Pinkie asked in PetsHorses · 7 years ago

Longer stirrups versus shorter stirrups?

My instructor insists on having my stirrups long. I thought they were long before and often struggled to not lose them. As soon as I got to the point of having a full lesson without losing them, she made them longer once again! One more hole longer and I mine as well not even have them!

I ride English/Dressage and have a decent seat...I can stay on long enough to stop the horse if I loose my stirrups, even at a canter. However the longer stirrups make me feel... insecure. I am riding a light-draft horse with very powerful gaits. Her gaits are gorgeous but her trot, even when posting, is strong and her canter almost feels like a charge! Sometimes those shorter stirrups make me feel more secure.

Some people have recommended I shorten my stirrups until my seat improves. I can stay on pretty well, but sometimes I pinch my knee, my leg comes forward too much, and I get a chair seat. My trainer does the opposite of what others have recommended- she lengthens them. My hip flexors were very sore because I felt like I had to constantly reach for them while posting AND keeping my heel down AND my leg back.

My instructor is successful and I do trust her very much. But sometimes her methods seem opposite of what others would do!

What do you think about this? What are the pros and cons of longer and shorter stirrups?

11 Answers

  • 7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    It is a fallacy that long stirrups will secure your seat; if your balance is not good enough you will forever be reaching for them and relying on your toes. You need a shorter leg to learn to get your leg right underneath you and balance from your core, once the leg is secure and stable right under you, you can start to lower the stirrups. You cannot do dressage or attempt to sit in a dressage seat if your seat is not secure enough! All you will do is wobble and use your legs (toes and knees really) to try to cling on - not how you should be learning at all.

    My children started riding with the stirrups so short the knees were at a right angle (the youngest, 5 next month, will ride that short for a while yet) to make sure they sit on their bums instead of reaching with their toes!

  • 7 years ago

    Some things call for shorter stirrups, some call for lengthened stirrups.

    I agree with your instructor, it's sore because your muscle are doing things they've never had to do, but once those muscles strengthened your seat will be 10x more secure (especially in sitting trot!)

    However, going without stirrups all together could help.

    For me, I generally ride pretty short. When I am doing sitting trot (I ride a VERY bouncy horse) I usually shorten my stirrups a hole because it give me more stability and stops be from bouncing all over my horse, who will not tolerate it.

    Also, I ride a very ROUND horse so when I lengthen my stirrups my legs tend to stick out to the sides. My knees just won't allow my legs to bend that way:P

    I am slowly lengthening my stirrups as my muscles build up. I wish I could take your instructor's method of just lengthening it straight away, but as I said- the horse will not give me a good ride if I'm bouncing around trying to reach for my stirrups.

    Example A:

    That's about as long as I go. See how my lower leg sticks out? He's so round and wide that I have to move my leg back quite far to actually touch his sides.

    Example B

    That is as short as I will go. Exlcusively while I'm working on sitting trot. Any shorter and I'll be put into a chair seat.

    That's just me and my horse, though. You have to find out what works for YOU.

    And remember, no pain no game!

  • 7 years ago


    Long stirrups improve your seat and help you follow the horse more. Do alot of stirrupless work and bareback work if you can. I confidently jump 3'3" bareback and my leg stays solid in place. Build up them leg muscles!! Learn to relax tho, that was my biggest issue. I understand "big movers" I ride energetic warmbloods all the time, so I know how you feel. As Lellie Ward said, "Open up your nut-cracker". I don't know where she got that from, but it means open up your knees, relax your legs, use your inner thighs and your core to balance. I love dressage. I used to HATE it though.

    I felt the SAME way about shorter stirrups. I loved them. They made me feel more secure. But in reality, they do just the opposite. The goal is to sit as deeply as possible. If you think about it- shorter stirrups raise your center of gravity and make your knees like springs when you post at the trot. And most likely, shorter stirrups will either give you a "chair-seat" or you'll be digging into the horse's ribs with your heels by accident.

    I could go on and on and on, but I need to get back to homework. haha. Good luck!! Remember... breathe! Relax!!

    Source(s): Eventer!!!
  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    Stick with the long stirrups. You need to make your muscles strong or better yet go bareback for a few lessons.

    An other thing that is important is when you feel your self pinching with your knees take a deep relaxing breath, and loosen your muscles. If your muscles are tight you will bounce around more. And keep your heels down if you feel your self bouncing push them down and relax. It may help if your parents or instructor video tape you so you can watch it and find things that you might not of known of when you were riding.

    I hope I helped.

    Source(s): 15 years of horse back.
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  • 7 years ago


    Long stirrups will help your balance, and is much better for dressage. You shouldn't need shorter stirrups for a better seat. Trust your instructor, having longer stirrups will definitely help you in the long run. You'll get used to them soon.

  • Caz
    Lv 5
    7 years ago

    Shortening your stirrups is not going improve your seat, the best way to make a better more balanced rider out of anyone is to ride with no stirrups or bareback. Many a rider is lazy and depends upon their stirrups....especially in jumping. The strength to post and rise while you jump actually comes from your inner thighs not just standing in the stirrups. I think all riders should have to earn a saddle... no saddle till you can gallop bareback or atleast canter. Thats the best way to develop your seat and balance.

  • Kim
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Like others have said, that is just school horse behavior, push the limits and test the boundaries. Horses like people have things the like and dont like doing. This mare probably is fed up with kids bouncing around on her on the flat and prefers what she might have done in a past career and jumps. No horse competing in the show ring today "skips" dressage work or any other "vital" training to get to jumping, because if they did that they would not be competitive at all. I do eventing at the Prelim level, since the end of our season last year (October) I have only jumped once and have worked on dressage the rest of the time. During season, I may jump once a week, though it is typically once every other week. A horse without a solid foundation in dressage will not be able to use itself correctly over fences. No offence but I would not think of yourself so highly as training these horses as much as just riding school horses that know the ropes.

  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    It really does depend what ur doing if your jumping short stirups r a much better choice because they allow u to stay in jumping poisition easier and if ur strirups were really long u couldn't stay in jumping poistion because u would be reaching for your stirups.

    I usally have my striups longer when i'm doing dressage becuse it makes u sit deeper in the saddle and it puts your legs in the right poistion but u should NEVER have them so long that ur reaching for them because then u can't keep your heels down and you'll loose ur balance.

    So if ur jumping i suggest having your stirups shorter and if your showing or doing dressage have them longer but not so long that your reaching for them

    I hope I helped (:

  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    Lol, long is proper for dressage, just how long depends. Dressage saddle kinda locks u in more ways then one, don't worry about feeling unsecure. I agree with your trainers method. You keep up with this, you WILL have crazy good lookin abs. Your core will be super strong and allow you to take better control of a charging stride. It's a good thing.

  • 7 years ago

    for dressage your stirrups are generaly longer, in jumping they are shorter.

    most peope have easier times balancing with longer.

    I would suggest taking things slower, trust your instructor because she wouldnt be asking you to do these things if she knew you couldnt.

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