Stirrups to short?
I recently went to an open arena on my cousin's mare and was told by several people that my stirrups were to short. I think my stirrups are a comfortable length.
How do you tell if your stirrups are the right length?
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I have heard of a couple different methods for adjusting western stirrups. Sit in the saddle and take your feet out of the stirrups and have someone adjust them so they hit right at your ankle.
Or, stand up in the stirrups. You should barely be able to get your fist between your crotch and the seat.
If the stirrups are too short you won't be able to effectively create a deep, independent seat.
This is how I have my stirrups adjusted:
I was told that your stirrups should be the length of your arm (western saddle), take it and hold it in your armpit... then your finger tips should be able to touch up inside where the stirrup starts, if that makes sense. I agree with Sahara, you should be able to stand up a little bit as well, too long and you won't be able to be nimble in the saddle and make proper use of the stirrups themselves.
It depends. I started riding with short stirrups, and found myself riding the stirrups instead of the horse. I put my weight into them, and relied on them instead of learning to settle and ride my seat.
So I started lengthening them until I reached a point, after a few months, where I couldn't go longer without needing to stretch my toes. That is where I ride with them now. That gives me just enough clearance to swing my leg over.
The advantage is that longer legs puts your center of gravity lower, making you more stable. It also makes it hard to cheat with stirrups. There are events that need shorter stirrups, but I don't ride like that.
FWIW, here is a picture of an old time cowboy, from a great website if you like history (Erwin E. Smith Collection Guide | Collection Guide)
Clyde Higgins roping an "outlaw" steer in the Croton Breaks, Matador Ranch, Texas, 1908
If you're comfortable and stable, leave it be.
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I would only say this because if you're just riding for a lesson or such NOT a show, then I would stay comfortable. As long as you're NOT relying on your stirrups.
I used to have my stirrups at a comfortable length but I found that I was putting wayy too much weight on them. So I lowered them one notch and I was STILL comfortable and my entire posture was better!
I'm pretty sure if you're in a show the judges look at your legs (stirrups) and posture? (I think! I'm not sure hahha) And if they do.. Then I would rather practice with the correct length fit for my legs and get used to it for shows. But if you dont do shows i guess you're fine ;p
For me it varies on what horse I'm riding and what I'm doing.
We own three horses that are built very different. For my slight built cutter/cowhorse I have to put my stirrups up a hole. We have a foundation bred mare that has that old school Quarter Horse build and I have to let them down a hole or two. And a 16H appendix bred gelding that need to go up a hole.
If I'm starting colts, doing a lot of arena work or cutting then I keep my stirrups pretty short. I like a little space between my knees and my saddle. For me that really helps me use my calves, and it's not too short, that I still have a deep seat. I have noticed a lot people usually have the oppisite problem-riding with stirrups too long. It looks as though they have to grip with their knees and thighs to stay in the saddle.
However if I'm riding outside like gathering steers all day or roping then I drop them down a hole. For comfort(I have bad knees) I let them out a little but not so much to hinder my seat.
Like mentioned above, a good general rule of thumb is standing in your stirrups and being able to fit your fist between your crotch and saddle. I haven't had much luck with using the length of my arm as a guide.
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