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Lose My Stirrup Image

When your feet feel stable and “connected” to the stirrups, the rest of your riding can also improve.

The stirrups help us stabilize in the saddle, allowing us to better use our legs and, when needed, redistribute our weight.

But if you find one or both stirrups constantly wiggling on your foot, sliding towards your heel or your foot dropping out completely, it can be frustrating, let alone take a way your feeling of balance and stability. You can choose to view a wandering stirrup as a helpful indicator that how you are positioning yourself or moving elsewhere in your body needs to be improved.

In my experience as a riding instructor, there are three moves I notice riders doing that quickly result in a sliding or lost stirrup.

I’ll demonstrate each one in the video below.

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76 Responses

  1. Thanks Callie that was super helpful. I tend to wear my stirrups long because short bothers my right hip. I’m going to try readjusting my weight. I think I might not be straight because I always lose one stirrup, especially when transitioning to canter. Sharon Gunther

  2. Hello Callie, now this was nice to watch, because I used to lose my stirrups a few months ago, and suddenly I realise I’m not doing that any more!!! Yahoo! And yes, the reason was tension in my legs, particularly in the school going into canter. I had been taught to “keep heels down” years ago and had learnt to “grip” with my thighs and these actions were creating the tensions that made me lose my stirrups.
    I have found that riding without stirrups and recently going back to bareback riding on a horse I utterly trust has been a great help to just help me to balance with more ease. Especially the bareback riding because any tendency to grip is almost instinctively stopped before it begins: the body understands immediately that this is counter productive (I posted about this wonderful recent experience in the Riders’ Goal Setting Facebook page) !! I so love your videos.. many grateful thanks!

  3. I’m working on this problem and making progress. But I have trouble keeping the stirrup of my outside leg when asking for canter.

  4. I have tappaderos on my stirrups. That may affect the length and movement of my stirrups.

    I like to have the weight on the ball of my foot with my knee slightly bent. The toes are slightly up and the heels are slightly down

  5. Excellent for me, I keep losing my right stirrup… the key is the relax balanced thighs and not gripping.
    Thank you!!

  6. The thing that helped me most was putting my foot in the stirrup to just past the ball on the balance point, further in that i had been told to in the past. I am now MUCH more stable and even in the stirrups and it is easier to just hang the weight of my leg in them. before i was at the wrong spot and trying to keep that, just toes in, was very hard no matter what i did.

  7. Brilliant video thank you Callie, this really shows how tension blocks strong stirrup contact. I so lose my stirrups when I shift up or down a gait and it’s caused by tension in my legs, anxiety of changing speed. I also think my hips are a little lopsided having by had children and so I possibly do ride leaning a little to one side. My instructor gets me to lift my legs out to the side in the stirrups, away from the saddle and I do half a lap of the school just raising and lowering them in walk, then relaxing into an active walk. It so works, it looks pretty funny I’m sure!! I am a little on the anxious side in all I do and I know this causes the tension in my legs when riding. Laughing also helps, as you breath to laugh, it relaxes you. Breathing and breath control help me get through tense situations in my riding I find.

  8. Thanks Callie. Every once in awhile I will loose my outside stirrup at the canter and I think it is due to bracing. I too I was taught “ heels down” so much when I was younger that I think I tend to brace and push them too hard sometimes. I have been changing a few things now as I’m a bit older and finding little tricks that make me a better rider. Your videos always help. As for your question, I am most comfortable with my stirrups at the length where it would hit my ankle bone when the leg is out of them. I ride with it more on the ball of my foot.

  9. I am one of the riders who tightens my legs so my most comfortable stirup time is in a walk irba steady relaxed loping. Need to practice the leg tension issue. Thanks for video. Helpful

  10. Hi Callie
    Your video was tailor made for me … Despite being 6ft tall until watching your video I preferred the stirrups in the jumping position as I am least likely to lose my stirrups when they are shorter. However now watching you ride I will go back to a more comfortable length.

  11. As an older, brand new rider, I took some lessons and am able to ride alone but certainly not well. I lose my stirrups, I don’t know how to keep my horse a steady pace, trot, she raises her head up and will go for a little bit. She is a very tall? Horse so I’ll be studying all these videos to see how I can build my confidence on her. I’ll try the stirrup trick tomorrow.

  12. After watching this I realized that I am not completely centered because when it would happen it was always my right stirrup. Now I will be much more aware of my position in the saddle

    1. As an older rider, I need to keep on top of my personal chiropractic care so that I can ride with equal weight in both stirrups. Due to a long ago fall, one legs “gets shorter” without adjustments to pelvis and lower back. It makes a big difference.

