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Hi everyone! I was hoping you guys could give me tips on how to trot/canter while not using stirrups? What should I do for my legs? I've asked two different instructors. 1 said to keep firm contact with your calves and squeeze for balance, and the other said to let your legs hang loose and relaxed. I'm really not sure what to do >< I fell of 3 times in 15 minutes the last time I tried to trot without stirrups. Thank you! :)
 

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Keep your legs in the same position they would be in if you had stirrups. Do not pinch with your knees (though admittedly, this might be tough at first!), but squeeze with your calves to keep contact. Try to keep your heels down too. Sit up nice and tall and really work on finding your center of gravity. Focus on moving with the horse's stride and not just bouncing around everywhere. It's difficult to do at first, but posting at the trot with no stirrups will help with that.

If I were you, I would do some walking without stirrups first, and maybe ask your instructor if you can weave through cones and other turning exercises that would require you to have to adjust your seat and balance. Also work on transitions--for instance, random halts. Once you have all this down at a walk, then begin working at a trot. Avoid cantering until you've got the trot figured out. Cantering in some ways is easier, but it's also way harder. I almost fell off a couple weeks ago cantering with no stirrups.

Good luck! No stirrups is really difficult... I totally understand. It just takes lots and lots of practice and working on your balance.
 

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+ one on walking excises for balance. Beside your legs/calfs, most of your 'staying on ability' is going to come from your core/abs. Try just a couple of strides without stirrups and work your way up more each time. You could also try something my instructor did with me when I first started riding, which was while she was lounging me on the horse I couldn't touch the reins. I had stirrups but I couldn't touch the reins. I did things like stretching my arms all the way out to the side to make a T shape, arms straight up in the arm, arm circles ect.. it taught me not to lean on the neck for balance and to have more of a stable seat. Good luck.
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First question is what discipline do you ride/want to pursue? That will change the answer. If you are planning on dressage, you will need to do things to develop your seat and balance from your pelvis keeping you lower leg loose and relaxed. If you are looking at over fences work, the seat is still a good idea, but you will be able to grip with your lower leg.

Second question, are you trying to post without stirrups or sit the trot? To post, I was instructed to flex my inner thigh putting my weight onto the muscle above my knee using my knee block as a focal point while keeping my lower leg in the same position as I would in a stirrup, resulting in a grip. If you are sitting the trot, you will need to get your pelvis swinging with the horse and encourage your thigh to drop in time with his stride essentially pushing your seat into the saddle.
 

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I've always been told to let my legs hang loose, but I think, as a learner, it was to avoid me gripping with me knees! Gripping with your knees when there are not stirrups to support your balance ends badly!
Sitting trot is all in the hips. You need to swing your hips forward with each trot beat. Another way to think about it is to "push" your horse forward with your butt on every trot beat.
I'm still learning the sitting trot. I will have "EUREKA!" moments, and then it all goes pear shaped again.
From the amount you've fallen off from no stirrup work I'd make sure you're wearing a helmet and possibly even a body protector, just to make sure you're safe. There's nothing worse than falling off and being too hurt to get back on!
 

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You want your legs to hang long & relaxed because if there is tension, you will bounce around/off to no end. Also, make sure you are relaxed in your hips because if your seat is tense, you will also bounce right off. You should still keep your heels up & calf on & post off of your calf/grip with your calf. Good luck
 

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I ride with my knees on the knee pad. I can't ride loose and relaxed unless i'm just walking/cooling down. When trotting/cantering w/o stirrups DON'T be tense, nice and relaxed. When I first started riding with no stirrups I was really tense so I grabbed with my knees, leaned WAAYY too far forward, and looked down. Now i'm nice and relaxed, and it's actually fun! Good luck! :)
 

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You need to learn out to disengage your hip and allow your seat to move with your horse. Dont tense. If you tense, you will fall.
 

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Do you want to post the trot (without stirrups) or sit the trot?
I suggest learning to post without stirrups first - after you gain your sea legs and strengthen your core (stomach muscles) then you will more easily be able to sit.
 

