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Correct stirrup length: GM vs. Steinkraus

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  • Correct stirrup length: GM vs. Steinkraus

    Edited: I apparently am not allowed to say '"trivial" or "mundane"...how about "the usual?"

    In any case, in hopes of stimulating some interesting discussion (other than "the usual") here on this forum, I hereby relay two differing points of view on stirrup length. The first POV will be that of George Morris, as stated in "Jumping Clinic Classics: Lots to Like" found at www.equisearch.com:

    "This picture of an excellent rider is obscured slightly by the jump wing. Still, it's clear from her ankle, knee and hip angles that the stirrups are the correct length: For a fence at or below three-six, the stirrup should hit the bottom of the ankle bone; over higher fences, the middle of the ankle bone."

    Steinkraus addresses correct stirrup length as well in his book Reflections on Riding and Jumping, first edition, p. 29-30:

    "...you can afford to ride pretty long for ordinary work on the flat or for elementary dressage, with the tread of the stirrup level with a point just below the ankle bone when your legs are fully extended. Some serious dressage riders ride even longer, but to my eye they seem to be fishing for their stirrups much of the time. For ordinary hunter riding and jumping small fences, I come up a hole or two, so that the stirrup tread falls somewhere between the middle and the top of my ankle bone. For bigger fences, I come up yet another hole or two; and for puissance fences, one or two on top of that, because there's nothing worse than a feeling of insecurity on a horse who's making the maximum effort that very big fences require."

    In my experience, I agree with Steinkraus. I fully believe riders today regardless of level tend to ride with a longer stirrup than the height of fence should dictate, which may seem like a trivial detail at first thought, but then upon reflection makes sense as to why we see more daylight between seat and saddle over fences, as well as more errors of the upper body, and too little use of the automatic release. (A rider with too long a stirrup will NEED to support the upper body with a crest release, and with too long a stirrup the foundational balance required to use the following hand is absent....experiment at home with this as I have and you will see...or at least it will make for more stimulating discussion!) On a side note, I also think that the trend of flat-jumping equitation horses murdered any possibility of seeing (much less teaching) the following hand...if the horse fails to bascule, there is no forward/down action of the neck to FOLLOW, and therefore no logical reason for using it, thus the current dominance of the crest release. I think if we saw a resurgence (and I suspect we are starting to) of equitation riders riding rounder-jumping horses, we will see the resurgence of the following hand. People are wanting to see and teach it...it just takes a truly round jumper to teach/use it well, round from nose to tail over the fence.

    Another side note: I think the teaching of "heels down" and "deep heel" a la GM and followers versus Steinkraus' "pull the toes up" "toes slightly higher than heel" also has a lot to do with what we are seeing these days. Food for thought!

    Enough of my musings...anyone else care to comment?
    Last edited by LudgerFan; Oct. 13, 2009, 04:29 PM.

  • #2
    I am by far an expert, BUT right now as my daughters are working on the flat their stirrups hit at the bottom of their ankle bone, we do NOT move them to trot poles or jump small ( less than 2') fences , when they jump bigger we raise them one hole.
    If you remember there was a huge discussion on this right after pony finals, from what I have seen this year at the bigger shows many kids could benefit from raising their stirrups a hole or two over fences, JMHO of course!!! A good base of support with weight in the heel over fences is VERY easy to spot, it results in a kid who is out of the saddle just enough and in a kid who is able to ride WITH the pony instead of ahead of or behind the ponies motion! I personally think this is one of the hardest "basics" to teach younger kids!! Again JMO< but based on what I have encountered over the past 10 mos.
    Kim
    If you are lucky enough to ride, you are lucky enough.

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    • #3
      In my own, limited and elementary opinion, I'd rather see a rider with a slightly too short stirrup than a slightly too long. The base of support is better, the heel can be dropped easier, thus allowing the weight to be where it belongs.

      However, reading these two passages (I've read the GM book, but not the WS one) it would seem that the two are referencing different styles of riding. Before you get your hackles up, I TRULY believe that good equitation is paramount as the basis of all, regardless of if you're hopping over small cross rails, riding a pony hunter, tackling a hunter derby or competing at the Grand Prix level. Having dabbled in small eq, hunters and jumpers, the mindset and styles are different.

