Originally Posted by Doonsmum
I've never understood why some instructors insist that their pupils ride without stirrups. In years gone by when I've been told to do so I've just found that it's dented my confidence and instead of feeling more confident when re-taking my stirrups, I've just felt very relieved! Looking back I don't think it did me any good at all.
Personally I found that learning to walk, trot and canter in the forward position with my bum off the saddle is what gave me the most confidence and I still do it now when warming up to allow my mare to work her quarters freely without my weight on her. Once I start to sit again I feel really confident. The only time I ever ride without stirrups is at the end of a training session when the horses stretches her neck long and low and I stretch my legs.
Have you tried sitting on a physio ball at home? They work wonders for your balance and the more you use them the longer you'll be able to keep your feet off the floor. I found it was a great way to learn how to flex my lower back and it helped greatly with sitting trot, so it might be worth trying one to help with your balance.
I think this is such an excellent question. I can only offer my thoughts from a student perspective. I used to HATE riding without stirrups and I never understood why my coach would insist that I do so until someone told me that riding without stirrups was the best way to strengthen my legs. I was falling a LOT when my horse refused jumps. So I gave it a try and comitted to ride a few minutes each direction around the arena at the trot. I was terrified but I stuck with it. My legs became so insanely strong and my seat became so secure that only NOW am I truely confident approaching jumps. Where I used to approach a 2.5 foot crossrail in fear that should my horse refuse, I knew I'd end up on the groud, now I approach any obstacle knowing that no matter what happens, unless there is a catestrophic accident I'm going to stick in that saddle.
Now I ride without stirrups a few times per week. Riding once per week probably isn't enough to really strenthen your legs no matter what exercises you do in the saddle. Using an exercise ball is a great idea for non-riding days!
I have been told that riding in jumping position is another way to strengthen you legs. I have found it to be very beneficial to my balance to practice jumping position at walk, trot and canter. I'm not sure it would have the same benefits of riding without stirrups. Let's say you lose a stirrup approaching a jump, you'll be better prepared to stay on your horse over that jump with lots of stiruppless work under your belt than jumping position work, where you are relying on your stirrups to keep you in position. Both exercises compliment each other.