Your Canter Questions Part 4 (Dressage Mastery TV Ep273)


Hey Dressage Superstars! Today’s question is, “How do I ride without stirrups?”

We’re going to do some rising trot without the stirrups. I want you to turn your toes in. If you ride with your heel in, you’ll never be able to make the top levels of dressage. You’ve got to be able to have your feet flat.

Todaya is doing a super job and I’m not concerned where the horses head is or what’s happening, all I’m concerned with is what she’s doing. Now, I want you to carry your hands above his neck.


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I’d love to hear from you how you go and what strategies you use to keep your stirrups in the sitting trot.

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To Your Success,

Natasha Althoff

Full Transcript Expand to full transcript

Natasha: Hey dressage superstars. Today we’re going to answer the question, how do I ride without stirrups?So, I have the gorgeous Today here, who is going to help me demonstrate. So, Today has never ridden this horse before today. Or have you ridden him once or twice before?

Todaya: Twice, yeah.

Natasha: Yeah, twice before. Okay. So, she knows the horse only a little bit and so, if you don’t know the horse or you are worried about this; you should probably have the horse on a lunge, but we know he’s not really going to do anything. So, today, what I want you to think about when we’re going to do some rising trot, without the stirrups, is first, I want you to turn your toes in. Look at me.

Todaya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Natasha: Yeah, so did you feel where they were before I told you to turn them in.

Todaya: Ah, on the outside.

Natasha: Yes. And why do you think they turned to the outside?

Todaya: I also walk a bit like this.

Natasha: Lots of horse riders do, it’s hilarious. Yes and why we like to ride with them turned out, is this is a very powerful muscle.

Todaya: Yeah.

Natasha: I don’t know what it is, hamstring or something. And that’s why we prefer to use that, rather than our inner groin muscles, when we turn our toes in. So, T … and literally, I’ve had riders that have been so much like this, it’s really effected their riding, because you can’t wear spurs. If you ride with your heel in, like this, you’ll never be able to make the top levels of dressage. You’ve got to be able to have your feet flat. So, now what I want you to do is turn your toes in and literally I made her walk for a month like this.

Todaya: Okay, yeah.

Natasha: And even if you walk for … like, even everyone at home, just do it for an hour and you’ll feel, oh my God, you’ll feel your inner groin muscles sore.

Todaya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Natasha: That’s what needs to build up.

Todaya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Natasha: So turn your toes in. Yeah, turn your toes in, turn your toes in. You should be crying. You should be going this hurts so much.

Todaya: Yeah, it’s not comfortable.

Natasha: Yes and do you realize it’s not even flat yet?

Todaya: Yeah. In my mind I can-

Natasha: Halt for a second.

Todaya: Oh sorry.

Natasha: And you just want to make sure-

Todaya: Oh my God.

Natasha: Your leg … just relax for a second, your leg wants to go here.

Todaya: Yeah.

Natasha: You want to pick it up from the hip. Yeah. And see how it doesn’t go down?

Todaya: Yeah.

Natasha: It needs to be able to go out and then back, but it doesn’t want to. Hey! Stop that. Cool. So, we want to turn it in. That’s nice and flat. That’s perfect and we want to somehow, eventually get it back on the horse. Good, yes. That’s yeah…It’s really sore? Good.

Todaya: Yeah.

Natasha: Yeah, keep going. Walking again.

Todaya: Oh my God, the feeling is so-

Natasha: I used to ride around crying, just going ah, because the coach kept saying toes in, turn your toes in, turn your toes in, I went right and then I just started crying because it hurt so much. Okay, so then in a second, we’re going to go rise trot and you’re going to keep just focusing on your toes in.

Todaya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Natasha: Keep thinking I’m going to touch them underneath his belly. What diagonal are you on? Wrong. Very good. Now what diagonal are you on?

Todaya: I’m on the outside.

Natasha: You’re correct. Yeah.

Todaya: Yeah.

Natasha: Yeah, keep your circle up here a little bit. Good. Keep your toes in. What’s hurting the most?

Todaya: The inside muscle.

Natasha: Good. You keep going. Good. So Todaya is doing a super job and I’m not concerned where the horses head is or what’s happening, all I’m concerned with is what she’s doing. Now, I want you to carry your hands above his neck. Yeah, yeah and bend at the elbows. Did you find your rise got easier or harder?

Todaya: I don’t know. I just feel my muscles. They hurt.

