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Why Do Jockeys Ride with short stirrups and another question about bits

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  • Original Poster

    Thanks for the responses

    I appreciate the responses you folks have made. There have been some interesting points, but I'm still not convinced as to there being any good, logical scientific reason for jockies to ride perched up so high.

    For instance. Balance and center of gravity: When the riders weight is put in the stirrups, the position of the stirrups, from front to back on the horse, decides where the riders center of gravity is. The only way to change that is if the rider puts weight someplace else, for instance leaning an arm on the horses neck. To demonstrate this stand on a bathroom scale. Stand straight and tall and check your weight. Now bend down and put your body in that s-shaped jockey position., Re-check your weight. Any change? (If losing weight was that easy, I would be doing infomercials.) Or stand on a stool. Stand straight up and then lower and bend to the jockey position. Any change in the front to rear center of gravity?

    Look at the jockey when riding. See how much of their body weight is behind the stirrups and how much in front. Looks about equal doesn't it? So the weight/center of gravity from front to rear in not affected by rider position once their butt is out of the saddle. As for the higher position getting the weight off the horses back, once you have gotten that booty off the saddle seat, the stirrup weight will remain the same, no matter how high you post. You are not affecting the front to rear weight ratio at all by posting taller. Shortening or lengthening the stirrups should have zero effect on front to rear center of gravity

    Now when you get taller, your lateral (side to side) center of gravity is affected. It only makes sense. When the center of gravity is higher, then centrifigal force during turns will matter more. Barrel Racers ride low around the turns for a reason. Logic would tell us that having weight higher up on a horse would cause it to not corner as well as if the weight were lower. Logic would also tell us that this would cause more stress on ankle and knee joints. Do TB's ever drift wide on turns or have ankle or knee problems?

    You folks didn't like my motorcycle analogy. So let's try my Grandpas piggy back rides analogy again. Go borrow a kid and run circles in the front yard with the kid sitting on your shouldes and then with the kid standing on your shoulders using your head for balance. See which position hurts your knees and ankles the most. See which position allows the tightest circles at the highest speed.

    In addition, I would like to see some study done as to how much pull on the horses mouth most jockies actually use during races. While a good jockey can ride with soft hands, my thoughts are that most are pulling quiet a bit more than is generally thought. A measured and controlled study might answer that.

    I asked about hackamores and had several responses about bitless bridles. Bitless Bridles (there is a patented brand by that name) are somewhat simular to a sidepull. Hackamores are a totally different type of equipment. Hackamore can be extremely severe or mild. I use a little S arabian size on my endurance horses and have excellent control without causing pain and distress. My thinking is that getting the bit out of the mouth could help relax the horse, and they would rate with less pull. Watch a loose horse run and study the whole head/neck/chest and leg movements. To me, it seems that anything that interferes with that natural flow and rhythm should be avoided. The more a riders weight pulls back the reins on the head, the more effect on the rhythm there would be. Any thoughts on that?

    I've seen Chris MCcarron and Bill Shoemaker, Laffite Pincay, Pat Day, Alex Solis, Pat Valenzuela and lots of other great jockies ride. I've also seen some riders that were terrible. When I was younger and more bulletproof, I had TB's on my farm. When we had company over I would grab some of my ex-racehorses for me to ride so my company could use our regular riding horses. I had a stallion, King's General (GB) who still holds the track record at Belmont Park for two miles on the turf, that I rode. He ran fast enough to make my eyes water. We also rode some stakes mares and a Perrault 4 year filly off the track. Being bullet proof, we rode fast on trails through the woods and up and down hills. I never felt the need to be higher off the horse to make them go faster.

    After over 20 years away from racehorses, I have just gotten a three year old Cactus Ridge filly off the track. We are training her more european and endurance style and plan to take her back to the track late this fall or next spring. Given my endurance experiences, I have decided to look at everything related to this sport with a fresh view. That is why I have been asking about this. I would love to find a rider who would experiment with different stirrup lengths but I know the chances of that at the track are slim.

    I didn't have to ask about toe grabs. The first thing we did was pull off her shoes with 6MM toe grabs all the way around and reshod her in flat shoes with less toe and more heel. She is moving so much better now.

    I also do not accept whipping a horse as being a good motivator. I enjoyed this years G-1 Acorn on the Belmont undercard where the favorite was upset by Zaftig. The favorite was Indian Blessing, last years 2 year old Filly champion . Zaftigs jockey, Johnny Velasquez lost his whip at the top of the stretch. They won by 4 1/2 lengths. My thinking is that if a horse wants to run it will. If it doesn't want to run, then all the whipping or electric shocks in the world won't make it run well. The trick would be to make it want to run. We are working on that here too.

    Thanks for the responses

    Paul N. Sidio
    Spokane MO


    • #22
      I'm not in the mood to get into all of the dynamics, although you make some interesting points also... I will speak from experience here having galloped thousands of horses and ridden races...

      I've worked horses with longer stirrups, and what you get is "Ned the Coachmen" style riding... with your hind end rising up and down, and have seen some riders with there butts hitting the saddle every stride... that cant be comfortable for man or horse...

      Jockeys riding with shorter stirrups keep the weight in the balls of their feet, they are able to perch above the horse, while still keeping low and steady (I'm talking bout talented riders, not monkeys doing something naughty with a football).... They also use their knees for balance, they can close them on the narrowest part of the horses body (the withers verses the barrell).

      As far as using the reins to hang on, it would really only come into play if the horse were to stumble, or make a sharp unexpected turn... and really, any rider, regardless of stirrup length is going to grab rein in those circumstances.

      Bitless Bridles are just not worth the risk, maybe if they were used during the breaking proccess they might have a better reputation...usually they are tried on horses that already have a steering problem, or a training issue and the outcomes that I have seen personally have not been good.

      I have to disagree with the whip not being a good motivater... it may not make a slow horse run fast, or a fast horse that does not want to run on a particular day run, but used properly it can be an excellent signal to send to a horse that "now is the time to run".


      • #23
        Originally posted by psidio View Post
        You folks didn't like my motorcycle analogy. So let's try my Grandpas piggy back rides analogy again. Go borrow a kid and run circles in the front yard with the kid sitting on your shouldes and then with the kid standing on your shoulders using your head for balance. See which position hurts your knees and ankles the most. See which position allows the tightest circles at the highest speed.
        A biped's balance and a quadruped's balance are entire different issues. You can't really compare a piggy back ride in any way with a horse and rider, they physics of it just don't match up. I do applaud your attempts to think outside the box and I think the industry could use a lot more of it, but I think the jockey position issue is one of your weaker points.
        "I loved you all, but Horse Racing was my first love" -Vic Stauffer


        • #24
          Some people ride wat too short in the am. Ride long, live long. But for Jocks, riding short allows them leverage and puts them in the center of the horse more naturally. Short allows you to use all of your weight as an anchor if the horse is "running off" on the head end or running up heals. BUT that said there are some very tough horses that really relax with longer pedals.
          I only ride short on horses that are going to split me in half pulling or have steering issues that require a little more strength. But lets be real I am jock sized and "strength" has more to do with finesse as far as race horses go
          Some people train in bosals or sidepulls on horses that have sore mouths due to bits or teeth, but as for the afternoon a bit is required.