      When one is riding a hunter round (GM) style is paramount. You can't look bad or it reflects poorly on your horse. Having that uber-quiet leg, soft hand and light seat is crucial. Any and all corrections must be subtle and seamless. At the end of it, looks matter - and the rider is a huge part of that look. Having a leg that is lovely helps to make the round look nicer.

      When one is riding in the jumper ring, however (WS), looks don't mean a thing. Yes, one must ride effectively but the whole ride is different. You must attack the course more, and if that means not looking as nice, so be it. Your guidance and corrections don't have to be invisible - not even subtle. You do what you need to get the job done. Having your stirrups where they're comfortable for you is vital.

      JM2CW
      A proud friend of bar.ka.

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      • #4
        You'll probably get a lot more interest if you remove the preface. In my opinion, it makes you seem condescending. If what we talk about is trivial and mundane, why are you bothering? Your overly active mind seems to have given you a lofty ego.

        Anyways. I guess I would have to go with George on this one. I have three worn holes on my stirrup leathers. I prefer my stirrups just below the ankle bone (bottom hole) for dressage work, at the very bottom of my ankle bone for flatting before I jump and jumping caveletti (sp?) sized fences (middle hole) and on the upper half of my ankle bone for anything from 3'-3'9" (top hole). Since I don't yet regularly jump higher than 3'9", my stirrups don't usually get raised any higher than that. When I start schooling higher than that I imagine they'll come up a hole.

        Before I took dressage lessons I always rode with my stirrups pretty short. Now I find that I can't get everything I want to accomplished with them that short and therefore drop them a hole or two depending on what I am doing.

        I was in a clinic last spring and was surprised, when the clinician asked everyone to show their stirrup leathers, how few people actually changed the length of their stirrups depending on what they were doing.
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        • #5
          Originally posted by LudgerFan View Post
          I tire of trivial discussions on this forum. Perhaps "trivial" is an offensive choice of words; possibly "mundane" would be less likely to trigger a negative response from fellow posters. Not to say there is not a time and place to ask advice on what to wear in an equitation class, or ask assistance in naming one's horse....I guess I am just one with an overly active mind that views riding as something truly academic and worthy of much thoughtful reflection. Maybe that's just me...
          Probably not the best way to start a thread....

          I think stirrup length is a some what personal thing. Some people are not comfortable with the short short stirrup length but like them a little longer and do not look like they are reaching.

          I personally prefer shorter than longer.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Thanks for your thoughtful posts and insights. It does perhaps seem that a difference of only ONE HOLE in stirrup length would have minimal effects on rider position, but in ACTUALITY the effects are rather significant.

            As an afterthought...it is not my intention to pit GM against Steinkraus. I just happened to find two differing opinions on the subject and thought it would be thought-provoking and stimulating to all...and often these forums are in need of just that.

            The opening statements were intended to be a bit provocative! Call me a troll, I can take it. I intentionally want to stir up a hornet's nest because I want to know that people really DO care, because that's not what I SEE out there. I feel that there is so much emphasis on riding as a SPORT (thanks to Nike's "just do it" philosophy) and what we WEAR that we have lost much of the appeal of riding as something more intellectual. What would happen to golf if the Nike philosophy was applied? The seemingly insignificant details are important! If everyone out there does "whatever works for them" we lose the standard and the ability to apply it. Clearly I do not subscribe to the modern relativistic philosophy that "everyone has their own opinion, and what's right for them is what's right for them." I do believe in black and white, good and bad, better and worse: the same physical laws apply to all bodies in motion!
            Last edited by LudgerFan; Oct. 13, 2009, 12:37 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by LudgerFan View Post
              Thanks for your thoughtful post. It does perhaps seem that a difference of only ONE HOLE in stirrup length would have minimal effects on rider position, but in ACTUALITY the effects are rather significant.
              Again, it depends greatly on the person. One hole might not affect a person with a long upper leg the same as it would a person with a short upper leg.

