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View Full Version : Shorter stirrups - ankle giving out?



GreyStreet
Jun. 27, 2012, 07:56 PM
I am primarily a dressage rider but thought you guys might have some good suggestions regarding this issue...took my mare out on a hack today. Planned to do some trotting and cantering (or galloping, according to Mare) and so shortened my stirrups - but only by a hole from my normal dressage length. Still found even with the longer stirrups that my right ankle was beginning to give out by the end of the ride, particularly at the faster paces. It starts to feel a bit weak and then just flops sideways in the stirrup.
I don't typically have this problem in the arena with my dressage length stirrups - it usually happens when I shorten them. I am riding in my dressage saddle - don't know if this is a result of shortening the stirrups with a dressage saddle or just a personal conformation defect :lol: - any ideas? I'd like to eventually get a close contact or AP saddle just to play around with a few baby jumps again, but the floppy, painful ankle makes me a bit nervous!

enjoytheride
Jun. 27, 2012, 08:25 PM
It's a tendon and muscle strength issue, keep up with it and you will get stronger.

GreyStreet
Jun. 27, 2012, 08:36 PM
Ugh, I used to ride with short stirrups frequently - started out in hunters years ago and then did some baby eventing. Don't remember ever having this issue. It's honestly difficult to keep going after it begins to give out - it's just not stable and is quite painful. Seems to be relegated to the right ankle, so I am not sure why that one would be so much weaker. That's what makes me wonder if it's related in some way to the position of my leg riding in shorter stirrups with the dressage saddle - I find myself wondering if the same thing would happen in a close contact...

deltawave
Jun. 27, 2012, 10:00 PM
Are you bracing off your midfoot with the shorter stirrups? Unless you have completely torn ALL the ligaments in your ankle with multiple sprains, the joint should not just "flop". Actually, even if you HAVE no more ligaments in your ankle it shouldn't flop . . . I am living proof of that. :lol:

Ligaments don't fatigue with harder or faster work . . . that is what muscles do. If you're just sinking into your heels there should be very little muscular effort keeping your ankles where they belong while riding. It is only when we brace against the stirrup that the muscles of the foot and the calf/shin begin to fatigue.

When you ride at your "dressage" length are you able to comfortably keep your heels down by sinking your weight down, or do you ride so long that you are sort of standing on your toe?

SnicklefritzG
Jun. 27, 2012, 11:19 PM
Time in thd saddle with the shorter stirrup length will help. I had the same problem at first but it's getting better the more I practice.

GreyStreet
Jun. 28, 2012, 12:10 AM
DW - I don't ride with extremely long stirrups - I am definitely able to keep my heel down and maintain a soft flex in my ankle. Can't stand it when stirrups are so long they serve no purpose!
That's why I am a bit surprised - like I said, I only shortened them one hole from my regular length, but it may be that due to varied terrain or for some other reason, I am bracing off that right stirrup and causing strain on that ankle.

Of course I don't literally mean my foot just flops over ;) But - that's the best way I can think of to describe it. Perhaps just calling it unstable would be a better term. But you guys are right, it would make sense that that would happen related to muscle fatigue, possibly from bracing. Which is again just odd to me because I don't find that to be an issue in the dressage arena. Which I guess is just proof I need to get out more with shorter stirrups.

I *do* know that I have a tendency to weight my right seat bone more in general - I suspect that it's just showing up even more obviously with the shorter stirrups. I can ride at speed in the field with my dressage length stirrups and be just fine - then of course I can't get my butt out of the saddle enough for a proper two point...always something.

Marefeathers
Jun. 28, 2012, 12:22 AM
I have had this exact same problem (except it's my left ankle that is troublesome) and have found out a few things make a huge difference for me:

- First I wanted to rule out anything medical, as yes, it is very painful and definitely feels not-good! After inquiring with a couple professionals (I sought out highly experienced bodyworkers - my general practice physician was no use at all) I learned that all the joints in my body are hypermobile, which means that the tendons and ligaments are naturally loose.

- I worked with a good pilates therapist to learn how to specifically strengthen my lower leg to help stabilise the joint. Even a rudimentary strengthening program for your legs would help your ankle & your riding overall (if you don't do one already :) ).

- I got boots that truly fit properly and provide good support. Well worth the investment!

- I don't hesitate to wrap my ankles up with ace bandages if I know I'm going to be doing a lot of galloping.

- I started really paying attention to my balance in the saddle. Guess what - I had a tendency to brace into my left leg and pull that leg off my horse! When I corrected my position by making certain to keep equal weight in both stirrups, and BOTH legs (gently & elastically - not clamping) on my horse's sides, staying balanced became much easier. Also remembering to let my knees do some of the flexing, too, helped take some of the pressure off of my ankles.

