Leg Position, Stirrup Length and Trail Riding - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 85 Old 04-05-2019, 10:37 AM
Green Broke
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@CopperLove - It could well be both on the stirrups. You're not used to all that leather, and then if they're too short, you'd have that additional problem. I'd say let them out until you have just a crack of daylight between your seat and straddle, 3/4 of an inch or so, long enough your knees are only slightly bent, but you still have full contact with the bed of the stirrup if you press your weight down.

Then see how it goes.

Also, this:

Cowboy Wisdom - If your butt hurts at the end of a ride, your stirrups are too long. If your knees hurt at the end of a ride, your stirrups are too short. If everything hurts? They're just right. ;)

"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us."
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post #12 of 85 Old 04-05-2019, 10:56 AM Thread Starter
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@AtokaGhosthorse I'll have to keep that in mind. I feel like if I had stood in my saddle there'd have been quite a bit more clearance than that, especially since it felt like I was pushing myself up the cantle when I tried to extend my legs forward.

Ha, that seems pretty accurate. Mainly, my thighs are sore. But on my right leg, the side of my leg leading up from my ankle is also sore but not on the left side... that unevenness tells me something isn't quite right too.

"She could be a witch, and he would never build a pyre upon which to burn her thoughts, desires and dreams."
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post #13 of 85 Old 04-05-2019, 11:21 AM
Green Broke
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You MAY be leaning to the right as you ride and don't realize it. Are you right handed? I know I used to lean heavily to my dominant side starting out, and I watched my son and daughter, early on, as a ride went on, start to lean heavily to the right - they're both right handed and so am I. Son still does it - I have to tell him to square up or he's going to fall off every now and then, which is weird because he still can ride like he grew there. Just makes me so aggravated he doesn't take more interest in it.

Anyway, I kinda feel as if as you get tired, your weight will start to 'sag' if you will to your stronger side, then you're pushing into the stirrup to support your weight, then your ankles, knees, then up through the hip start to hurt.

I can also verify the sore knees thing in that cowboy saying. My knees used to SCREAM after only riding a couple of miles. It felt so horrible, only riding that far, and aching that bad in my knees and I'd feel my toes curl from cramps, or a charley horse would start in my hamstring or butt cheek... hard to control a horse when you're hurting like that.

Then I started letting out my stirrups, a hole here, a hole there... it got better. I have them out real far now, but I think one more hole would be too much. Rode a saddle not mine late last summer, a high back ranch saddle I'd brought camping as a spare, bought it to flip it, thought I'd ride it to see how well made it was.

The stirrups LOOKED like they were way out, but they weren't. Gina was kind enough to let me let them out while I stayed in the saddle, and they felt okay... two hours later, my knees were on fire, felt like I had ground glass in them. I'm thinking I needed two more holes let out on the stirrups, but by then I'd decided I hated that saddle and was glad to see it go when it sold.

I think you'll find as time goes by, and your body gets conditioned to the changes in stirrup position and seat, you'll find you're not fighting the stirrups as much. I don't know what kind of saddle you're riding, but a lot of folks try trailriding in roping saddles. I was one of them, didn't know any better. THOSE have very wide, very thick stirrup leathers, thick fenders. The entire saddle is over-engineered from a trail riding POV because it has to withstand the torque of an upset steer, calf, cow, heifer, or bull being tied off to the horn and the rope snapping tight. The roping saddles are what killed my knees in the beginning. Then our dozer operator brought over his daughter's SRS barrel saddle. It was ugly - the seat was kelly green suede, but the difference in the seat position, the feel of the horse under it, how the stirrups swung much more freely, made a convert out of me.

I ride trails in a barrel saddle now. I have a used Saddlesmith made Connie Combs I paid 200.00 for, intended to flip it for a profit... and it's never left my house. It's only saddle I've had so far I refuse to sell for any amount of money.

My husband rides in an SRS ranch cutter - for the same reason. Easier on the knees, stirrups swing freely, he likes the seat position, feels more horse through the saddle and it's comfy for long rides.

I hope this helps you - I've had to learn mostly on my own, though I can thank a lot of young people for the early days and helping me get started... but some of them were very wrong about what they taught me, and it's because they were taught wrong. Trail riding has been one of the most amazing things I could do with my horses, and I am a huge advocate of camping with horses and trail riding - even if you run barrels, rope, anything organized in an arena - it's good for your horses to give them that change of scenery. It makes them think differently, it gives them a workout they would never get in a level arena. It can make you and your horse learn to rely on one another and trust one another on a much deeper level. Wildlife doesn't spook from horses like they do from people on foot or motorized vehicles, btw. I've seen deer, pretty garter snakes laying in the sun on a log, birds of all sorts, foxes, turkey, geese, ducks, raccons, hogs (Nasty sons of bucks... Not a fan of wild hogs), all sorts of critters that I'd never normal see if I'd been on foot.

"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us."
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post #14 of 85 Old 04-05-2019, 11:48 AM
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I am using my Abetta saddle now. It has the white fleece in the picture, versus the Circle Y. The Circle Y has a bigger footprint, which is good for distributing weight. The Abetta's small footprint though means my legs don't need to spread as far apart. I also have narrow horses - ridden mostly Arabians or half-Arabians - and Bandit is the narrowest horse I've ever met. I don't need to spread my legs wide on him and it is nice to use a saddle (Abetta or Aussie) that doesn't require me to. If I ever bought a big QH, I might have to learn a different approach to riding. Oh...and tilting is a problem a lot of us have. Mine is rooted in a back injury 10 years ago. My horses ignore it but my knees sometimes can't!

