#MasterclassMonday is a collaboration between Horse Network and NOELLEFLOYD.com to empower equestrians to help troubleshoot your training, master your mindset and up your game. This month’s instructor: show jumping trainer Simone Starnes.

No stirrup November created hype around riders wanting to improve their position and specifically their lower leg.

But, is this the only way to improve?

Of course not! In fact, rushing into exercises without your stirrups can sometimes cause more harm than good. If you’re wanting to improve your position, the first step is understanding body control and how each of our body parts work together in harmony with our horses.

The three parts of position: Legs, Arms, Core

Your lower leg is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to your position. Think of your core as the center of your position that is responsible for balance and control. Without stabilization of the core, the rest of your body has a hard time keeping control.

For example, if a rider has a soft core over the jump, their heels may come up, their leg may slip back, and the upper body will easily fall forward. It may seem like a simple concept, but keeping your core engaged will ensure you don’t get thrown out of position easily. 

This is just the teaser! Learn all things body control with Equestrian Masterclass: Simone Starnes Teaches 3 Exercises for Better Body Control.

When a rider has a hard time stabilizing their core, the legs are there as back up, but while a strong lower leg is helpful, think of using that strength in ounces instead of pounds. Relying on strength rather than balance can result in pinching of the knee, which will cause your upper body to fall forward, leaving you unstable in the tack. 

Having a strong, effective leg doesn’t mean you’re gripping your horse and always using your leg, it means it’s secure and guiding your horse. Think of your legs like roots that will keep you grounded on your horse.

The goal is to have a straight line connecting your heels, hip, and shoulders.

Your arms are there to follow your horse’s mouth and be there for guidance and control when necessary. A big misconception is that a rider’s arms should be tucked into their sides. This actually inhibits your horse’s movement and creates stiffness in a rider’s position. It takes practice, but learning how to keep your core tight, leg effective, and arm soft while still following your horse’s movement is key in creating a sustainable and effective position. 

The exercise

Instead of rushing into No Stirrup November, I challenge you to try this exercise first.

Using four trot poles, elevate them on one side, alternating which side is elevated throughout each pole (see image for reference). Take your horse through this exercise and pay attention to the up and down trajectory your horse moves through.

A lot of riders will go into this exercise unprepared, resulting in heels up, leaning forward, which causes them to go unstable and thrown out of position. Focus on your leg being quiet and still while stretching up and back with your shoulders and core tight. Remember to follow with your elbows, keeping your arms soft and supple. If you’re an intermediate or advanced rider, feel free to drop your stirrups through the exercise once you’ve already mastered it with your stirrups of course.

This is an excerpt from Simone’s Equestrian Masterclass, 3 Exercises For Better Body Control To access the course, as well as a full library of courses from the likes of Ian Millar, Anne Kursinski and more, go to equestrianmasterclass.com.