              Things are not near so black and white as you are trying to make them. Even your quotes give ranges.

              Comment


              • #8
                I tire of trivial discussions on this forum. Perhaps "trivial" is an offensive choice of words; possibly "mundane" would be less likely to trigger a negative response from fellow posters. Not to say there is not a time and place to ask advice on what to wear in an equitation class, or ask assistance in naming one's horse....I guess I am just one with an overly active mind that views riding as something truly academic and worthy of much thoughtful reflection. Maybe that's just me...
                You can view something as academic and "worthy of much thoughtful reflection" while still enjoying discussion on the lighter, smaller aspects of it. I think it's a bit condescending to suggest that others do not take it as seriously as you apparently feel that you do.

                That being said, I'm agreeable that we've been seeing a fair amount of too-long stirrups in the show ring. Riders shouldn't be reaching for their stirrup over a fence, as it leaves them having to compensate otherwise.

                However, individual comfort and comformation plays a role as well. If someone's more comfortable with a longer stirrup and it's not impeding their ride, particularly over lower fences, I don't see it as problematic whatsoever.

                George also suggests that advanced riders can have a spread of from “two to four holes, depending on the height of the fences they’re jumping. Most people are lazy about this and, as a consequence, develop a ‘chair’ seat.”
                ---
                They're small hearts.

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                • #9
                  To me it is important to balance short stirrups that let you really get off the back over bigger fences (3'6"-4ft is bigger to me) with having stirrups long enough that still gives you an effective leg between the fences. As a short rider (5'2") usually on big horses (16.1-17.1) if my stirrups are too short I feel like the horse isn't quite as responsive to turning/engaging/etc if my leg ends too high up the horse's barrel. That said, I am constantly accused of riding too short by my trainer who stands by long stirrups rather than short ones.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by trubandloki View Post
                    Again, it depends greatly on the person. One hole might not affect a person with a long upper leg the same as it would a person with a short upper leg.
                    You are right about this. I am one of those with a long upper leg...but I find that what is key is not altering the length of stirrup to accomodate this, but rather the position of the lower leg over the fence. Case in point: contrast Christ Kappler and Ludger Beerbaum. Both built very similarly...lower leg positions on each end of the spectrum. Which would lead to another very interesting discussion!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      If you looked at my stirrup leathers you wouldn't see very many wear marks on different holes. The reason why is that if am doing flat work, I will go do flatwork in my dressage saddle where my stirrups aer longer and I can ride correctly for that type of work; if I am jumping, even with a flat warm-up I ride with them jumping length so I can focus on balance and security on the flat at that length first then appreciate it over fences. I don't think I can get truly excellent dressage work in a jumping saddle.

                      I think that GM and Steinkraus make similar points and perhaps Steinkraus simply extends the concept to much higher jumps than GM due to audience of the various books, but I could be way off on that. I have a feeling if you put them in a room together and asked them a question about the correct stirrup length for various activities they wouldn't disagree too much. Very much depends on the riders' build as well- that can't be stressed enough. what works for me at 5'8" with super long legs probably won't work as well for someone who is 5'8" and more balanced leg to torso.
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                      • #12
                        I don't think they differ at all. Billy just goes into more detail as the jumps get bigger, whereas George deneralizes for over 3'6". I can assure you, GM would completely defer to Billy's feelings on jumping a bigger fence. And, if asked, would probably tell you exactly the same thing that Billy does.
                        Laurie

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                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by lauriep View Post
                          I don't think they differ at all. Billy just goes into more detail as the jumps get bigger, whereas George deneralizes for over 3'6". I can assure you, GM would completely defer to Billy's feelings on jumping a bigger fence. And, if asked, would probably tell you exactly the same thing that Billy does.
                          But their initial starting point (hunter flatwork length) was different, no? Steinkraus' dressage length is GM's flatwork and jumping to 3'6" length. Is that not significant?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by LudgerFan View Post
                            I intentionally want to stir up a hornet's nest because I want to know that people really DO care, because that's not what I SEE out there.
                            Yes, but wouldn't it be smarter and more productive to stir up a hornet's nest about the topic you introduced rather than to stir up a hornet's nest about your perceived attitude towards the average poster?
                            Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by DMK View Post
                              Yes, but wouldn't it be smarter and more productive to stir up a hornet's nest about the topic you introduced rather than to stir up a hornet's nest about your perceived attitude towards the average poster?
                              Perhaps. But oftentimes occasionally offending and polarizing people causes them to really THINK when they normally not even really HAVE an opinion, and then to go out and APPLY/EXPERIMENT, and thereby LEARN.

