A brand-new leather saddle typically comes with no extras – so it’s up to you to choose stirrup leathers and irons that suit your tastes.
Stirrup leathers are leather straps connecting stirrup irons to the saddle, and act as your own personal riding “crutches.” These straps can be adjusted to suit your physical build and preferences. Finding the perfect length of stirrup leathers is crucial for riding horses. It can be the difference between feeling secure in the saddle or finding yourself plonked on the floor!
Choosing stirrup leathers that are the correct length will help you maintain a balanced and comfortable position while riding in lessons or on your own. The correct length will also ensure proper leg placement and will help you to communicate with your equine companion effectively.
Being comfortable, safe, and on the same wavelength as your steed – sounds important, right? There’s no doubt about it, so let’s delve into the topic of stirrup leather sizing!
Different Types Of Stirrup Leathers
When you choose stirrup leathers, you’ll want your choice to give your leg ultimate comfort and support. There are three main types of stirrup leathers.
Monostrap stirrup leathers
As the name suggests, this stirrup leather has one strap. Monostraps are much wider than most leathers, allowing riders to have a better leg position and closer contact with the horse. The buckle is much lower on these straps, which prevents discomfort beneath the thigh. There is also a thick stirrup loop to make attaching and removing these stirrup leathers as easy as pie.
Calfskin-lined stirrup leathers
These stirrup leathers are more traditional and are much thinner than monostraps. They may seem like a double strap, but they’re actually one, long lined strap that has been folded in on itself through a buckle. The buckle sits underneath the stirrup skirt.
Dressage stirrup leathers
Dressage requires a much longer leg. To ensure the straps aren’t too thick, the buckle is further down, just above the irons.
Different Materials Used For Stirrup Leathers
There are three materials that stirrup leathers can be made from. They are traditional leather, lined or synthetic.
These full leather straps are the most durable of the three, because they are made entirely of leather. They have the added benefit of being adjustable, so you can add holes to ensure the length is right for your size and riding style.
Nylon stirrup leathers
Nylon is used for stirrup leathers because because it won’t stretch under the weight of the rider. This particular type has nylon inside, along with nylon webbing, which helps minimise stretch. Soft leather is then sewn around it. The less stirrup leathers stretch, the more durable they are.
The downside to these stirrup leathers is that if you’re trying to adjust the length, you can’t add extra holes to them. You also can’t cut the leather if there’s any excess.
Synthetic stirrup leathers
Synthetic materials used for leathers are made by synthetic manufacturers. If you have a leather saddle, it’s best to steer clear from synthetic leathers, because they will scratch the (genuine) leather.
Stirrup Leather Lengths Based On Riding Discipline
There is a variety of stirrup leathers out there to choose from. This can make the decision daunting and often confusing! The place to start when choosing stirrup leathers is to decide on the riding discipline you’ll be entering.
Each discipline requires specific skills and positions of the rider’s leg, and has a different size guide for stirrup leathers.
Jumping, hunting or cross country stirrup leathers
For jumping, cross country or hunting, you’ll want short stirrups. The average length an adult would use is 54-inch stirrup leathers (137 cm). A small rider can have stirrup leathers in the range of 48 to 52 inches (122 cm – 132 cm). A taller rider can go further to 56 inches (142 cm). Children can use 48-inch (122 cm) stirrup leathers, and some brands offer 42-inch (106 cm) stirrup leathers for younger (and tinier!) children.
Dressage stirrup leathers
Dressage stirrup leathers are longer than traditional leathers. A rider’s leg hangs a lot longer and straighter for dressage so they have maximum contact with the horse’s side. Dressage stirrup leathers have an average length of about 60 inches (152 cm) that runs along the equestrian’s inseam. You can adjust the stirrup leather lengths according to your height.
How To Measure For The Correct Stirrup Leather Length
There are a couple of ways that you can measure your stirrup leathers to check they’re the correct length. Here is the most common way to find your ideal length.
- For jumping/hunting: measure the length of your arm, from underneath your armpit to the tips of your fingers.
- For dressage: measure the inseam of your leg, from your crotch to your ankle bone.
- Double the measurement.
- Add on a few inches for jumping/hunting, and about 6 to 8 (15 cm – 20 cm) for dressage.
Check out our handy video below for a quick guide
Your stirrup irons will also increase the overall length of the stirrup leathers. Once you’ve attached your stirrup leathers to your saddle, there will be excess leather, which you can tuck into the stirrup leather keeper. This will reduce bulk and prevent rubbing under your leg.
Once the stirrup leathers are attached, you can use the buckles to select the correct hole. The holes should be spaced around half an inch to an inch apart.
There are also two simple ways to check that you’ve chosen the correct hole in your stirrup leathers for your height.
- From the ground – Stand next to your horse and face your saddle. Take your stirrup iron and hold it under your armpit. The stirrup leather should fit straight from underneath your armpit to the tips of your fingers. Your fingers must touch where the stirrup is joined to the saddle.
- In the saddle – Have your horse stand still and sit comfortably in the saddle. Take your legs out of the stirrup irons and hang them down freely next to the horse. The bottom of the stirrup irons should touch your ankle bone.
How To Attach Stirrup Leathers To Your Saddle
Underneath the saddle flap, you’ll find a metal stirrup bar.
Lift the saddle flap and slide your leathers onto the stirrup bar. Always make sure that the release latch on the stirrup bar is open. This will allow the stirrup leathers to come off in case of a dangerous fall.
What is the correct stirrup length for English riding?
This all depends on the rider’s height. Small riders can use shorter-length stirrup leathers, from around 48 to 52 inches (122 cm – 132 cm). A tall rider might need a 56-inch (142 cm) length. You can also adjust your length while standing next to your horse or sitting in the saddle.
What is the average stirrup iron size?
As a general size guide, women with size 7 and smaller riding boots will fit a 4 1/2 inches stirrup iron, while those over a size 7 will need a 4 3/4 inches stirrup iron. Very petite women and children may need stirrup irons measuring 4 1/4 inches, while very small children may require even smaller sizes. Men generally choose a 4 3/4 inch stirrup. Men with larger feet or feet that are very wide can use a 5 inch or larger.
When should I change my pair of stirrup leathers?
If you notice that the leather is cracking or if the stitching is coming loose, it’s time for a new pair of stirrup leathers. All riders should inspect their stirrup leathers regularly so they can nip problems in the bud.
Is it better to have longer or shorter stirrups?
This all depends on the discipline you are riding in. Jumping requires shorter stirrups, because it helps you place your weight in your heels and get into the correct jumping position. If you’re riding in a dressage saddle, you’ll need longer stirrups to ensure your leg has maximum contact with the horse’s side.
Are wider stirrup leathers better?
Yes, they are! Wider stirrup leathers offer more surface area, which gives the rider’s leg more stability and balance. Wider stirrup leathers are also less likely to twist and rub.