Have you ever felt like your stirrups weren’t even? Did you try stepping harder into one stirrup but that just didn’t solve the problem? Did you stand in front of your horse or ask someone else to look and see if your stirrups were even? Well here are a few quick tips to determine your stirrup length without guessing.
Riding with even stirrups is important to help you sense and feel when you are straight in the saddle. However many riders are unaware that their stirrups are uneven. Other riders know something doesn’t ‘feel right’ but aren’t sure if it is the stirrups. This feeling can be caused by uneven stirrups, but there can be other causes as well. A crooked saddle or a horse with one side of his back lower than the other can give you the impression that the problem is your stirrups. If, after measuring your stirrups the feeling persists, you might want to investigate these other possibilities. First let’s start with two quick ways to check your stirrup length in order to rule this out this problem.
The most common way to check the stirrups is to stand in front of the horse with the saddle on and try to ‘eye’ the two stirrups to see if they are hanging at the same height. But your eye might not give you accurate information if you aren’t paying attention. If your horse is not standing square or is on unlevel ground, the level of the stirrups could appear to be uneven when in fact, they are level. It is best to measure your stirrups to see if they are hanging evenly.
With an English saddle the fastest way to measure the stirrup length is to roll the stirrup up once and measure the distance from the tread of the stirrup to the bottom of the flap. Look at the distance from the tread to the flap. You may have a little bit of leather showing or the tread may be slightly above the bottom of the flap. Go around to the other stirrup and repeat the process. Compare the difference. If it is more than 1/2” you might want to take one stirrup up or down depending on the length you prefer.
If the difference is less than 1/2” you might as well leave the stirrups alone. On an English stirrup leather the holes are usually 1” apart. Given that the leather is folded in half, rising your stirrup one hole would change the overall length about 1/2”. If the unevenness is less than 1/2” you won’t be able to do much by raising or lowering one stirrup.
Often one stirrup leather gets stretched slightly, creating a slight difference between the two. A good solution would be to swap your leathers every month. This will ensure that they stretch evenly. This is especially important with new leathers.
On a Western saddle you can also measure the stirrup against the fender, but this is not as easy to do. I suggest you use a string or stick to measure the difference between your two stirrups. If you have a string handy, baling twine will do, place one end of the string at the top of the fender. You will have to go up underneath the skirting to find the top. Then pull the string tight and mark the string at the bottom of the stirrup. Repeat the process on the other side to see if the two stirrups are even, Adjust them as needed.
You can also use this method on English saddles also with another handy measuring device, your dressage whip. Simply place one end of the whip on the stirrup bar and the mark the distance to the bottom of the stirrup. Remember to keep your mark as you go from one side of the saddle to the other.
Use this Murdoch Minute as a ‘body position self-check’ to ensure your stirrup length is even. This is especially important when riding school horses or if other people have been using your saddle. If, after checking your stirrups, you still feel uneven look to see if your horse’s back is level and/or if the saddle is twisted. Finally, many people have one leg slightly shorter than the other, but unless you have a severe difference (more than 1”), it is best to ride with even stirrups. And remember – enjoy the ride!