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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:
 

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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.
 

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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.
This doesn't always work. My friend had her stirrups adjusted like this (was told to by one of our other friends) and they were WAY too long. She had problems at anything over a walk. Once she shortened her stirrups (by about two holes), she all of a sudden has a lovely seat and can sit a trot or a canter without balance issues. I also tried this method when I rode my BO's Abetta synthetic saddle and then stirrups ended up being WAY WAY WAY too long for me (which is saying something because I have seriously long legs lol).
 

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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

 

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This doesn't always work. My friend had her stirrups adjusted like this (was told to by one of our other friends) and they were WAY too long. She had problems at anything over a walk. Once she shortened her stirrups (by about two holes), she all of a sudden has a lovely seat and can sit a trot or a canter without balance issues. I also tried this method when I rode my BO's Abetta synthetic saddle and then stirrups ended up being WAY WAY WAY too long for me (which is saying something because I have seriously long legs lol).
Yeah, it varies from person to person (as obviously not everyone is built the same with the same leg-to-arm length.) But it was a trick that had always worked for me, so was worth sharing just encase is proved useful. :)
 

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Yeah, it varies from person to person (as obviously not everyone is built the same with the same leg-to-arm length.) But it was a trick that had always worked for me, so was worth sharing just encase is proved useful. :)
thats the trick i use to, so it works for some people! its worth a shot anyways lol but yeah as long as you can still flex your heels down and feel the sturrups and stand in the saddle.
 

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If you're comfortable and stable, leave it be.
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^ this.
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!

edit;
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
 

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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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I do show, and I do think I need to let my stirrups down a hole or two.

BTW Sahara: it looks cold in that picture.......
 

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I don't go by the arm rule either. I get in the saddle, on the horse and stand (heels down, toes in) there should only be about an inch or two at the most between your crotch and the saddle. Just enough room to get your butt off the saddle to ride comfortable in a trot and canter... too short will make it awkward, too long will make it hurt. Usually your body will tell you the day after a ride if your stirrups aren't the right length. My legs will be sore in places they shouldn't be... Also remember that with a leather saddle that is used often, you might have your left stirrup on a lower hole then your right. Leather stretches especially on the left side from mounting.
 

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For me it varies on what horse I'm riding and what I'm doing.

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 opposite problem-riding with stirrups too long. It looks as though they have to grip with their knees and thighs to stay in the saddle.
This is my deal too. I keep my stirrups fairly short when I'm riding colts. That makes it easier to keep my calves close to their sides. I have found that I am more likely to try to brace against my stirrups if they are a touch on the long side. Right now, I am riding a green quarter pony that I have to take my stirrups up a hole for because he is so narrow. If I feel like I'm "reaching" for my stirrups just to keep them on my feet, then I lose some of the security in my seat.

The most important thing you can really do is to find a length that is comfortable, secure, and balanced for you. What's comfortable for one person may not be comfortable or secure for the next. What you might try is starting out by adjusting them one hole higher than level with the bottom of your foot, then keep shortening them until they feel right. If you go a hole too far and they start feeling too short, then let them back out and you'll know then what is the most comfortable spot for you.

This is about where I keep mine when I'm riding colts.
 

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When I'm in my cutting saddle, my feet kiss my stirrups as my trainer says. They can touch, but I can't use them. I ride rather long stirrupped (new word!) in my cutting saddle however.
When it comes to my barrel saddle, sometimes I feel like a jockey. They aren't real short or anything, but they make me feel a liiiittle bit more secure.
It works, it's comfortable, I'm not sending my horse the wrong cues, so it works!:)
 
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