How To: Painless No Stirrup Work

Everybody hates no stirrup work. Every single one of us and there is no denying it. Though I am posting this in December, that doesn’t mean you can’t apply it to every ride. And contrary to popular belief, no stirrup work should build both horse and rider. The exercises that you do should benefit you both rather than one or the other.


Personally, I love to work no stirrup work into almost every ride. It helps me to develop all of the muscles in my core and lower leg needed in day to day riding. It also eliminates the undue stress on my horse’s back that comes with doing no stirrup work every ride, for a full month, without any prior conditioning.


I have compiled a list of 6 fun exercises to help make your no stirrup work painless and helpful.


Exercise 1: Leg On the Shoulder

  • This exercise is meant to work on your balance at all gaits
    move leg forward past the knee roll area onto the shoulder

    You work this exercise by placing your one of your legs over the “knee roll” area of the saddle so your calf is resting on the horse’s shoulder

  1. On a 20 meter circle start at the walk and keep your balance centered in the middle of the saddle
  2. After you feel comfortable, pick up the canter
  3. Still on the 20m circle, trot half then transition back down to the walk for the second half, then after the walk half, pick up the canter once again
  4. Repeat step 4, however, many times you feel are needed until you have kept a nice balanced, round canter on the circle
  5. Once you have reached that balanced and round canter, start at step one again with the other leg


Exercise 2: Alternating Raised Poles

  • This exercise is meant to build your horse’s hind end and to help you develop lower leg muscles
  1. Place four poles 3 feet apart on the ground
  2. Place blocks, buckets, or any 4 same height objects under alternating sides of the poles

    Photo Credit to Google
  3. Drop your stirrups and cross them over the front of the saddle so they are out of the way (you can also take them completely off if you aren’t working with them at all that ride)
  4. Go through the poles at an even and steady posting trot
  5. You may experience a throwing forward or up feeling the first few rounds through but don’t fret! It is just your horse pushing up and engaging their hind end over the poles, it will become more comfortable as you go!
  6. Repeat step 4 as many times as you feel necessary from both directions
  7. If you have been working this exercise and others to develop your seat a lot, feel free to try this at a sitting trot too!


Exercise 3-6: Bending Around The Leg on Circles

  • This exercise is meant to build a response from your horse when asking to bend around it and build your lower leg muscles and seat
  • The photos explain themselves but I will put a brief summary of each with some extra stuff you can add on for difficulty!


  1. This helps to work on the gentler bend in the horse’s neck and can  also work on forwardness along the long side. This exercise is meant to be performed at the rising trot
  2. This helps to work on keeping control in a forward gate by adding a 15meter circle to bring them back under your seat. To add difficulty, try this at a sitting trot!
  3. This helps to work on deep and full corners. It is especially got for horses who like to fall inward in the trot and canter. This exercise is meant to performed at both the trot and canter.

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