      1. I have the exact same problem as you have. I now wear mountain horse, short riding boots, with seel toe caps. Where they are wider than the average boot they stay in the Stirrups and I feel much more confident. My fall was because a stirrup leather snapped behind the buckle at a canter on a riding school horse on a hack. My back a hip still give me problems.

  13. I haven’t been having a lot of trouble with this recently, but I thought the video was lucid and helpful. I particularly liked the discussion of stirrup length and positioning at the end. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience with us.

  14. Hi Callie. I am a beginner rider and I am afraid of falling off. ESP at my at age of 65. I always thought that you put pressure on your legs to keep from falling off. I have two old horse , one is 28 and the other is 19 Tennessee walkers. I do not post when I ride. Do you have and recommendation on what I need to do for / with my legs. My feet are all over in the stirrup

    1. Jen
      I am almost 70! We can’t afford to fall any more! I volunteer with riders who have special needs, and I have seen very nervous riders, with a myriad of physical and developmental issues, increase balance without stirrups. Do you have a friend who could lead your horse while you ride bareback, or with a bareback pad, so you can build your balance and confidence in your balance? You probably have more balance than you give yourself credit for.
      My physical therapists have also tole me that balance is something that can improve no matter what age we are, if we practice.
      Keep riding!

      1. I was always told to put more pressure in your outside stirrup when trotting or cantering in a circle and I frequently lose a stirrup. Also I do grip the saddle with my legs during the canter. How can we fix this?

    2. I recently bought a pre owned dressage saddle. I normally ride in a western but find the weight too hard on my shoulder to hoist it up on the horse. I thought of going bareback, but I am 65 with a hip replacement so I choose to go with the dressage saddle. I am testing my balance by taking my feet out of the stirrups and even closing my eyes to feel the movements of the horse under me at the walk. I feel that by doing that over and again, plus standing up in the saddle and balancing over my horse, I can gain more balance as well. Best of luck to you, take it slow and steady and enjoy your time with your horse.

  15. Good Day Callie & All~

    First of all I just want to say how helpful your blogs etc. … your lesson make great sense and are easy to follow.
    I always thought you had to measure the correct length of your stirrup by taking it and pulling it to ones armpit. Hmmm… good to know that length varies according to what is comfortable for the rider. I ride with a long stirrup but also like two-point in an exercise saddle.

    I often practice my balance on a balance ball and do quite well. Yet I find myself off balance when I ride. I notice my right side is weak, I lean inward when my right leg is used as outside support (counter clock wise) at a canter. I believe this may be due to the fact my right hip is artificial. I wont lose my stirrup; however my foot slides around- is not feel stable. I learned today that I am incorrect to ride with toes in and heels down as it causes one to loose the stirrup. But I think there must be exercises I need to do when riding to strengthen my right hip; maybe those pelvic exercise’s ehh!

  16. Because I ride two different disciplines, I ride with two different basic lengths. In my hunt seat lessons, the stirrup hits my ankle bone when the leg is just hanging loose. In saddleseat, the length is typically more like dressage, so longer, even though our saddles are NOTHING like dressage saddles. It takes a fair amount of consciousness to remember what to do where! In either case, I’m most likely to lose a stirrup when I’m too tense, especially in my lower body. As with many issues, I’m working on riding in a more relaxed manner and BREATHING to break the tension. Thanks for a great video!

  17. Hi Callie! Thank you for a very helpful video. To answer your question, I think I’m most comfortable in my stirrups when I’m remembering to stretch up tall. For me, “tall” ends up making me lengthen both upwards and downwards and forces me to relax in my hip. I see, now that I’ve watched your video, that this likely alleviates the bracing and tension that has sometimes caused my to have those stirrup issues you address. Thanks again!

    1. Great to find that riding tall will alleviate bracing and tension and relaxes the hip so that I have a neutral spine.

  18. I have had two knee replacements and I tend to ride with longer stirrups as it is more comfortable for me knees. I rarely lose a stirrup but I know that I tend to put my foot back behind the ball of my foot. I have a very hard time pointing my toes up ……is riding like this ok as long as I am not losing stirrups and the horse is responding to my leg pressures. Ps…..I only trail ride so correct form is not a must for me….but I want it to be the best that I can. I previously did have trouble always leaning to the left…..doing better at that! Thanks for the video….signed up for more!

  19. Thank you dear Callie, it is exactly what happens a lot to me. I am loosing my left stirrup and so I have to take care that I am sitting balanced. The idea with the Picture or the Video is great.
    Thanks from Switzerland, Vera

  20. Thanks, haven’t ridden in a few months, harsh winter(trying clicker training and we are having fun and bonding)…but being part of your “group” helps me not feel isolated…thanks everyone

  21. Thank you so much for your instruction. So many times I open my email from you and you are covering the exact issue I have been thinking about that week after my lesson.