Natasha: So you want to make sure that you’re not resting your hands on the horses neck as a part of balance. You want your hands completely off the neck, going I’m rising completely independently. Touch your toes, touch your toes, touch your toes, touch your toes underneath his belly. Turn your toes in. That’s right. Now you tell me when you’re about to fall of because it hurts so much. Have you got five more circles in you?

Todaya: I don’t know, I have-

Natasha: Yeah, let’s do five. So, toes in.

Todaya: Oh my gosh.

Natasha: Toes in. Toes in. Come on. Think you’re at the gym. That’s one circle down, we’ve got four more to go. Toes in, toes in. I will touch my toes under his belly. Yeah, keep your hands up, keep your tummy. Yeah, good. Yeah, good. Turn your toes in. Good job. Good job. It’s just logging those hours. Cool, we’re on circle three, we’ve got three more to go. Yeah, toes in, you can do this. You can do this. Yes, very good. Hands up, over his … yeah, yeah. Not that I want your hands completely up, I just want to make sure they’re not resting on the neck. I want to make sure you are completely balanced, like the pole on the carousal is. Only two more circles left. Doing super. Turn your toes in, again. Yeah. Toes in again. That’s in. Good job. Good job. We only have nearly one more circle left. Turn your toes in, turn your toes in. Yes. Good job. And you’re in the last circle. Come on.

Todaya: It hurts.

Natasha: Good, only three quarters of a circle left. Toes in, toes in. Yes, good job. Only half a circle left. Good job. Good job. Only a quarter of a circle left. Toes in. Make it count, last quarter. Toes in, toes in, toes in and walk. Loose rein, he’ll walk. Yeah, good. You relax. Turn to the right. Any questions?

Todaya: I don’t know. I just feel my muscles now, they’re very sore.

Natasha: Yes, good.

Todaya: But, yeah, the feeling was kind of good, actually.

Natasha: Yeah. Change the rein, turn him around the other way. Yeah.

Todaya: Ah okay.

Natasha: Up.

Todaya: Like this. I can really feel my inner thighs.

Natasha: Good.

Todaya: Yeah.

Natasha: Yeah.

Todaya: Really.

Natasha: Yeah, you get 30 seconds rest and then we go again. So you really want it to be this kind of work, it’s like you’re in the gym. You do a set of squats, you have 60 seconds break and then you go again.

Todaya: It is a workout.

Natasha: It is a workout, absolutely. Okay, 17 seconds left of your break.

Todaya: A very good workout.

Natasha: My trainer does this and I try to distract him by talking about something so he’ll then forget that I’ve got to start my next set and I get more of a break.

Todaya: Probably tomorrow, I won’t be able to walk, but…

Natasha: All right, when we hit C, you’re going to trot.

Todaya: All right.

Natasha: And three, two, one, trot. Are you on the correct diagonal?

Todaya: Now I am?

Natasha: Yes. Keep the trot, a little bit more and keep your toes in. Trot, toes, trot, toes. Yeah, good. Yeah, exactly. Good job. Good riding. Toes in. Yeah. Good. Yeah, we’re going to do one more circle and then we’re going to count down from five.

Todaya: Okay.

Natasha: Yeah, good. Both you and him look tired now. All right, and five circles to go now. Toes in, toes in, toes in. Yeah. Good job. Carry your hands. Yeah. Make sure I can see, your left hand sometimes drops lower than your right. Yeah, keep them together. That’s right. Good job. Yeah, I know he’s falling in, good. Toes in, toes in. Touch them under his belly. That’s right. I’ve lost count. I think we’re on the fourth circle. Yeah, good. Did you feel you’re working through there?

Todaya: Yeah.

Natasha: That’s why he dropped his head.

Todaya: Yeah.

Natasha: Okay and three circles to go. Yeah, deeper. Yeah, work on getting him round, as you rise, as your toes come in. Yeah. Yeah. Toes. Yes. Uh-ah, keep centered to me. That’s right and toes. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. Good. And two more circles to go. Good. Toes. Toes in. Yeah. More. Your right leg really likes to turn out. Yeah, really pull it in. Good. One more circle to go. Yeah, really focus this last half circle. Throw your right leg in. Yeah, right toes in, yeah. Yeah. I’m going to give you a million dollars if I can’t see it turned out. Really tuck it in. Really tuck it in. More, yes, yes and walk. Cool, you can walk.

