Athletes build the muscles they need in the gym, lifting weights and stretching to gain strength to perform at their best.
The same goes for equestrians, but sometimes their workouts can only be done in the saddle.
Oftentimes we see equitation on the flat patterns that require riders to ride in two-point and drop their stirrups. It’s instantly obvious to the judges who has and who hasn’t been riding without stirrups.
Sometimes, when riders go into two-point, they really are just dropping their weight into their feet and not using the correct muscles – and the judges can instantly see that.
When riders don’t practice without stirrups, their inner thigh and calf muscle development lags.
Judges know when riders have strength and conditioning, and when they’re just faking it.
There are really no exercises that mimic riding without stirrups except riding without stirrups. It can be a humbling workout.
For the equine set on social media, #NoIronsNovember has become a popular hashtag, where riders dedicate the month of November to riding without stirrups. However, while the intent of No Irons November is a good one, riding without stirrups should be part of your regular riding routine all year long.
I hope that riders use #NoIronsNovember as a catalyst to incorporate these exercises all year. One way is to make riding without irons a daily practice, perhaps at the same time that riders are warming up their horses.
Any amount of time given to riding without stirrups consistently can benefit a rider.
Here are my tips on for a jumpstart on #NoIronsNovember:
Read further to learn AQHA Professional Horsewoman Paula Pray’s 14 steps to be a stronger rider all year long.
(This article originally appeared in the digital edition of November 2019 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal. By AQHA Professional Horsewoman Paula Pray with Megan Arszman)