Weight in stirrups western riding - yes or no?
What is the right answer, or is there one? When riding in a western saddle, should you have weight in the stirrups or not?
IIRC, I was told long ago that when riding western, you should pretend there is a raw egg between your foot and the stirrup. This is in contrast to an English forward seat, where having a lot of weight in the stirrups is good.
My wife gave me a western saddle as an early Christmas present this year. Playing around with it, it seems to me:
If I put my feet forward and put weight in my LONG stirrups, I end up carrying much of my weight on my thighs, but I can pretty easily sit the trot or canter while feeling comfortable.
But if I shorten my stirrups just one hole, and try to ride that way, I bounce out of the saddle. In order to ride with the shorter stirrup without bouncing, I find my heel comes under my hip and my feet are light in the stirrup - which is more in line with what I was told was good.
However, I feel more solid on my horse with the longer setting.
Is there a right or wrong answer for western riding?
A picture from my first day riding the new used saddle, feeling very awkward with the shorter stirrup length. If it had been a video, yes, I'd be bouncing some since I had weight in the shorter stirrup in this picture:
This is with my Aussie-style saddle from last summer, but is pretty much how I end up riding with the longer stirrup - and weight in the stirrup:
What is y'alls' experience?
FWIW, Mia seems to like the western saddle. I think it does a good job of distributing weight over a larger area, and she seems more eager to trot quickly or to canter longer. What really surprised me is that it seems to have freed up her shoulders, and she will turn around a pylon faster, tighter and lighter than she did in my Aussie-style saddle.
And while some folks say there isn't much difference between riding English and Western, it sure feels different to this 55 year old Old Fart! :wink:
For another perspective, this is from an old thread and is what Barry Godden was taught some years back:
And just because I like old pictures, here is "Charles Myers cutting animals out from the herd. LS Ranch, Texas, 1907"
Erwin E. Smith Collection Guide | Collection Guide
In western I like a slightly longer stirrup. Almost to where I have to "reach" for it if I want to put weight in it. I find it helps me to get a much deeper seat and then I have more freedom to move my legs when needed.
having weight on your stirrups and pushing into the stirrup are a bit different.
having weight on your stirrup is really more of allowing your leg to hang down as heavy as it possibly can, with the heel leading the downward reach toward gravity. the toe is lifted to kind of "catch" onto the stirrup, and in the effort , the knee may have to bend, but your stirrup is never pushed away from you.
If you sit in a chair and allow you legs to be heavy and your feet to sit on the ground as heavy as they are, you seat bones will also sit on the chair as heavy as they are. But, if you push against the floor, as if you are trying to push it away from you, your seatbones will become less heavy on the chair. You can, however, lift your toes and have your heels take on the weight that you just removed by lifting your toes, and more weight will go down into your heels.
Weighting your stirrups is kind of like this.
If you push into the stirrup, and the angle that the stirrup hangs naturally changes by going much forward, you will then be bracing, and your seat cannot be as deep in the saddle. It will be pushed back against the cantle. If you are roping cattle, or doing some reining spins, this might be the best position to be in, as you horse comes to a quick stop. But, as it dampens the energy of the horse, and creates a locked knee, which can become a pivot point if a horse suddenly changes directions.
could we see a photo of the saddle sitting without a rider on Mia's back? I am curious to see the balance of the stirrups without a rider to see if by the very design of the saddle they encourage a leg out in front , pushing on the stirrups position, as some Western saddles do , becuase the stirrup bar is much forward of the riders line of gravity . (not sure the right words, but the position a rider would line up to be in the position of "standing" should the horse disappear under you.
I know you have issues with that concept and its' applicability to day to day practical western riding, but I am just curious about the new saddle. What is the maker?
For the substance of your post:
"you will then be bracing, and your seat cannot be as deep in the saddle"
That is an excellent description of what happens when I ride like that with the stirrups one hole shorter. Instead of arcing the stirrups forward, it braces me and lifts my butt and I bounce shamefully.
That was part of what caught my attention. I'm not a big fan of heel-hip-shoulder vertical lines, but if I ride with the shorter stirrup, then that is the only way I can relax in the saddle and not brace or bounce. I need a vertical line AND light feet in the stirrups.
But at the longer setting, it is more like the stirrup pivots forward without a resulting brace. It is more like what farmpony84 describes: "Almost to where I have to "reach" for it if I want to put weight in it. I find it helps me to get a much deeper seat..."
I don't think I have it in me to sit 'on my pockets' like a western rider ought to do. I'd much rather lean slightly forward and let the weight be carried in my thighs and my stirrups. It seems getting 'on my pockets' would give a better overall balance for a western tree, however. But it sure feels weird if one is not used to it!
I might PM Barry Godden, because it sounds like what he was describing:
"The first lesson was to adjust the stirrups so that the leg was carried almost straight. Enough bend was left in the knee to just lift the butt off the seat of the saddle even at the trot. The second lesson was to learn to ride with significant weight carried on the stirrups at all times."
Mia seems quite content to trot fast like that, and to canter pretty enthusiastically as well.
In the English riding world, there are a lot of good books describing riding, be it dressage or jumping. Western riders don't seem to write as much. Maybe they are all out riding instead! :-P
Of course, it may be that both are equally good - use the more forward position for speed work, and bring my heels under my hip for a relaxed walk down the street. Put more weight in the stirrups for the former, and be as light as possible for the latter. But I am curious about how others do it...and I appreciate the thoughts offered so far!
PS - I've also switched to a leather latigo tied off on the off-side, connected to a mohair cinch since the picture was taken.
This may not be correct but what I figured out. If you are losing your stirrups often, either they are too long or you aren't putting enough weight into them. If you are bouncing out of the saddle, the stirrups are too short or you're putting too much weight into them.
For the longest time, I rode with the stirrups where I thought they were right. After long rides, my knees were sore and so were the soles of my feet. I dropped the stirrups one hole and what a difference. At first I did have an issue with losing the stirrups but I realized I wasn't putting enough weight in the stirrups.
English does usually have shorter stirrups than western.
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that is a very nice looking saddle. It appears to have a good balance and a seat that allows you to find a good position.
I never think of sitting on my pockets. I think that can promote a "C" shape collapsed spine.
love the saddle. did you get a good deal? guess I shouldn't ask that, though.
BSMS, when you said "Of course, it may be that both are equally good - use the more forward position for speed work, and bring my heels under my hip for a relaxed walk down the street. Put more weight in the stirrups for the former, and be as light as possible for the latter.", you pretty much nailed it for me...the faster or quicker I want to go, the more forward I ride -- and I put more weight in the stirrup. There are times I am bascially standing in the saddle, while leaning a bit forward from the hip up. But, when I am going slow, trail riding, working on training, etc. I sit deeper and have my legs more under me with very little weight(just enough to keep my feet secure in them) in the stirrups.
That looks like a great saddle! I have ridden all 3 types of saddles-English, Western & Aussie. And more. I ride w/ a fairly long stirrup, unless there's jumping involved, but those days are now few & far between. I like my Western w/a fairly straight leg, but still able to stand up & clear the saddle. The main thing now as a trail rider is comfort to both horse & rider. Mia looks great in it & sounds like she is comfortable, so make the adjustments for your comfort & have fun on the trail.
Yep...what cacowgirl said!
You and Mia are lookin' good. Enjoy the Christmas present.
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