Todaya: Oh good.

Natasha: All right, so any questions about that?

Todaya: I can’t feel anything.

Natasha: I think you really do need to start walking like this.

Todaya: Yeah, I think so too.

Natasha: Just to get that strength built.

Todaya: I can feel my toes going out, all the time.

Natasha: Yeah.

Todaya: I have to remind myself constantly to turn them back in.

Natasha: Yeah. Okay and have you ever cantered without stirrups before?

Todaya: Only on lunge.

Natasha: Yeah, okay. You’ll be fine. So when you’re ready, just shorten him up a little bit on the walk, like think I might want to halt, but I might want to gallop at the same time and then put your outside leg back and kick and canter. Canter. Ah, I don’t trust him. Try it again. So, walk, so you see how he’s trying to … uh-uh-uh … yeah, so pick him up, then gallop and walk at the same … gallop and halt at the same time, keep his bend, keep his nose right in the middle of the chest and then just think inside feet turned to canter. Yeah, yeah, good. Gallop, gallop. Yeah, good. Now wheres your toes. Yes, yes. Toes. Toes. Toes. Yes. I can tell how much you’re trying. Toes. Yes. Toes. Full arena. Toes. Bend. Bend. Yeah, full arena.

Todaya: Oh.

Natasha: Yeah, go the full arena. Gallop. Keep your toes. Good job. Good, then come across the diagonal. KXM.

Todaya: Yeah.

Natasha: Yeah. Come across. Gallop. Keep it forward, keep the forward. Look where you want to go. Over to M. yeah and now just put your right leg back and go for the change. You’re all right, you’re all right. Sit back. Good. Toes. Toes. Toes. Come on, more toes. Yeah. Circle here, one circle, toes. Yeah. Come on, toes. Good job. Good job. And then full arena again. Toes. Good. Deeper, rounder, getting rounder, bend to the inside, sit back. Good. Then FXH, change reins, across the diagonal. Stay in canter. And then when you get to X, look where you going, then half halt on the left rein, on the right, on the left rein and put your left leg back. Good, you’re all right. You’re all right.good and then a trot transition. Good, good. Sitting trot. Circle. Half, half, slow him down. Stomach. Stomach.

Todaya: Oh no.

Natasha: Woo. Okay, you’re all right. You’re all right. Good job. Just slow him down. Yeah, bend to the inside, bend to the inside, to the inside and halt. Halt now. Yeah and soften. Okay and full reins, give him the reins, relax. Drop the reins.

Todaya: I lost my balance a little bit.

Natasha: Good. Thank God you didn’t fall off.

Todaya: You made me do things I’ve never done before.

Natasha: Sometimes it’s fun to do things you’ve never done before.

Todaya: Yeah. I didn’t even know I’m capable, so thank you.

Natasha: My pleasure. All right, any questions?

Todaya: Yeah, did I do everything you asked? I know that the corners were really bad, and I forgot my steering because I was so-

Natasha: Everything was really bad, but everything was fine, like, that’s why you ride school masters, like you’ve never done a flying change before and you’re riding a school master and you changed the rein, they’re waiting for that new outside leg to come back and the minute they feel it, they pop the change. The reason you had a good change on the first change, the second change was late in front because you didn’t half halt enough on the left shoulder. So, his shoulder was blocked, so he changed behind and then he changed the front.

Todaya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Natasha: Yeah, but it’s still fine. That’s why you should just feel what fine change feels like. It should feel … and plus, I made you do it with no stirrups.

Todaya: Yeah.

Natasha: So you did super. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I thought you might just fall off at the start. So, you did super, super well. Do you do a lot of work with no stirrups at home?

Todaya: At my previous riding school, I did.

Natasha: Yeah.

Todaya: But at this one because I had to change the trainer, the other one was pregnant, so, she stopped for a little while.

Natasha: Yeah. I think your seat is pretty amazingly good, from where your skills are, in terms of, getting a horse connected and through and round, your seats way above that skill, but you’ve mostly got some really cool inherent skills, like you can feel when he’s dropping the shoulder and your arms to come across and you’ve got some moves there, which is really, really good. So trust yourself because you’ve got a really good feel and just keep working on everything that you’ve been working on and keep growing and developing on that.

Todaya: Thank you.

Natasha: Woo. Pleasure.

Todaya:Thank you.

Natasha: And he’s bored now. All right.

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