Stirrup length differences - advice please. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 04-28-2012, 11:29 PM Thread Starter
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Stirrup length differences - advice please.

This is probably a little silly, but thought to post it all the same. I ride in a dressage saddle and have for some time been riding at a specific stirrup length. I didn't think it was a bad length, it allowed for my core to be utilized (well I thought so) and I was able to walk, trot and canter relatively well.

Since getting my second horse, who is lighter, and shorter and completely different in shape, I had to take my stirrups up one hole to ride her. That was fine, on her it felt fine. I took that length onto my mare Honey after riding Seoul and found that I really benefited with that length. I felt as though before I had just been stable, but with this length I was able to effortlessly do what I had been before. I do struggle with balance in the trot especially and at this length I found it very easy to remain upright, use myself more correctly and didn't feel as insecure - the ironic thing was I didn't even realise I had been feeling that way until I took them up that single hole.

However, the second ride I did at this length - although it was successful, my legs became more tired and I could really feel the burn from my shin down into my ankle. No pain, no gain is usually my stance, however with an ongoing partial disability to my right leg, it was really weak for the remainder of the day after that ride. I decided to take the length back down a hole and whilst my leg didn't tire, I did feel like I was riding better up a hole.

Would you suggest that I keep using the higher height and hope my legs would grow stronger with this work? I have to be very careful as my knee cap in my right leg can and will temporarily dislocate itself whenever it pleases and then I'll be on crutches - something I don't really want to get back on after doing so well to remain off them these past three months. Or should I simply keep them at my original height and work on strengthening my core/legs? Another idea - alternate the height? I'm not really sure what route to take here!

Any suggestions? Oh and in case you need a picture to see the difference (if there is one) I've supplied some below. Thanks in advance.


Normal height.


Sorry its a bit blurry, but this is up one hole higher.


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post #2 of 14 Old 04-29-2012, 12:05 AM
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Do you have a better picture of the "before" length?

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"
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post #3 of 14 Old 04-29-2012, 12:13 AM
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I cannot see any real differnece. I know what you mean, however, about the difference. Most people nowadays in dressage ride wtih their stirrups too long. it's some kind of a fad, and people think they will have a better seat. But often they end up "fishing" for the stirrup and riding on their pubic bone too much and posting entirely off the knee.
When I ride Zulu, i have to keep the stirrup a tad shorter than optimal, becaseu I need to have a bit more connection t the stirrup in order to be albe to rise up over him, his trot is big and often not very steady.

But, if it's making your leg hurt, then maybe you'll have to let it go.

I did put some pads on my stirrups last year because the bottom of my foot was going to sleep, and this is almost like having a half hole raised. However, I wonder how safe this is and if it might not lead to my foot getting caught. The pads are just velcroed on, so theoretically, if I was caught and drug, they woudl come off.

(I hate to even imagine that)
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post #4 of 14 Old 04-29-2012, 12:15 AM Thread Starter
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My apologies... here we go :)



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post #5 of 14 Old 04-29-2012, 12:19 AM
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this rider has a shorter stirrup than usual. But, from what I have read, the thigh should be at about 45 degree angle to the ground for low level rider and 50 degree (steeper) for more advanced. But NOT practically straight down.

and this rider's leg is pretty straight (though hie's a tall guy, too)

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post #6 of 14 Old 04-29-2012, 12:23 AM Thread Starter
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Caroline; thank you for your input... there isn't a great difference tbh in visual, I agree. I feel with them shorter my leg is I guess more camped up, but at the same time, I find it easier to keep up in the trot? However, it did hurt and apart from the usual dead foot I most likely get, the strain down the entire leg - boy did it ache. Only on the second ride, the first one was fine... and before riding Honey I rode Seoul, who I had to use an incredible amount of leg to get to move forward. So my legs were probably too knackered and actually got a good rest just cruising around on Honey afterwards haha!

I might just keep them at the normal height, it's not as if I'm not effective, I just wondered if I was taking a "short cut" in preferring them that higher length because I balanced better? My last ride went "okay" Honey and I argued a great deal - the wind was pretty bad and she usually handles it well, but decided to throw a fit at the trot. I took up a contact and really got her listening and she was afterwards incredibly responsive. So it wasn't like I was at any lack of balance, she certainly gave me a few things to deal with because of the contact on her mouth.

And now I'm rambling.

EDIT: I hate to imagine it again... shudders. Though I wasn't dragged really at all, being caught was the scariest thing ever.


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post #7 of 14 Old 04-29-2012, 12:26 AM
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OP I like the longer stirrup length better due to your heel and hip being in line and you looking much more balanced than with it up a hole.

As for the pain, sometimes when I ride with shorter stirrups, my knee caps and ankles BURN so I make sure to give myself lots of no stirrup breaks. But this can be an indicator that your body is not ready for that change. Better to play it safe and slowly work up to it, than try and cope with pain and sort of force your body to deal.

Does that make sense?

Take care of yourself :) Just because it's easier, doesn't mean you're ready for it or it's the right path to take.
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post #8 of 14 Old 04-29-2012, 12:29 AM
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I use an Australian saddle with English stirrups and straps (although this picture was taken when I was using Aussie leathers and western stirrups). Different horse shapes DO impact my stirrup setting. However, when my knees hurt at the end of the ride, it is almost always because I was bracing against the stirrup.



On a good day, I can ride with a relaxed leg & either short or long stirrups. I prefer a longer stirrup because the shorter levels seem to encourage me to brace - but that is MY fault. If I practice for a while at a shorter length, I can relax my leg with the shorter stirrups - but I need a few rides to adjust. If I was a better rider, I don't think that would be a problem. Is for me, tho.

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post #9 of 14 Old 04-29-2012, 12:57 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone - I normally prefer a longer stirrup, had a habit of having it a little longer before when my leg wasn't ready for it to be at the normal height. I like the height its at now, just surmising on the difference in ability is all.

Yes sky you made sense, thanks!

I will be leaving it longer, thanks everyone :)


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post #10 of 14 Old 05-01-2012, 07:39 PM
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I like the longer length too! What breed is your horse, BTW? He's beautiful!
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