Actually, there is no specific rule indicating the correct length of your stirrups. You can basically ride with any kind of length you wish and you probably have your own preferences. Normally in dressage it is most useful to have “long legs” and in show jumping “short legs”. However, in this article we give you some considerations to consider 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.
The unexperienced rider
Are you a little inexperienced it is often better that the stirrups are a bit shorter than too long. This way, you have more support. When you after a while are more advanced you can try lengthening the stirrups. Just remember it is not an aim to ride with as long stirrups as possible – this will not help you become a better rider. The best thing is to find the length that suits you and you feel a good connection with your horse and have the necessary support from the stirrups.
The unexperienced 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 the easier it will be to get the horse to accept the rider’s legs also when the stirrups by time is lengthened.
Too short or too long?
If you are in doubt about your stirrups you can quickly find out.
You know your stirrups are too short if you experience some of this:
- Your knees are no longer supported by the saddle even if you pull down in the stirrups with your feet.
- Your heels are pushed too much down when you try to keep your knees in the correct position in the saddle.
- Your legs are placed very tight around the horse.
- You do not feel that your legs are placed correctly down and “around” the horse.
- You have pain in your knees or ankles.
Your stirrups are probably too long if you can recognize some of this:
- You cannot keep your heels down.
- You hit the front of the saddle when you do a rising trot.
- You constantly lose the stirrups especially when you sit down on the horse in trot.
- You have to stretch down your toes to reach the stirrups, when you lose them.
- You feel pain in your seat.
Tip: Five minutes without stirrups
A way you can avoid riding with too short stirrups is to ride five minutes without while warming up. Leaving off the stirrups for some time you learn to ride with “long legs”. When you afterwards 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 (dressage), one technique is frequently used. Take off the stirrups and let your legs hang casually down along the horse. The stirrups should be placed just between your ankle and heel. The advice is just meant as an indication and some riders might need the stirrups to be shorter or longer.