No-Stirrup November … No Thank You!

Today marks the beginning of the equestrian world’s least beloved annual tradition, No-Stirrup November. Riding sans stirrups has obvious benefits — the promise of thighs of steel and a velcro butt in a month’s time … who can resist the allure of that?

Holly Covey, that’s who. She ain’t buying it. Holly charmed us with this delightfully grumpy tirade against No-Stirrup November. Enjoy and look for more of her writing on Blogger’s Row!

Photo courtesy of Holly Covey.

No-stirrups November has all the charm and attraction of a root canal for me. Yeah, right, SUUUURRRE, I’m going to ride without stirrups on my hairy, out of work, grain-fed happy little fatsos on a frigid and dark evening after a slogging long day at work.

No-stress November is more what I am searching for. Like somebody I can text that will have both my wildebeests caught up from their outback prairie, groomed to a shine and tacked up ready to ride in the sparkling, lighted indoor. Whoops, oh, that was last week’s fantasy. This week we just settle for getting the mud off where the saddle pad and girth have to go.

And they want me to take my stirrups off my saddle. In the dark of night, when it’s trending toward 45 degrees, and my fingers and toes are no longer sending back “alive” signals to my brain. Yeah, RIGHT. I’m going to lie about riding without stirrups all day long. You betcha. Simple survival here.

The thing is, I know the no-stirrup thing is good for you, but … so is a root canal, if you really like full size Snickers in your Halloween trick or treat bucket. There is no gain without pain. I’d watch an entire afternoon of bad B movies if I thought it would help me stay on over a big oxer, but honestly, riding without stirrups is going to do more to undo all my hard work of staying in the saddle than it will help. I’m certain of it.

It’s the feeling of needing to cling — HARD — when one of my excuses-for-event-horses decides the neighbor’s plastic bag of trash floating gently on the breeze past him is not entirely to be trusted. It’s the screaming quads that won’t leave me alone all day at work the next day. And it’s the pushing-the-envelope mentality that frankly keeps me from toying with the loss of proper vertical order. I’m chicken in my old age.

Those of you with young, elastic bodies that bounce, look away. You don’t need to see what’s coming next. Not to scare anyone, but when you age, you can’t stay on a bucking horse like you used to be able to. No, those suction cup legs fade away somewhere down there below the 44D’s, and the wrinkles and sags now become your finest asset in the saddle. Your butt sticks to the saddle on purpose because you need to keep it there or your lawyer will be expecting a visit from your heirs. Like fine wine, your equitation ages to the point where losing your stirrups becomes a feared and inevitably fateful enterprise. So NO ONE who is old, and still doing what passes for riding, does it on purpose, Grasshopper.

No, us old-timers are deeply concerned about the whole concept of riding without all convenient accessories that come with our saddles. We pay for those stirrups, by God, we’re using them. I’ll exercise my 2nd Amendment to keep any individual from taking away my constitutional right to stirrups. (Hmm. Good idea for a bumper sticker, eh?) It’s better for my horses. It’s better for my family. It’s better for my mortgage, my boss at work, my bank account, my doctor and my hairdresser if I ride with those stirrups.

Of course I can probably stay on without them — for a while — well, for a few moments — maybe seconds … but I know there’s no need to be trying to prove anything at my age and experience level. My horses also have strong feelings about the potential loss of vertical order in the universe, and those cunning bastards live for the day I lose grip and slide sideways. With glee they will take immediate advantage, of that I am so sure. This is the reason I keep a handful of peppermint treats in my pocket. It is my safety device of last resort; and the horses KNOW they are there. (It seems to be working so far.)

All due respect to Leslie Wylie, whose no-stirrup exploit on the Mongolian steppe is the stuff of complete legend, but I’ll never ever live up to that stratospheric standard. I don’t even know someone who could ride a whole day without stirrups. And still have intact reproductive organs and a brain that functioned reasonably well. So Leslie, you’re the gold standard, babe, when it comes to stirrupless conquest.

LW: At least some good came out of it! Photo courtesy of Leslie Wylie.

No-stirrup November is a delightful idea someone bored with a well-lit, softly footed indoor arena thought up while riding their smooth-as-silk warmblood around in tiny circles, with lots and lots of health insurance with no deductibles or copays. My OTTB yaks can’t wait for November, they have been plotting revenge for months. When that saddle sans stirrups is strapped on, I can feel the energy ramp up, the eyeballs roll, the gerbils hit that wheel … the clock starts ticking down to Event Horse Revenge Day. I’m doomed!

So this year, I’m chucking the whole idea. Instead, I’ll do 30 seconds more planking each day to make up for it. Or maybe I’ll just do the little teeny Snickers instead of the full-sized ones. No, that’s a bad idea. Forget I said that. Just the planking ought to do it. Sorry, dear horses, no Revenge day this November. That’ll have to wait until First Water Jump of Spring. (Yikes!) Go eventing — with stirrups!