June 2017 Surefire Horse Trials - Novice XC
For the first couple of seconds everything is fine and Wally is blasting along at his preferred speed…Luckily I fell off in the perfect place for my videographer to capture it. The only XC blooper video I’ve ever seen without a jump in it 😂
Its debatable whether or not they’re as damaging as feral cats (the number one reason I’ve ever seen for removal is that we want cows there instead and not necessarily that they’re hurting things) but in terms of taming them:
A feral cat is difficult to rehabilitate. A mustang however can be habituated to humans and made into a rideable, useful animal with a bit of patience. I knew a guy who purchased a mustang from a BLM auction to use as a school horse for novice riders and sought out a mustang specifically because of how hardy they are and because they generally have healthy feet and decent confirmation that’s well suited to work outside.
Mustangs can and do make great ranch horses, pleasure riding horses and pets. Killing 44,000 of them that they were supposed to be adopting to the public isn’t a matter of the horses being feral, it’s a matter of the government caving in to private interest groups.
Just felt like sharing this… mainly because idk how to function gifs or make them etc. But anyways this was one of my first Novice’s at the beginning of the summer. Other than our mild disagreement over the distance at the second to last jump and perhaps a couple of his spooky moments i think it went pretty well :)
While riding without stirrups is definitely an essential skill and one that all riders should be perfectly comfortable doing, going from riding with stirrups all the time to riding with none for an entire month can actually be detrimental. Even if you do a little bit of no stirrup work, physically taking off your stirrups from your saddle for an entire month is a bad idea.
1) Warm up. Your horse’s back and body needs to warm up! There’s a reason we start at posting trot as opposed to sitting, and I’m betting the majority of riders on here would struggle posting properly without stirrups for the correct amount of warm up time. The warm up period also tells you if it’s a good day to drop your stirrups for the entire ride or not - if it’s a new thing and your horse is jumpy, maybe work them out of that a bit before you make yourself more vulnerable. Furthermore, you need to warm up your own muscles and start positively! It’s easy to get frustrated with yourself when riding with no stirrups the first little while - you can’t go as long as you want, it’s had, et cetera - so make sure you have a productive warm up so that you feel like you’ve already accomplished something.
2) Equitation. Dropping your stirrups isn’t a cure-all for your equitation woes. In fact, it can cause other problems, like over-gripping with the knees and thighs. Also, as you get fatigued, your equitation can slip farther. Make sure you keep your leg long, your core engaged and straight (think belly button towards the horse’s ears, and collar bones up). Don’t forget to keep your heels down too - this often gets neglected when riding without stirrups.
3) Slamming onto your horse’s back and bracing with the hands. You especially see this with more novice riders, on bumpy horses, and those who haven’t really ridden much without stirrups. Work up to entire rides without stirrups, because otherwise you’re going to unfairly punish your horse by slamming on their back (to prevent this really focus on relaxing your pelvis and lower back) and getting tight in the hand/arms (don’t forget to let your elbow move!).
My advice is progress slowly. Start with walk work without stirrups, and maybe a lap at trot, or whatever is comfortable for your skill level. Push yourself, but when you get fatigued to the point you cannot correct your mistakes or are riding ineffectively, you need to pick your stirrups back up. When you hit that point you are doing nothing positive for yourself or your horse. Work slowly - add another lap of the ring or another minute every ride, or whatever pace works for you. If you’re going to jump without stirrups, make sure you aren’t going to hit the horse in the mouth or come back in the saddle too early!
Don’t forget to breathe! We get tense and breathing forces us to relax. When focusing hard or trying something new (like riding without stirrups) we can get very rigid, and we don’t want this. So breathe!
Be aware if your horse is okay to be ridden stirrupless, particularly if you are a little weak in that area. You might flop around, and if you’re riding a super sensitive horse this may upset them. Alternatively, if the horse is a spooker or a bucker or something, it might be a safety risk for you.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone, as people are at different levels and ride different horses. Just be safe and be kind to your horse!