  22. Thank you Callie. For several years I had one leg curl up…so watching the video I realized I was off balance AND gripping. Thanks can’t wait for no ice to ride & try out new techniques,

  23. Thank you I have been loosing my stirrup on my right side and usually in a cantor. Now I know its probably my shifting sideways. Had changed stirrup length. And I have a tendency to lean forward so thought it might be that. hadn’t thought it was sideways

  24. I’m blessed to have more riding time now than ever before. As I challenge myself to progress, I find the old issues pop up in new situations. For instance, my stirrups feel very solid in the walk, posting trot, and even into the canter or in circles. Now I tend to lose them in the sitting trot.

    However, in keeping with the positivity, I’m glad to HAVE a sitting trot on my bouncy horse, and the videos have helped me a lot to keep from bouncing out of the saddle (riding “on the thigh” is something I wish I heard years ago!). My seat now moves with the horse, but it seems like my weight doesn’t drop down into my feet as much as is necessary. I will watch for tension going forward.

    1. This is my problem too – I suspect that the upward motion on the bounce causes me to either brace or instinctively pull up with my knees, which brings them right out of the stirrups. On a less bouncy horse I find I’m better able to sink the weight of my legs down, keeping me with the horse’s movement. For me, working at the sitting trot is easier if I can keep the trot slow and steady.

  25. Hi Callie – definitely canter for me: I tend to grip and I guess I do it more toward the left side as usually lose my right stirrup. Trot is the comfort zone – and my leg got much steadier after Wendy’s course and clinic at your place. Thank you for your videos!

  26. Hello Callie:
    I watched this today before my lesson, tried to remember everything and my coach said I was riding better, able to have better control of the school horse. I was even able to ride walk and trot without stirrups (haven’t trotted without stirrups before)
    Thanks for the video, its great and am learning something new each time I watch these videos.

  27. Just watched some of your videos and am so pleased I found you. The info on losing stirrups solidified my thinking that it was my gripping with inner thigh. Now I know I am on the right track!!. I practice riding with no stirrups as well letting my legs hang. I viewed several videos and found answers to many ways of devloping myself as a rider and my horse. I am a 72 yo new dressage rider who recently amazingly scored a 74 point First Place in my Intro B test on my AQH gelding. Am so excited and loving this new passion

  28. Thank you for this very helpful video. The title question caught my attention right away. I’ve definitely done all three: gripping, bracing and shifting my weight, often causing my feet to swing and not keep still. On my ride today I’ll keep the 3 of these in mind. The stirrup feels best just past the ball of my feet and the length I measure from my armpit to the wrist joint of my hand (stirrup to buckle).

  29. I have been told by different folks I trail ride with that I lean toward the left. When on trails my saddlehorn creeps to the left especially at the canter. That is when I sometimes lose my right stirrup. Also going over poles sometimes. I suffer from all 3 reasons at various times. My canter is inconsistent, sometimes no bouncing at all and sometimes a mixed bag. I just rode for 3 1/2 days at a dude ranch. The last ride out had 4 long lopes, by concentrating on keeping my weight in the right and slightly right foot a bit forward, I was able to keep the saddle horn centered. This might not be the correct way to achieve balance but at least it was a start. I try to think about the pelvic clock, soft muscles, long leg etc haha and breathing, that does help too. Interestingly, on an all day ride, I did notice that on the rising trot my left foot had a tendency to curl into the horse’s belly periodically. After Wendy’s instructions on keeping your feet flat, I was pleased to have noticed when it did curl and then correct it quickly. The Effortless Rider course has helped me be more aware of my body on the horse and feeling his movement. Baby steps.

  30. I want to take a moment and share how much I enjoy your videos and teachings. You’re amazing and I am truly impressed. I wish I lived closer as I’d be on your doorstep in a heartbeat! Thanks for all you’re giving us through your generous, clear tutorials!

  31. Twenty plus years ago, OK, maybe thirty, I had an instructor who was always yelling “Stop gripping with your legs!” yet I never thought I was gripping. When I was in for a therapeutic massage (NOT a relaxation one) I asked if she would check my inner thighs, not an area usually covered. She found those muscles to be tight as ropes. After a few painful sessions, I got in the saddle and finally knew what riding without gripping felt like!! Amazing difference! As I approach 70, it takes a chiropractor, massage therapist, and (occasionally) physical therapist, to keep me in the saddle. Totally worth it.
    I tell people it take a whole garage to keep an old truck on the road.

