Training: How to find the correct length of your stirrups

3 min.

Stirrups – what to do about the length? Actually, there is no specific rule indicating the correct length. You can basically ride with any kind of length you wish and you probably have your own preferences. The normal perception is that in dressage it is most useful to have “long legs” and in show jumping “short legs”. However, since many people with short og long legs do perfectly well in both disciplines we give you some considerations to think about when it comes to the length of your stirrups. 

Not only your legs matter 

It is not only your legs that indicate a good length of the stirrups. Also, the shape of your horse, its age, your level as a rider and the saddle, you ride in – it all has an impact. 

You may also like to read: A good posture is important for the horse – even when we are not riding

The inexperienced rider´s stirrups 

Are you a little inexperienced it is often better that they are a bit short rather than too long. This way, you have more support. After a while when you are more advanced you can try lengthening the them. Just remember it is not an aim to ride with as long stirrups as possible. This will not nessecarily help you become a better rider. The best thing is to find the length that suits you. A lenght where you feel a good connection with your horse and have the necessary support from the stirrups. 

The inexperienced horse 

If you have an inexperienced or very young horse it is often best to ride with shorter stirrups than usually. The horse is not use to the feeling from a rider’s legs and this can come as a surprise. By slowly getting the horse familiar to the rider it is easier to get the horse to accept the rider’s legs also when the stirrups over time are lengthened. 

Too short or too long stirrups? 

If you are in doubt – check out this guide.  

Maybe too short when your… 

  • Knees are no longer supported by the saddle even if you push down in the stirrups with your feet.  
  • Heels are pushed too much down when you try to keep your knees in the correct position in the saddle. 
  • Legs are placed very tight around the horse. 
  • Your legs feel like they are placed correctly down and “around” the horse. 
  • Your knees or ankles show signs of pain.  

Maybe too long if you… 

  • Cannot keep your heels down. 
  • Hit the front of the saddle when you do a rising trot. 
  • Constantly lose the stirrups especially when you sit down on the horse in trot.  
  • Have to stretch down your toes to reach the them, if they fall away. 
  • Feel pain in your seatbones. 
TIP Five minutes without stirrups
One way to avoid riding with too short stirrups is to ride five minutes without during the warmup. Leaving off the stirrups for some time teaches you to ride with a feeling of “longer legs”. Afterwards when you place your feet in the stirrups you will quickly notice if they are too short. However, be aware that this can affect your ability to judge if the stirrups are too long. Therefore, use the list above as indication.
TIP Between the ankle and heel
If you need something to measure from when you decide the length of the stirrups in dressage, one technique is frequently used. Take off the stirrups and let your legs hang casually down the sides of the horse. The stirrups should be placed just between your ankle and your heel. The advice is just meant as an indication and some riders might need the stirrups to be shorter or longer.

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