I used to be great at riding with no stirrups; it came to me just about as easily as riding with stirrups. Then about a year or two ago I started riding a lot of greener horses and the focus became more on developing them and less on developing me. I enjoyed it and came a long way with some really great horses (not to mention learned a TON ), but somewhere in the midst of that I stopped practicing without stirrups. I tried to ride without stirrups again the other day and it was absolutely awful. I was unstable, out of practice, my legs were weak and I was bouncing all over the place. Horrible, right?
The thing is, over the past little while the issues I've been having with my feet have gotten progressively worse. The tendons in my legs are slightly shorter and much stiffer than they should be, thus making it difficult to flex my ankles and get my heels down. After I sprained my ankle several months ago it's gotten much worse.
As a result of this, when I ride with stirrups,if I want to get my heels down at all I have no choice but to brace against the stirrups and jam my heels down. If I don't my heels are not down at all and the stirrups slip all over the place. So because of the constant bracing I've gotten into the habit of using my stirrups for everything and essentially depending on them. I'm seeing a physiotherapist soon and while it will (hopefully) help my tendon/ankle issues it isn't going to fix my riding problem.
Other than the obvious practice-makes-perfect, are there any ways I can start riding comfortable without stirrups again while at the same time not depending on my stirrups when I do use them? Thanks!