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horselessmom 02-07-2013 08:57 PM

Stirrup length variations--how to handle during the first lesson
My daughter is about to start taking Western lessons after just over a year of English lessons. We watched one lesson at the new place, and the girl who was having a lesson had her stirrups quite long. Her feet were practically dangling within the stirrups and she couldn't put her weight into her heels.

DD is only 10, but is very particular about her stirrups. She had some Western experience before starting English, so she knows that Western stirrups are much lower, but she told me that she'd like to be able to put weight into the stirrups.

Should she just go with what her instructor suggests, or is it okay to ask to adjust her stirrups? What variations in stirrup length are normal and acceptable? Thanks!

SouthernTrails 02-07-2013 09:01 PM


I would definitely ask the stirrup length be adjusted.

My rule of thumb is being able to stand in stirrups and have a few inches of clearance to the seat.


Skyseternalangel 02-07-2013 09:36 PM

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I would adjust the stirrups to fit her needs. Even if they're shorter than what the instructor advises, the rider needs to feel confident when they ride and having to reach for the stirrups is not going to help the rider out and may cause them to sit no their crotch which will cause discomfort, amongst other things.

AnrewPL 02-07-2013 10:04 PM

From my own experience, and from that of others I have seen learning, or helped learn, it will probably change.
When I first started learning to ride as a kid I rode in an Australian stock saddle and was taught to ride the Australian bush way, and doing that they tend to ride really short, have their feet stuck out in front of the horses shoulders (think of marking out in a bronc ride) sitting back on the backside slouching in the saddle. And in doing this they tend to wedge themselves under the knee pads on the saddle.
Once I started to learn to ride properly, from about 13 or 14, and started to sit on my seat bones, heels under me, I found I had to ride much longer, so my stirrup lengths started gradually dropping. This went overboard when I was about 18, I got my first custom saddle, as half-breed saddle with a hard seat. I rode so long I could barely touch the stirrups. I was working on a cattle station at the time and the head stockman would continually sneak up and put my lengths up whenever I wasn’t on my horse, but I just couldn’t ride like that, felt like my legs would bounce me out of the saddle. I knew I was riding too long, but I just couldn’t stand having the lengths shorter. It wasn’t from a lack of riding, we were working on the back of a horse in all sorts of country all day every day for months at a time.
Not long after that though, I got on one day and thought, “why do these stirrups feel so long?” I thought someone as playing a trick on me, but, no, the stirrups hadn’t moved. My seat had just gotten better and it was time to put them up where they should be, or nearly, took another few months to get them where they have stayed for the last 18 to 19 years.
So I guess what I am saying is, though there may well be a right and or a wrong place to have the stirrups in an overall sense, in the sense of your kid learning to ride, what is right for her at the stage she is in in her learning is probably what will be right at any given time. Sure, it might not fit a particular discipline, or proper structure, but learning is a process of learning then consolidating the knowledge, that is a process that may well not fit the guidelines of some discipline or style of horse riding.

smrobs 02-07-2013 10:22 PM

I agree with Anrew and others, whatever length is most comfortable for her is the proper length for her, regardless of what the "rules" say.

General guidelines state that you should be able to fit your fist between your saddle and your crotch while standing in the stirrups but that is just a guideline. My Dad rides with his stirrups pretty short, but he has super long legs. I ride with mine just a little bit longer than the "guideline" states because my legs are shorter (you can see in my avatar<<).

One thing I have found that is true for me: if I try riding with stirrups too short, I can't use my legs effectively, and if I ride with stirrups too long, I tend to get really stiff in my thighs and knees because I keep reaching to keep them on my feet.

horselessmom 02-07-2013 10:32 PM

Thank you! This makes sense, that it is a process, and that there are no hard rules, especially while learning.

joseeandjade11 02-07-2013 10:56 PM

I think it all depends how you like your stirrups. I ride both english and western but i like my stirrups a bit shorter even when riding western for safety reasons :)

Saddlebag 02-08-2013 04:24 AM

Don't have them so long that she can't post with her heels down. She may be learning western but until the she and the horse can do a nice so jog, she'll want to post the trot.

GotaDunQH 02-08-2013 01:43 PM

You SHOULD have a bend in your knee in a western saddle. Tradition has always been REALLY LONG stirrups with no knee bend, but times have changed and that thought has fallen by the wayside. Stirrups length depends on the length of leg and effectual use of the leg. Below is the length I ride in:

While there is no steadfast rule of thumb, there is SOMEWHAT of a rule of thumb that stirrup length should be adjusted so that from the length between the top of your thigh (at the hip) to the knee....should measure the same distance from your knee to the ankle where it meets the foot. Hard to explain here.

bsms 02-08-2013 02:07 PM

I started with them too short. I gradually lengthened them to a point where I often lost my stirrups at a canter. I've now shortened them by enough that I don't reach with my toes when my mare canters. This is an older picture...they are about one hole higher now. Australian-style saddle, but my approach to riding is mostly western:

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