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                              • #16
                                Actually, in your quote, George doesn't specifically address flatwork. But if you take his lower level (fences below 3'6") being at the bottom of the ankle bone, and Billy saying flatwork should be at bottom of ankle bone, even if GM went down one more hole for flatwork, it would still be at bottom of ankle bone, more or less.

                                I think the meaning of both is that 1) you shouldn't ride with a too-long stirrup and 2) as you jump, you need to go up 1-2 holes as you progress in height.

                                I really don't think you need to pick this pretty obvious concept apart as disagreement. GM thinks no one does it better than Billy, and would most certainly not disagree with his explanation of stirrup length.
                                Laurie

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Hunter Mom View Post
                                  When one is riding a hunter round (GM) style is paramount. You can't look bad or it reflects poorly on your horse. Having that uber-quiet leg, soft hand and light seat is crucial. Any and all corrections must be subtle and seamless. At the end of it, looks matter - and the rider is a huge part of that look. Having a leg that is lovely helps to make the round look nicer.

                                  When one is riding in the jumper ring, however (WS), looks don't mean a thing. Yes, one must ride effectively but the whole ride is different. You must attack the course more, and if that means not looking as nice, so be it. Your guidance and corrections don't have to be invisible - not even subtle. You do what you need to get the job done. Having your stirrups where they're comfortable for you is vital.
                                  I agree! I recently switched from hunters to jumpers. While doing a course 2 weeks ago, my trainer said, "I don't like where your stirrups are." and proceeded to move them up 4 holes on both sides. 4 HOLES (well they are half holed so I guess that means 2, but still). I told her they were too short and she said they were not too short because my horse is a jumper, a very scopey, forward moving jumper and I need the security.

                                  Now after riding for two weeks I agree with the change. They still feel a little short but I am sure that I am not going to lose my stirrups. Plus I like having them shorter when we are coming up to a fence because my horse will gallop/bolt through a whole course if you let her. The shorter stirrups give me a secure base so I can sit down in the saddle and try to keep her together. It may not look pretty, but I feel safe.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by lauriep View Post
                                    Actually, in your quote, George doesn't specifically address flatwork. But if you take his lower level (fences below 3'6") being at the bottom of the ankle bone, and Billy saying flatwork should be at bottom of ankle bone, even if GM went down one more hole for flatwork, it would still be at bottom of ankle bone, more or less.
                                    To clarify: Steinkraus' DRESSAGE length is the same as GM's length for jumping up to 3'6"...

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I do all my flatwork and a few small jumps (2'6 and under) in my dressage length, top of the stirrup tread at the bottom of my ankle bone. I do put them up a hole to jump school, and the stirrup tread is at the top of my ankle bone when jumping 3' and higher. Can't say I've done much bigger jumping of late, but I plan to have a saddle that fits before I start raising my stirrups more than this. I used to ride in too short stirrups (by about three holes) until riding with an Eventer and learning classical European dressage. I also appreciate the chances to jump without stirrups as I get a better feel for the horse's motion on approach, flight, and landing.
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                                      • #20
                                        Well, if you have ever watched GM teach and really listened, you'd realize he considers anything UNDER 3'6" as too low to bother with raising the irons for most riders.

                                        He most certainly advocates a shorter length when riders get to decent sized fences, not so much 3' and under...more personal preference. And he DOES like the longer length for flatwork to allow full use of the leg aids.

                                        He has also repeatedly said everybody should be comfortable in a 3 to 4 hole range to allow for flexibilty determined by fence height or flatwork and the barrel shape and size of whatever you are riding.

                                        There is no argument here when you put it in context.
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