely expected during this month. We should all be strategic in our approach to make this month challenging, effective and progressive. 

Here’s a few things to help make this No Stirrup November successful:

    1. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body's signals. If you experience pain or discomfort that doesn't improve, take a break. It's essential to avoid overexertion and potential injuries #ItsNotWorthIt.
    2. Set Realistic Goals: Know your limits and set achievable goals for No Stirrup November. Whether it's riding without stirrups for a few minutes each session or aiming for an entire ride, set targets that challenge you but are attainable.
  • Create a Progressive Plan: Work backwards, plan out the entire month with shows, practices and personal riding time and use your calendar to figure out what works best from week 1-4. If you show on the weekends, make sure you’re not too sure so you can ride with your best performance when it matters most. Week 1’s training plan should be easier than Week 4s when practicing and taking on the stirrupless challenge.
  1. Stay Consistent: Consistency is key. Make and stick to a schedule that’s realistic and allows you to practice regularly. The more you ride without stirrups, the more comfortable and confident you'll become. If you’re unfamiliar with riding without stirrups often, find a way to implement this into your regular riding schedule after the month is over.
  2. In The Saddle Interval Training: Similar to your fitness training, it's important to give yourself timed, or distance, goals to do certain things. Try doing 2-3 minutes of posting without stopping, or test how long you can go around the arena with ‌form and leg position before you need a break.

Doubt might knock on your stable door, but remember: you positively can complete the month.. Believe in yourself, know your goals and you'll ride through No Stirrup November like a champion.

How should riders prepare for this ultimate challenge? 

Start with a pre-ride warm-up where you elevate the heart rate and actively stretch out the muscles used in the saddle. Remember this month, you’ll be relying on more muscles than you typically do when you have your stirrups. Practice and work on keeping your mobility. No stirrups will lead to more soreness, but how you combat that soreness will be the difference maker between how often you’re able to comfortably practice throughout the month. Stretch those hip flexors, inner/outer thighs, back and shoulders often. This helps to unlock your lower body's potential, keep your spine supple with cat-cow stretches, and don't neglect your neck, which most forget is crucial for your balance and communication with your horse.

As for strength, moving planks will grant you unshakable core stability, marching bridges will elevate your leg stability/strength, and push-ups will boost arm and shoulder strength, essential for reins control. Gradually incorporate stirrupless sessions a couple times a week leading up to November and remember to set realistic goals that challenge you while remaining achievable.

No Stirrup November is not for the faint of heart, but it's a transformative journey that can elevate your equestrian skills to new heights. Embrace the burn, always make time for you to warm up and give your horse enough time to warm up before starting each session. Remember that the trials you face this month will benefit and help you become more centered and an effective rider.

Pre Ride Mobility Exercise:

Help to open the hips and stabilize balance before riding

Post Ride Core Exercise & Stretch: 

Builds core strength and stretches hamstrings

Pre & Post Ride Stretch: 

Stretches the hip flexors, inner thighs and back for better total body mobility