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Stirrup Length for Short People

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  • Stirrup Length for Short People

    For the past years I've been riding with my stirrups longer than my ankle because I feel I can actually get my legs somewhat around the horse's stomach

    I'm 4'11" and it's just so much more comfortable to ride with longer stirrups but I'm wondering if I should still abide to the "stirrup hitting the ankle" rule

    My leg is very weak when I ride and I often hold on with my hands and seat because of that weakness, so I'm wondering if I should shorten my stirrups a bit to give me easier access to a deeper heel

    So the question is, should shorter people ride with a longer stirrup or should they still ride with the stirrup hitting just at their ankle?

  • #2
    I'm 5' 3" and I keep my stirrups at my ankle bone. A shorter stirrup will probably help you to have more leg strength when riding and particularly when jumping. Do I look ridiculous on big horses? Yeah, but I have trouble riding when my stirrups are too long and I would rather feel that i have better balance and strenght in my leg than to be able to wrap around my horse. I'm not sure if this is just a personal preference though, so maybe try it for a few weeks and see if you can notice a difference.
    "I looked at life from the saddle and was as near to heaven as it was possible to be"


    • #3
      How interesting, I was wondering this the other day when I was adjusting my stirrups.

      I'm not super short (5'6"-5'7") but because of the way I'm built, I too am more comfortable with a stirrup that rests below my ankle bone. I feel very perched with anything shorter. Are you perchance long from hip-to-knee? I think that has a lot to do with preferring a longer stirrup.


      • #4
        What Tha Ridge said. Its not your overall height, but where your height is. For example, a 4'10 rider who is proportional will probably have no problem using the stirrup to the ankle bone method, but like Tha Ridge a tallers rider with a different hip to knee ratio will have issues.

        I'm 5'1'', and my stirrup length changes a lot depending on what I'm doing. I tend to ride a hole long to flat and a hole short to jump, meaning I'm jacking my stirrups up two holes over fences. I like to be able to wrap my legs around my greenie, and for equitation (over fences and flat) I do ride with my stirrups as long as I feel comfortable with. Jumpers they go up two holes for, because I need that base of support over the bigger fences.

        The key words here are "as long as I feel comfortable with" and it sounds like you don't feel very comfortable with them where they are. While at first longer stirrups weren't comfortable to me, I got used to them very quickly. But with you it sounds like its still not comfortable, and I would suggest shortening them a little.

        It also sounds like your legs just might be a little weak overall, and that if you strengthen them your stirrup length might be less of an issue.


        • #5
          I am actually also 4' 11" and I think stirrup length when your short depends a lot on what your doing. If you riding equitation versus hunters or jumpers. For example, I ride IHSA equitation and for flat classes when your as short as me it is helpful to have your stirrups a little longer and past your ankle to make your leg look longer. When I'm not at school though I show jumpers and it's very helpful to have my stirrup at my ankle so I can use my leg easily and it's under me. But overall it depends on what your most comfortable with. I'm really interested to see what other people's responses will be as a fellow shortie though.


          • #6
            It sounds to me like your stirrups are a little too long. If you shorten them a hole or two your leg may be more secure and you will not have to rely so much on your hand. It is also a lot easier to jump with your stirrups shorter.

            I am 5'2 and have the same problem as you. I notice that if my stirrups are too long for me I feel like I have to reach for them and then my whole position falls apart. My legs moves a lot more and I feel very out of balance. When they are a little shorter, not super short, I am able to control my legs, hands and upper body better.

            Your best bet is to try shortening your stirrups by one hole at a time and see if you feel better and your position improves. Right now it's more about what works for you then the "stirrup hitting the ankle" rule or getting your legs around the horse.


            • #7
              It's funny, because I'm actually quite the opposite. I find myself tending to ride with a shorter stirrup because I feel it's more comfortable. I'm 5'0, and my legs aren't proportional to my body at all haha so when I ride with a longer stirrup, I get completely off balance and can't get my heel down at all. I find that with a shorter stirrup, while I might not be able to wrap my leg as effectively around the horse, gives me a stronger leg, which, most of the time, is what I need (the English major in me is hating how many commas I had in that last sentence!)

              I'd say try shortening up a hole or so at first and see how it feels...the new depth in your heel will be strange at first, but I think you'll come to like it! Plus, nobody said you can't go back to the longer stirrup for more complex lateral work or something of the sort
              Originally posted by MistyPony
              In all my years of riding, gravity is the one thing that has never failed on me!


              • #8
                I JUST had a lesson tonight in which this issue was addressed! I tend to ride with a longer stirrup for two reasons a) same as you: I'm 5'1 and a longer stirrup lets me get more leg around medium to larger horses (I have a 15.3hh TB) and b) I broke both legs this past year and a longer stirrup is more comfortable.

                HOWEVER ... in working with a new trainer tonight, she immediately shortened my stirrups on my jumping saddle. We talked about being able to get my leg in a better place in relationship to the saddle and horse as well as strengthening my leg (which it wasn't able to do when I was keeping it long). Although it's taking some getting used to, my two-point position definitely felt a lot more secure and I had a lot less "swinging" in my leg at all gaits.

