Riding and Training Stable Skills Tack and Equipment Uncategorized Young Rider

How to Get the Perfect Stirrup Length

A young rider checks her stirrup length by making sure her ankle bone hits the stirrup bar with the irons dropped
Your ankle bone should hit the stirrup bar with irons dropped if they are the right length. Photo by Kellie Kvern

It’s important to always ride with the correct stirrup length. One of the easiest ways to find a good length is to drop your irons, relax your legs, and let your feet hang down alongside your horse. The stirrup bar (the bottom of the stirrup where your foot rests) should bump against your ankle bone. Of course, there are times when your stirrups need to be a little shorter or longer, but this test is a reliable start.

You can also check the length of your stirrups before you mount. Stand on the ground facing your horse. Place the fingertips of your right hand at the top of the stirrup leather where it loops over the metal safety bar. Next, use your left hand and pull the stirrup leather underneath your right arm. If the stirrup bar reaches your armpit, then your stirrups are probably the correct length.

Hold your fingertips to the stirrup bar and pull the stirrup into your armpit for a good guesstimate before you get on. Photo by Kellie Kvern

Sometimes you have to adjust your stirrups once you’re on the horse. Fortunately, there’s a way to do that without dismounting. Just be sure you’re aboard a safe, quiet horse and you have someone to assist in case you get confused.

Keep your foot in the stirrup iron, but rotate your knee away from the saddle flap. Your heel will rub the side of your horse, so be careful not to accidentally kick him. Hold the reins in one hand, then grab onto the stirrup leather with your other hand. Pull down and out on the stirrup leather until you can see the buckle.

You can adjust your stirrup length without taking your foot out of the stirrup! Photo by Kellie Kvern

Raise or lower your stirrups one or two holes. Re-position your leg and try the new length. If it feels correct, slide the buckle back into place until you hear it click against the safety bar. This method takes some practice, but eventually you’ll feel balanced and coordinated. Now you’ll always have the correct stirrup length!

This article about stirrup length appeared in the November 2020 Mini Digital issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Cindy Hale

Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *