The annual ritual, No Stirrup November, is almost upon us. Say you YAY! Or Nay? As an instructor I love this opportunity to be creative and to help students achieve basic goals. I’ve included downloads at the end of this post to help make No Stirrup November rewarding for you and your students. Be sure to check them out.

Everyone Can be Included

Why should only the strong riders have the opportunity to participate? You can set up your own program for No Stirrup November that will include your newest, youngest, or oldest students. They’ll feel included and they’ll have incentive to participate each fall. Plus, they will accomplish a goal.

And even though hunter riders have long had a love/hate relationship with No Stirrup November, it’s not limited to any particular discipline. Any saddle will do. 

In order to set up your program, you’ll need to think small and then think large. This will aid you in setting up levels of participation.

Level One-Think Small

Even your newest riders can compete with themselves to achieve No Stirrup November goals.

I’ll call this group Level One, but I know you can come up with a much more creative system of names, and when you do, I’d love to hear about them.

Take the time to define your levels and write the goals down. You can post them in the barn or on  your FaceBook page for students to see.

For this group, I would choose a range of easy activities on and off the lead, such as taking feet out and returning them to the stirrups three to five times in a row at each lesson during the month, or riding once or twice around the arena without stirrups at a walk, doing two to six steps of trot without stirrups on the lead, or any of the regular exercises. Choose multiple challenges and use a range to suit your youngest and oldest riders.

Level Two – A little more challenge

This group might be required to try a trot w/o stirrups or play a game. Or maybe they will ride without a lead line. Set up the challenges according to the levels of your riders. In my mind,  students at this level are going for a number of times. For example: toe touches three to ten times. Ride sitting trot from E to C one through three times. Feet in and out of the stirrups ten to fifteen times in a row. Circle four to six cones at the walk without stirrups. These are only suggestions. Use your ideas and be creative.

Level Three- moving up

Perhaps this is the level that you get serious about posting without stirrups, or you introduce riding two point without, or long side canter, or cross bars. (If you’re teaching western choose obstacles instead of jumps.)

To Infinity and Beyond (Thanks, Buzz)

There is no limit to the ways to use No Stirrup November to include all of your students, but set your students up for success. Help them be winners in their practice. And reward “try”.

Many years ago I had a young student who insisted she could ride her entire dressage test without stirrups. She was a strong rider and so sure of herself I agreed to let her try even though I had doubts. In retrospect, I wish I’d diverted the activity to something challenging and manageable because she failed to meet her goal. I would rather have helped her succeed.

Help for Planning No Stirrup November

Ann Guptill had a good article in Dressage Today with ideas and suggestions for No Stirrup November. 

And Heels Down Magazine has a good article by Justine Griffin. Be sure to check out the videos on this page. There are some great teaching idea for teaching without stirrups.

For more ideas on things to do without stirrups, check out my blog post Riding Without Stirrups, Do You Teach it?

Free Downloads

Now for the downloads  I promised at the beginning of this article. The first two are forms you can give to students to record their achievements.

For the student who takes one lesson each week.

For the student who takes two lessons each week.

The certificate for completion.

And directions for filling out the certificate, in case you have questions.

Be sure to email me, or use the comments section, if you have questions.

It’s Your Turn

Please let me know if you try any of these ideas. I love to have you share the success of your students with us on The Riding Instructor. 

Do you have a tip for riding without stirrups or one to recognize the effort of your students?

Here’s to success with No Stirrup November (and for all the rest of the months, too!)

Barbara Ellin Fox 

Barbara Ellin Fox TheRidingInstructor
  • I don’t see the downloads? I would love them for my students! All your articles are helping me to be a better teacher, thank you 💚

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