  32. I have a huge issue with this! I’m fine until I wanna go into canter. Than I always loose my right stirrup. I’m 5’1 and any extra weight put on is from the waste down so I have short chubby legs. I always blame my short legs for this. Sooo frustrating!! I would like to play around with barrels this summer but I’m almost afraid to cause of this issue…………. Thanks for doing this video, I think it will help, it has started me thinking on a few things! I think a new saddle and adjusting the stirrup will help a little. I always have to punch extra holes to get my stirrups short enough. I’m gonna feel them out and try other longer once. I always feel like I need alot of bow in my knees, not so sure that’s the issue…….. Thank you!

  33. Hello Callie and riders
    I find my right foot (am right handed) slips more than my left but my right hip is more stiff so not sure if that contributes to the “problem”.
    Also recently I find when the stirrup “leathers” are webbing/synthetic that I simply “cannot” keep my feet stable and in the stirrups. My poor lesson horse Serenity is like “what is going on with your feet” cause I then keep losing my stirrups and struggle to give correct leg aids and he gets irritated with me (totally my fault) and want to just take my feet out the stirrups instead.
    Minimal problem with leather stirrup leathers.
    Will be more aware of weight next lesson and see what is happening body-wise.

  34. Hello Callie,
    I tend to lose a stirrup when my horse spooks. I am sure it is because I become tense and unbalanced. He spooked yesterday and I lost my stirrup but was able to stay tall in the saddle and gain control of him. In the past I have not always been able to regain control. I had practised breathing early during our ride. I think it helped me not panic and gain control.

  35. WHEN I REMEMBER TO DO IT, what works best for me is to relax the top of my feet. The feeling is amazing! I can feel the relaxation all the way up to my hips when I do that – improving my seat – , and I can feel my heels start to drop softly and absorb the motion. I have been having issues with my right leg…thanks for the suggestion of whether (or not!) I am actually sitting centered. I will think on that today! Thank you again for sharing your knowledge.

  36. Hi everyone,

    Callie, I am so grateful for your incredibly gifted teaching! I also learn a lot from everyone’s comments, so I have a question for y’all: Has anyone struggled with riding and scoliosis? Mine is fortunately mild, but because my right hip is slightly higher than my left, I often lose the right stirrup — the kind of imbalance that this video addressed so well.

    If you look at my shoulders, hips, and feet, I’m lucky if 2 out of 3 of them are horizontally even. With my sideways S-curve, I’m not sure it’s even possible for me to line up all three.. Like Dorothy S., I get some help from chiropractic and yoga. But the question I face over and over is, Which parts of me should I be trying to balance? My instructor often points out that one shoulder is lower than the other… but sometimes when I correct that, I feel my pelvis shift. Likewise, I never know whether to shorten one stirrup because my pelvis slightly “lifts” my right leg, or keep my stirrups the same length and try to get my hips to adjust.

    To make it more complicated — I know that we often *feel* balanced when we aren’t!! …and we have to retrain our bodies to learn what truly balanced feels like.

    What I mostly do is concentrate on my seat — trying to get my seat bones evenly weighted — since I figure that’s probably what matters most to the horse. But maybe this is wrong? And if it’s correct that aligning my pelvis is most important, can I do anything to compensate for the uneven shoulders and legs?

    It’s not like I’m going to win any equitation medals, whatever I do ;-)… I just care about communicating clearly and being in partnership with my [lesson] horse as much as I possibly can.

    Thanks for any pointers, everyone!!

  37. Hi Callie,
    thanks for this very helpful video. I tend to lose my right stirrup in the canter, but only on the right hand. Im’m pretty sure that I’m shifting off to the left, but I’m not sure how I can correct this. If I try to shift consciously to the right, I feel unbalanced immediately.
    I’m going also going to check out if I’m gripping to tightly, I have never thought of that but I wouldn’t be surprised if I did.

  38. Hi Callie:

    This was a very welcome topic and a great video. When I rode on the weekend and felt my foot sliding forward I immediately did a self-evaluation to determine what I was doing with my legs. As soon as I relaxed my grip I was able to adjust my foot and ironically felt more stable in the saddle!

  39. Thanks for your video, Callie! I like my stirrups longer as I feel more secure having a longer leg on my horse’s sides. My instructor says I have to be careful, though, not to grip the horse with my feet, especially in the canter (which is where I sometimes lose a stirrup or feel a stirrup shifting on my foot. One thing she has told me which is helpful, is to place more of my weight on the balls of my big toes turned slightly away from the horse, which helps prevent my feet from gripping and turning toe inward.

