“Take your inside foot out of your stirrup iron” was a staple part of my early riding lessons. And not one that I’ve heard repeated much.
When we first did it we used to lean right over the outside stirrup, often missing a rise and generally struggling to keep our balance. I did this exercise for years until one day I didn’t lean. It was as easy as rising trot with stirrups.
I never really understood the full implications of this exercise, but it’s a good half step to removing both stirrups, and teaches you not to lose your balance should you suddenly lose you stirrup, and retaking the stirrup mid-trot after the exercise helps teach you how to quickly regain your stirrup in an emergency.
I find it quite a useful exercise with beginners and nervous riders, however I stick to sitting trot, and walk for the very beginners. It just pushes riders’ boundaries without making them feel like they’ve lost total control or balance.
Yesterday I used the traditional rising trot exercise with one lady I teach. She has, and she knows, a stronger right leg, which means that although she’s sat centrally in the saddle her weight sits towards the right, with her right leg looking more secure, and every so often on circles you can see her upper body lean slightly right.
Using the fence line down the long side to help I first got her to trot with only her right foot in the stirrup. She managed this fine, but felt like she was really leaning to the right. We then repeated the exercise with only her left foot in the stirrup. She found this much harder, and the rises were smaller and less established. After a couple of goes like this I got her to put both feet back in the stirrups. The left leg instantly looked more grounded, the heel was more secure and down more.
Going back into rising trot I got her to think about both legs putting in the same amount of effort, and you could see the improvement on circles. On the right rein they weren’t mimicking a motorbike and the left circles became more circular.
So if you know one of your legs is stronger than the other, try this little test because it really wakes your weaker leg up and gets it working harder. You don’t want to overdo it (straight lines are best), and be careful that it doesn’t shift your seat from the centre of the saddle, but other than that it’s a very useful tool for finding the symmetry, or lack of, in your body.