                I agree with the others that say just shorten a hole at a time and see how it feels. My only other suggestion is that if you will be jumping with that stirrup length, check your two-point position at that length and make sure that is comfortable as well.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by dreaminOTTB View Post
                  My only other suggestion is that if you will be jumping with that stirrup length, check your two-point position at that length and make sure that is comfortable as well.
                  In addition to this, shortening my stirrups helped my leg immensely over fences. It took my leg from this...http://a5.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphot..._7014815_n.jpg (yikes!) to this...http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-..._5875243_n.jpg (and my stirrup could even be up a hole here so I could put more weight into my heels.)

                  Both horses are about 17.1/17.2h and round which makes it even harder.


                  • #10
                    I cannot stand a long stirrup. It really lessens my base is support and I can't stay with my boy well enough.
                    A proud friend of bar.ka.


                    • #11
                      If anything, I went a hole shorter when I was showing IHSA, or any time I'm on a new horse. Shorter typically will make your leg stronger, and a solid, unmoving base looks better than a long, wobbly one every time.

                      Your stirrups should only be as long as they can be while still useful and solid, and it definitely sounds like you're too long!

                      I think that ankle bone was always too short for me, but I tended to go to it for IHSA because the couple times I accidentally adjusted too long I was miserable, and too short never did anything except maybe help me win a class. Riding my own horses it was always slightly longer except when jumping because that was where my legs were most effective - probably from the years I rode bareback most of the time because I was too short to reach to put a saddle on my horse, but could always climb a fence to jump on.
                      If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                      • #12
                        Finding a horse that fits your leg will help too.


                        • #13
                          I'm 4'10 1/2" and I prefer to have them shorter; when they're too long I feel like my leg's very insecure. But on certain wide-barreled horses or ponies I do have to lengthen them a bit to not feel like a jockey. (:
                          "Remain relentlessly cheerful."

                          Graphite/Pastel Portraits


                          • #14
                            I'm 4'10" and I prefer my stirrups shorter than longer. I feel it helps me get deeper into my heel and keeps me more secure.
                            That being said, there is a very fine line for me between right and too short, especially on bigger horses. If they get too short, then I feel like a tiny little projectile up there just waiting to be pitched, and I'm not strong or well balanced enough any more to deal with that (back in the days of jockey stirrup lessons as teen I was but now I'm old and creaky and like to sit on my horse, not above her).


                            • #15
                              I'm 5'3" with short legs, though long from hip to knee. I ride in the proper stirrup to ankle bone length, or shorter (I think my stirrups on my dressage saddle hit me about the ankle bone). I am more comfortable like this, and feel more effective, even while riding big horses. Part of this is I am a tyrant about the big guys respecting my leg, so usually after the first few minutes, they get that even though I may not have the longest legs ever, they are still to be respected!

                              My gut feeling, OP, is that you need to work on your strength AND shorten your stirrups. I can climb in someone else's saddle, not adjust the stirrups (because God knows they are ALWAYS too long) and still ride effectively...either with too long of a stirrup or no stirrups. I suggest not only bringing your stirrups up to the proper length but also address your strength and balance so that you can ride effectively no matter what.


                              • #16
                                I am short and like to ride with a short stirrup (esp. when fit).
                                Remember your joints ankles knees & hips act like springs when you ride. The longer your stirrups the less your joints are able to absorb the motion of your horse.
                                Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from behind, or a fool from any direction


                                • #17
                                  In the real world where shapes and sizes vary, there is no "rule". The ankle bone is a place to START searching for what fits you and your horse.

                                  But you have to be careful, if in doubt shorter is usually better, especially over fences...and that is why most trainers and leading clinicians have you flat 1 or 2 holes longer then raise them for jumping. The better you get and the higher you jump, the more important this gets. Little stuff, not much difference as they are just step overs but too long can create bad position and habits that can bite you when the fences go up.

                                  I am 5'4" on a tall day and learned to love riding the slab sided Eq type horses because I could get alot more leg down with the longer sturrup. Unfortunately everything I owned has been a beer barreled tub so short stirrup rules the day.
                                  When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                  The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                                  • #18
                                    I vary my stirrup length according to the horse I'm riding. With some, I'm more comfortable below the ankle. With others, I like a shorter stirrup.

                                    In the end, what matters is how comfortable and effective you are.
                                    ~ Citizens for a Kinder, Gentler COTH...our mantra: Be nice. ~


                                    • #19
                                      I'm short, 5ft2 with short legs but long from hip to knee. On my old horse I had my stirrups a little longer but on my new one just below my ankle bone. I've also found leathers that have holes every 1/2 hole instead of the full hole. Much better as sometimes shortening them a full hole made them way to short.
                                      Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don't Do It!


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by eclipse View Post
                                        I've also found leathers that have holes every 1/2 hole instead of the full hole. Much better as sometimes shortening them a full hole made them way to short.
                                        I was going to suggest half hole leathers as well, it will give you more adjustability without making any drastic changes.