When Stirrup Irons Are More Than Stirrup Irons

Stirrup irons. They’re not the most glamorous part of the saddle; they’re just sort of there. You put your foot in them, they support your weight and you go on about your life. They’re pretty unassuming, overall.

But what if they’re more to them than I realized?

When I read Riding Simplified by Margaret Cabell Self, she spent a lot of time discussing the proper position for a rider. Most of it was pretty straightforward but good to remember, like keeping your legs relaxed and relying on your balance instead of clenching your legs.

But there was something that stood out to me when Self discussed the proper position of the foot, specifically. She says that the foot should be positioned so that it presses against the inside bar of the stirrup iron, rather than resting in the middle of the iron. 

Incorrect foot position according to Margaret Cabell Self; the side of the foot nearest the horse should be pressed against the stirrup iron.

That seemed weird to me, maybe because I’ve never given much thought to my stirrup irons or foot position beyond keeping my heels down and the iron at the ball of my foot.

Recently, we had a jumping clinic with Leanne at her sister’s farm down the road. It was a ton of fun and I feel like we made some good progress while going over gridwork. It was the perfect time to test out the stirrup iron theory.

While I was riding, I tried positioning my foot as Self described in her book – pressing the inside of my foot to the vertical bar of the iron, placing my weight on the inside of my foot so that the sole of my boot was not parallel to the ground but angled. Usually, I have this bad habit of letting my ankles bow out, but by simply thinking about pressing my foot against the inside stirrup iron, my ankles felt stronger and my legs suddenly felt much closer to the saddle and more secure.

Amazing. One little thing can change everything! It’s harder than you might expect to hold this kind of foot position, but I think it’s worth it and will get easier with time as I build muscle memory. I was certainly thinking about it at the show last weekend, and it seems to have worked pretty well!

Who knew that stirrup irons could offer such a change?

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