-I ditched the fancy double jointed stirrup irons, as they exacerbated my tendency to brace and gave too much flex room for my wobbly ankles. It's regular ol' fillis irons for me now.

It's taken some changes and some doing, but after all this I feel that my riding has much improved in addition to being able to gallop pain free. Good luck! I hope some of my experience helps you.

Edited to add: The reason I sought medical advice about this was because I actually did have an incident where my ankle 'gave out' while riding. I literally could not bear weight or walk on it for a few weeks. It baffled my primary physician, who insisted that there was nothing wrong...ehhh... long story short, you may not have the hypermobile joint thing, but I think some of the adjustments I made might still be valuable or your situation.

eventingismylife
Jun. 28, 2012, 12:45 AM
I have had this exact same problem (except it's my left ankle that is troublesome) and have found out a few things make a huge difference for me:

- First I wanted to rule out anything medical, as yes, it is very painful and definitely feels not-good! After inquiring with a couple professionals (I sought out highly experienced bodyworkers - my general practice physician was no use at all) I learned that all the joints in my body are hypermobile, which means that the tendons and ligaments are naturally loose.

- I worked with a good pilates therapist to learn how to specifically strengthen my lower leg to help stabilise the joint. Even a rudimentary strengthening program for your legs would help your ankle & your riding overall (if you don't do one already :) ).

- I got boots that truly fit properly and provide good support. Well worth the investment!

- I don't hesitate to wrap my ankles up with ace bandages if I know I'm going to be doing a lot of galloping.

- I started really paying attention to my balance in the saddle. Guess what - I had a tendency to brace into my left leg and pull that leg off my horse! When I corrected my position by making certain to keep equal weight in both stirrups, and BOTH legs (gently & elastically - not clamping) on my horse's sides, staying balanced became much easier. Also remembering to let my knees do some of the flexing, too, helped take some of the pressure off of my ankles.

-I ditched the fancy double jointed stirrup irons, as they exacerbated my tendency to brace and gave too much flex room for my wobbly ankles. It's regular ol' fillis irons for me now.

It's taken some changes and some doing, but after all this I feel that my riding has much improved in addition to being able to gallop pain free. Good luck! I hope some of my experience helps you.

Edited to add: The reason I sought medical advice about this was because I actually did have an incident where my ankle 'gave out' while riding. I literally could not bear weight or walk on it for a few weeks. It baffled my primary physician, who insisted that there was nothing wrong...ehhh... long story short, you may not have the hypermobile joint thing, but I think some of the adjustments I made might still be valuable or your situation.

This sounds just like me!

I have hypermobility joint syndrome, which causes all of my joints to be super loose. My left leg is the worse, especially so because I have dislocated my knee several times. My left ankle would fall out of the stirrup, and "flop" when I first started to really ride with short stirrups.

After a lot of work with shorter stirrups, my ankle is a lot better. I have found that it is a lot easier if I ride in my tall boots when doing anything with short stirrups, because they provide more support. Riding in just plain fillis irons help provide more stability.

Hampton Bay
Jun. 28, 2012, 09:35 PM
EZ Ride stirrups and an ankle brace with the elastic straps that cross over the front of your ankle will help a lot. My right ankle hurts a lot if I put any weight in my heels, but that setup has helped quite a bit. Driving much bothers it too. I have to make an effort not to put a lot of weight into my heels to ride distances. I go mostly at a canter and sit it instead of riding at a trot and having to post. When I do post the trot on a long ride, I use my calves to grip the horse and put the weight in the ball of my foot. Even if I have to ride in a bit of a chair seat or use my bucking strap for a bit more security when Mr. Spooky is acting up, that's what I do to keep my ankle from being so sore.

Mourning Aurora
Jul. 2, 2012, 08:23 PM
I know what you mean when you say your ankle just flops! It gives out on you and feels like a fish out of water flopping around on the deck, right? Same here! I actually got the same advice from my instructor as what everyone has been saying. I'm an eventer, so short stirrups a LOT, and I have to wear my tall boots, ace bandage it and grit my way through it until I've built my ankle up enough for it to stay steady on me through a xc course. I still, even in six day a week training, have a wobbly ankle after my ride, but I've never lost it in the stirrup since.

I don't know how much it had to do with it, but I had a badly healed broken mallelous and it was after I came back to riding that I started having this problem.

sandycrosseventing
Jul. 4, 2012, 02:53 PM
There was an article in a recent Equus about this. They did literally call it flop foot in the article. Also, maybe when riding in your dressage length, your ankle is already collapsed a little to the outside, and when you shorten your stirrups the added pressure causes the pain. I have had quite a few students in the past that complain of this happening to their ankles, and it is a matter of learning to adjust the weight over all of the ball of your foot, and not just the outside. Often they need to let their toes point slightly more to the outside than they normally do. Good luck, I know this is really painful.