When riding in the Hunter Jumper ring or in a hunt seat equitation class it is important to present the best picture possible. This can be helped with the proper stirrup length. Remember that in the hunt seat equitation class the judge is focusing on the rider and the rider’s position. The horse’s performance is judged as a reflection of how the rider is presenting it.
One item that gets overlooked is the correct stirrup length. Having an incorrect stirrup length can cause disastrous problems. Stirrups that are too short can cause riders to pop out of the saddle and stirrups that are too long prevent riders from moving correctly with the horse.
The Correct Stirrup Length
A good rule of thumb for the hunt seat equitation rider to find the correct stirrup length is to have the stirrup hit your ankle bone. While sitting in the saddle, take your feet out of the stirrups and allow the stirrups to bump against your leg. The stirrups should hit approximately at your ankle bone.
It is important when doing this that you are warmed up and your muscles are relaxed. Before checking your stirrup length, walk and trot around the arena or enclosure for 5 minutes to warm yourself up.
Then take your feet out of the stirrups and line the bottom of the stirrup iron with the bottom of your ankle bone. This is a good place to start for a proper stirrup length for flat riding. When performing hunt seat equitation over fences the stirrups should be adjusted shorter. If possible have someone help you adjust your stirrups to make sure the bottom of the stirrup is in line with the bottom of your ankle bone.
Correct Stirrup Length for Jumping
When preparing for the hunter jumper ring or for hunt seat equitation, your stirrups should go up two holes for jumping. This means approximately an inch or two depending on the spacing between the
holes on your stirrup leathers. This means poles, cross rails and cavalleti should be jumped with stirrups at jumping length.
As a rule of thumb for jumping once your stirrup leathers are shorten for jumping length they should be shortened one hole for each foot over 2 feet.
For example if you are jumping 3 feet then your stirrups should be shortened approximately 3 holes from your regular riding flat length.
Keep Stirrups from Stretching
To prevent stirrups from stretching swap over the stirrup on the left hand side of the saddle with the right hand side leather every 2 – 3 weeks. (I do this the beginning of every month).
The left hand stirrup leather usually stretches more because riders mount from the left hand side so the left hand stirrup leather stretches more because it gets more use. To prevent the necessity of making holes between holes, swap the leathers from side to side on the saddle to even out the stretching.
Correct Stirrup Length For Younger or Novice Riders
Younger or more novice riders usually have a slightly shorter stirrup to help maintain a better angle at the ankle knee and hip. Novice riders stirrups are also somewhat shorter because their legs are not relaxed. Once they have a more relaxed feel their stirrups can be lengthened.
There is no one correct stirrup length. It depends on the:
- Conformation of the rider
- Conformation of the horse
- The type of riding being done
All these are factors that need to be considered.