    1. Faith, have you watched our video on How to Stop Gripping when you ride? It might be helpful for identifying where exactly the tension is coming from in your body that is resulting in you gripping with your ankle, if you stirrup is too long that you are reaching for it you may actually be increasing the tension in the legs!

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. Thanks! Yes, I have watched that video. These have all been helpful as I have been learning to ride over the past 15 months. 🙂 It’s actually been a while since I’ve lost a stirrup in the canter, and am finally having “Ah-hah!” moments where my seat-bones feel like they are part of the horse’s back, and my body’s actually NOT trying as hard as it used to in order to move with my horse. Off the horse I’ve been doing several days/week of core exercises on a stability ball, which has also helped my riding stability, and allowing the right body parts to relax better on the horse.

  40. Thanks been riding now for a year and your video’s have answered a lot of questions to problems I’ve been having but not had this explained to me before like you did in your videos, this will help me so much more with my confidence with the horses now I feel,

    Thank you

    Peter Kaczmarski

  41. Excellent video and so simple to follow all your advice. I have an issue with losing my right stirrup more so than my left in both trot and canter and this is due to me being off balance in the saddle where i tend to lean to the left, i over compensate on my left side as i broke my right knee in 2016. I am also very bad at adding tension through my leg by pushing my heels down often resulting in me having tight/stiff/sore leg muscles after a schooling session. I am working on these issue and will be using some of the other techniques i have read on here to help me combat this.

    1. Jeannette, you may find that the imbalance is better if you think about softening the joints in your leg because there won’t be nearly as much strain on your injured leg and you will probably find that you don’t have the stiffness in your legs after the ride!

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  42. I find I ride better in paddock boots and half chaps. I’m always losing my stirrup in my tall boots but Ive been trying to ride in them exclusively so that I can work on this. Any idea why this is?

    1. Sarah, really hard to say what could be happening here without seeing a video but I’m wondering if you are still working on breaking the boots in and they are still too tight on your legs perhaps?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  43. I watched this video because I googled “losing my stirrups in posting trot”. I just switched from riding in a Western saddle to a dressage saddle and have begun taking dressage lessons. Same horse. I didn’t have trouble with my stirrups riding Western. But now! Wow. I don’t why I’m having so much trouble keeping my stirrups. I’ll try the suggestions in the video. Especially the one about stretching my legs out of the stirrups. I also am aware that I have more weight on the outsides of my feet. Not distributed evenly across the ball of my foot. Don’t know why that is either.

  44. For me personally, it helped to ride without stirrups a lot. This helped my balance, therefore eliminated my gripping and also leaning into one stirrup. It also “lengthend” or rather streched my leg, and what I noticed most is it really helped my lower back. As I tend to ride with a hollow back, riding without stirrups helped me to soften and straighten my lower back and at the same time strengthen my core. Since then my stirrups do not wander around anymore on my boots.
    What also helped me a lot is using wedged leather shims on the inside of the stirrups, to level the surface of the stirrup. Even tough my Western saddle has a Hamley Twist, even on a good quality Western saddle the tread of the stirrup is not going to hang straight. My shims are just a few millimeters higher on the inner side (towards the horse) and this way the surface is straight.
    Even tough this blog post is from over a year ago, I wanted to say thank you for all the time and effort that you put into those videos. What I like so much is the fact that riders of all disciplines and stages can learn so much from you. And that you combine the Centered Riding Method with a way of horse handling and riding that keeps the horse healthy, both mentally and physically.

    1. Elisabeth, that can be a great way to lengthen the leg so long as we don’t do it to the point of bracing – like Callie talked about in this video.

      The stirrup shims are a lifechanger – glad to hear you have them and they are helping 🙂

      Thank you for your kind words, we are glad to have you as a part of our community!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  45. I keep my stirrups at a normal length, I have no problem with rising trot, I also dont’ lose then my feet tend to bounce around in them during sitting trot and sometimes cantering. While cantering it’s mainly when I have to apply pressure. Im definitely gripping according to your videos, what is the best solution to stop that. I think its my balance. Should I practice without stirrups??

  46. Great information. I have a unique challenge in that my left leg is shorter than the right due to a broken leg 15 years ago. I do not adjust my stirrup length. Though I do not really feel the difference, I do tend to loose my right stirrup, the longer leg, when asking for a left lead cantor. Plus, I now know from this video that my upper leg gripping isn’t helping the situation. Always something to work on!

  47. Very helpful. I am gripping and exaggerating pushing my heels down. Do u think it will help to try with no stirrups for few circles then try again?

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