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #15 of 85 Old 04-06-2019, 02:54 PM
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My stirrups have gotten suspiciously longer as my experience increases ... <_< Some of that, though, is because my knees are shot and sometimes my leg hurts like an absolute devil, and having a stirrup keep it "in position" just makes it worse as it gets tighter and tighter. Some of it is simply getting better and better at balancing - I try to ride without stirrups for at least a little while every time I ride, even on the trail. (again, sometimes because it's more comfortable for me). I joke that my preferred length at this point is "as close to stirrupless as I can get while still having stirrups". But going without stirrups has also helped me figure out where my legs should be without being artificially positioned, so it becomes muscle-memory as to what's comfortable and functional, and I can feel where the stirrups should be and adjust them accordingly.

It's normal to tend to lean forward - it's absolutely an unconscious anxiety position, we tend to curl up and tense to protect ourselves from what the lizard brain perceives as a hazardous situation. It has helped me to think of a couple of things: one, imagining a plumb line (that is, a string with a weight at the end) going from my head to my feet. The line is weighted and straight, and my shoulders, back, hips, and legs align with it. But it is still flexible.

Second, the horse's horizontal axis (front to back) and my vertical axis (head to feet) intersect at the saddle, and the intersection remains a fixed point regardless of whether the horse is moving on a flat surface, uphill, or downhill - the horse's axis tilts, so does my axis in correlation. (see attached image)

Third, take leaves or receipts or dollar bills or whatever is windblown and flat, and hold them in position against the saddle with your knees - just enough to hold them, but not enough to give too much squeeze to your horse. Again, this might help your muscle memory.

Fourth: go without stirrups for a bit. Yes, it's scary at first, but you may find you enjoy it, and as my trainer reminds me, the stirrups (and the reins) aren't what's keeping you in the saddle.
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post #16 of 85 Old 04-06-2019, 04:03 PM
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I am just going to address three issues. Most of the stuff you asked has been addressed I guess some of this has 2.

1. Leathers wanting to be stiff and twist your feet all wrong? You need stirrup turners.

2. You lean way forward over the front of the saddle? Anxiety. One caution about following the link as to an anxiety cure. You may find that you pee your pants at the trot......

3. Stirrup length?
It sounds like they are too long. Extra long stirrups make my back hurt.
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post #17 of 85 Old 04-06-2019, 06:06 PM
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Celeste. I heard it said: "If your back hurts, your stirrups are too long. If your knees hurt, your stirrups are too short. If both, your knees and your back hurt, your stirrups are just right." Happy trails.
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post #18 of 85 Old 04-06-2019, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by charrorider View Post
I'm going to step on a lot of toes, here. The heels down position is probably the biggest myth in the horseback riding world. ... Also, I find that a saddle with a flat seat, something like a charro saddle, or a McClellan saddle, will teach a lot about balance.
I think it's a safety thing for beginners, as if their heels are down, then their toes can't be slipping down, wedging in the stirrups. At least, that's why my boss told me to emphasise the point when I was working at a trail riding co many moons ago. Same as 'legs forward' - stops them from drifting back to clamp onto the horse's sides...

As for flat saddles being good for balance yes! You don't learn an independent seat when you're 'clamped in' to a deep seat. And it's harder to shift position to sit differently in different situations. And if you're talking long rides, being in a rather fixed position is more tiring, for horse and rider.

Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]www.horseforum.com/horse-health/hoof-lameness-info-horse-owners-89836/
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]https://www.horseforum.com/members/41...res-128437.jpg
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post #19 of 85 Old 04-08-2019, 12:58 PM Thread Starter
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@AtokaGhosthorse I am indeed right handed. Interestingly enough, that is also the side I was having the most problems with my foot coming out of the stirrup on.

On my mare, Iíve been riding in a Big Horn brand saddle that isnít all leather, some of it is a synthetic material so itís really light to lift. Iím not sure what style it is from that brand, I wouldnít think it would be a roping saddle, seems like it would be a bit flimsy for that. I really need to get better photos of everything but something always comes up that I donít.

I didnít get to ride this weekend because it rained on my one free day but I did go out and saddle Dreama, because I need practice and we are still working on her standing still while being saddled (which she did much better with yesterday.) While handling my own saddle I noticed that the fenders are a lot more light and flexible, and swing a little more freely vs. the one I rode in at the last lesson. So that could potentially be a little part of why it felt like I was fighting the fenders on the riding lesson saddle.

@bsms We think that my mare is an Arabian mix! Not that we have any proof except for the way she looks and movesÖ Mom used to ride Arabians and is quite partial to their look and personality. The horse Iíve started riding lessons on is a Mustang, so neither are big and wide like quarter horses.

@Celeste Stirrup turners, that is fantastic! If I ride in my own saddle and still feel uncomfortable after I get more used to the leg position, I may have to look into a pair of those. I know I have seen trail saddles that had stirrups that face forward like that but I didnít know that there was a way to make my own stirrups do that. I also got a good chuckle out of the Anxiety link, I had seen a thread not too long ago about easing Anxiety and I thought you were linking to that. Imagine my surprise
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post #20 of 85 Old 04-08-2019, 06:07 PM
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loosie. Even though I didn't own a horse until I was 30, I never took a horseback riding lesson. So I can't say anything about the reason why riding instructors teach that. But I had heard of the heels down position and the first time I tried it, I thought to myself, "What? I don't think so." I had the same out of balance sensation I have with short stirrups.
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