New insructor, new stirrup-less advice HELP!
I just started hunt seat, and my instructor has started to do stirrup-less work with me. The problem is that I'm expected to sit with my legs VERY long, hanging basically straight down the horse's sides. When I did basic equitation, I had to keep my legs hitched up, in the same position in and out of the stirrups, and I had to grip fairly tightly with my legs. Doing Dressage/hunter type riding, I'm supposed to keep my legs looser, since she says gripping will make me bounce. I agree with her on the bouncing, but I feel as though I don't have enough contact if I'm not squeezing, if I'm sacrificing the comfort of my bottom. I can only get about ten/fifteen feet w/out getting unbalanced to the point of falling off, because I feel as though I can't simply sit dead center on the back of a jerky lesson horse without getting tipsy... I'm a little better on the longe line, but I'm still not great. Any advice?
Have you done any tension release exercises? Almost sounds like your problems are stemming from being too "tight."
I've noticed that when people learn how to ride without stirrups, they almost always tighten up their muscles and then scrunch their legs up. So she might be telling you to lengthen your leg so you can actually get it back to where it was before. She is right though, when you clench your thighs, you will squeeze your self off your horse or get bounced around. You shouldn't be losing complete contact wtih your leg though, just keeping parts of it "softer". Is there a smoother horse you can ride for a bit until you get the hang of it? or could she put you on a lunge line for a bit?
Maybe I should do some exercises... I tend to be really tense
upnover: If i can't squeeze w/my thighs, is there a part of my leg I should be holding on more tightly w/? I've done some lunge work, but I'm having troublw finding the balance between squeezing and laxness.
I am working with a 14yo (she and her friend help my train) who has a chair seat. I have her ride my safe, 13 yo KMHSA mare at a walk for a full hour sans stirrups, before she rides my 5 yo geldings. If she cues and my mare breaks, it is at the amble, and gaited people here know how easy that is to ride. lol
I don't think you can create a deep seat by just abandoning stirrups and ride the same exercises. MY instructor had plateaus that we had to reach before we were allowed to jump. At one point we had to drop our stirrups and post 3x around the track (inside arena) on both reins. This was after we warmed up, and we crossed our stirrups over, in front of the pommel, then took them up again for other exercises. This was obviously to give you a secure seat if you were on course and lost a stirrup.
Believe it or not, hours and hours this winter of just walking without stirrups will greatly improve your seat. If you think about it, you do grip the horse with your legs, thigh, knee and calf, only it is lightly and not a vice grip. We are like a sack of potatoes when we ride a horse. A sack of potatoes doesn't grip at all, and will fall off the horse if he tries to ride one. We "cheat" when we ride a horse with a saddle. If you can, try bareback on a really safe horse this winter, too. (It's lots warmer!!)
Then relax your lower back and let your hips follow the motion of the walk, trot or canter.
Gripping with your lower leg will keep you secure on the horse. Relaxing your lower back and moving with his rhythm will also help you absorb his energy and reduce the bouncing.
With practice your legs will become insanely strong! Good luck!
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.
As has been said, you want to WRAP your legs around the horse's barrel. If you grab with your knees, you will find it much harder to get a good consistent wrap. You want to hold the horse with the INSIDE of your upper calf area. This gives you a hold below the bulge of the horse's barrel which will hold you on much better. Gripping with your knees holds the horse above the bulge of the barrel, making it much easier to get bounced off.
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.
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