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another tip that helped me.. was when i was in the walk i would move my right hip forward everytime the horses right front hoof would move forward. eventually you realize how to time this and once you have it without looking down then i would cue for the trot.

for some reason putting my hip into a beat with the horse before asking for the trot or canter really helped with my seat and balance.

good luck :)
 

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I ride bareback regularly because I'm too lazy to tack up properly :p for the life of me I cannot get posting without stirrups, I don't think my legs are strong enough... but sitting is easy for me ever since I figured out to relax my hips, back and inner thighs, while keeping my lower leg in contact with my horse, heels down, and core engaged.

It has helped my riding immensely to do no-stirrup work... I had to stop for a while due to the pony I had at the time bucking me off EVERY SINGLE TIME I rode him bareback or stirrupless, but then I sold him and got Monty, who was lacking in topline and really uncomfortable to ride bareback (and I had saddle issues at the time and couldn't keep my position well enough without stirrups). I really struggled with sitting the trot, especially in my dressage saddle, and then I started riding bareback again once Monty's topline had built up, and discovered that I actually CAN sit the trot, stay with my horse when he's trotting his big ground-covering trot, and jump higher than 2' bareback and not fall off. I have issues trusting him in the canter bareback but that's due to some nasty falls I have had off him, and feeling more vulnerable bareback.

Bareback and no-stirrup work are amazing when done right. I think the trick is to make sure you're moving with your horse, not ahead, and not behind. Move as much as necessary but as little as possible, and above all make sure that your core is engaged, your legs are in contact with your horse but NOT SQUEEZING, and your back is relaxed. It's the most incredible feeling when you get it right. My boy lifts and swings through his back like you wouldn't believe when I'm riding bareback. I'm sure he does it in a saddle too but I don't feel it as much.
 

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I have been working on my no stirrup work a lot lately. What I used to try and do was to keep my legs as if they were in the stirrups. I found this often got me unbalanced and kept me tense (then the horse would speed up). What my new instructor told me to do was to let my legs hang straight and heels down. Sit up tall and breath. I get nervous sometimes when she speeds up, so I sing a song and look absolutely crazy but it takes my mind off the nervousness. Plus singing helps me get into a rythme with my hips and horse :p
 

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CowboysDream, the REAL benefit of singing is that it MAKES you breathe. You don't have a choice, if you're singing or talking you have to breathe otherwise you run out of air to push through your voice box.

That breathing relaxes your body which makes you feel less nervous. It doesn't take your mind off the nerves - it actually alleviates them to a certain degree by forcing your body to calm down.

I must remember to sing when I'm jumping... I'm nearly fearless but I get breathless really quick which I'm assuming means I hold my breath because I'm not THAT unfit!
 

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Building off this topic, would you grip with your calves if you're trying to post with no stirrups and ride dressage?

I've been doing more stirrup-less work lately, and can sit the trot just fine, but am not sure I'm doing the posting trot correctly or not!
 

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You don't grip, you keep contact with your lower leg. Gripping raises the heel and drives the horse forward and may confuse a more sensitive/educated horse. You just keep a contact and keep the heel down.
 

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When I do posting with no stirrups it almost feels like I am pushing/rolling up with my inner thighs. It feels weird because I didn't even know I had those muscles to use before.

I am not sure if this is what you are supposed to do, but I feel it helps me control my posting (and stops me from bouncing on her back). Plus makes my thighs feel super sore! :D In a good way.
 

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As far as I'm aware, CD, that's about right. It's how I feel posting bareback anyway. And yep, it kills the thighs!
 

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I'll have to keep trying then... I don't think I've ever done it right :oops:
 

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Mostly it feels like I'm flopping around :p It's not pleasant for me, and I can't imagine it's pleasant for my horse, either.

I can walk, sit the trot, and canter without stirrups without any problems. I just can't figure out what I'm supposed to do with my legs to post. I've tried leaving them loose, gripping/stabilizing myself with different parts of the leg (knees worked best of what I've tried, even though I know that's not the right thing to do) My legs hang down straight- my saddle puts me in a pretty correct position for dressage.
 
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