How to determine the correct stirrup length for riding

Stirrup length is crucial in equestrian riding, impacting safety, rider balance, and overall effectiveness. Finding the appropriate stirrup length can be challenging, as it varies across disciplines and individual rider preferences.

This comprehensive article will discuss the importance of stirrup length, methods for measuring the correct length, and tips for adjusting stirrups based on your specific needs.

Whether you're a dressage rider, showjumper, or trail rider, understanding how to determine the correct stirrup length will enhance your riding experience and improve your overall performance.

Importance of correct stirrup length

Having the correct stirrup length is essential for several reasons. First and foremost, it ensures your safety while riding. Too long stirrups can lead to the risk of losing them during the ride, compromising your balance and stability. Conversely, stirrups that are too short can cause discomfort and pain in your knees, ankles, and lower back, making it challenging to maintain proper riding form.

Additionally, the correct stirrup length contributes to rider balance and effectiveness. When your stirrups are at the right length, you can engage your leg muscles effectively, enabling you to give clear and precise aids to your horse. This balance and effectiveness are crucial for achieving proper position and executing riding techniques accurately.

Determining the correct stirrup length

Finding the correct safety stirrup length involves considering various factors such as your discipline, leg length, horse's build, and personal preference. While there is no exact formula for determining the perfect stirrup length, the following guidelines can help you evaluate and adjust your stirrups for optimal comfort and performance. 

Dressage stirrup length

For dressage riders, stirrup length typically falls on the longer side compared to other disciplines. A general rule of thumb is to have your stirrups one hole longer than your ankle. This length allows you to maintain a deep seat, press your heels down, and have a long leg while still being able to perform rising trot and posting comfortably.

At Ophena, we offer Ophena A as a non-magnetic safety stirrup for dressage riders. We also offer high-quality stirrup leathers in various colours and lengths.

Showjumping stirrup length

In showjumping, stirrups are typically shorter compared to dressage. This adjustment allows riders to easily transition into a two-point or three-point seat while jumping, while still maintaining balance and control.

As a rule of thumb, your showjumping stirrups should be two holes shorter than your regular length for other riding activities, such as hacking or trail riding.

If you are looking to enhance safety in riding, take a look at our magnetic safety stirrups Ophena S and Ophena S Pro.

Hacking and trail riding stirrup length

For general riding activities such as hacking or trail riding, stirrup length falls between the dressage and showjumping lengths. The goal is to find a comfortable position to maintain proper balance, keep your heels down, and post without difficulty. Experimenting with different lengths and listening to your body's feedback can help you identify the optimal stirrup length for these activities.

Measuring stirrup length

To measure your stirrup length accurately, you can use various methods depending on your preference and convenience. Here are a few commonly used techniques:

Anklebone method

Stand next to your horse and let your arms hang naturally by your sides. Adjust the stirrup iron so that the bottom sits just below your anklebone. This method provides a good starting point for determining the correct length but may require further adjustments based on your riding experience and comfort level.

Armpit method

Another method involves putting your knuckles on the stirrup bar while lifting the stirrup iron with your other hand. The base of the stirrup should reach your armpit. This method provides a rough estimate of the correct length and can be helpful for riders who have difficulty determining the length visually.

Trial and error

Mount your horse and ride for a short period with your stirrups at a particular length. Pay attention to your comfort level, balance, and ability to engage your leg effectively. If you feel any discomfort or imbalance, adjust the stirrup length accordingly and repeat the process until you find the optimal length for your needs.

Remember that stirrup length is subjective and can vary based on individual factors such as leg length, horse size and gait, saddle type, and personal preference. Prioritizing your comfort and safety is essential while finding the correct stirrup length.

Adjusting stirrup length for different situations

While finding the optimal stirrup length is crucial, it's also important to consider adjustments for specific situations within your chosen discipline. Here are a few examples:


If you primarily ride dressage, you may want to adjust your stirrup length slightly based on the level of collection and engagement you are working on. For advanced movements, such as piaffe or passage, you may find it beneficial to lengthen your stirrups slightly to allow for more freedom in your seat and leg aids.


In showjumping, the length of your stirrups can vary depending on the type of jump and the level of control you need. When jumping higher fences or tackling technical courses, you may opt for slightly shorter stirrups to maintain a secure and balanced position while allowing your leg to absorb the horse's movements.

Trail riding

During trail rides, you can consider adjusting your stirrup length based on the terrain and the length of your ride. If you anticipate long hours in the saddle, you may want to lengthen your stirrups slightly to reduce strain on your joints and increase overall comfort.

Always remember to make gradual adjustments to your stirrup length and listen to your body's feedback. Small changes can have a significant impact on your riding experience and performance.

The benefits of safety stirrups

While determining the correct stirrup length is essential, it's equally important to prioritize your safety while riding. Safety stirrups are designed specifically to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries in case of a fall. They offer additional features that can enhance your riding experience and give you peace of mind.

Here are some benefits of using safety stirrups:

  • Increased foot retention: safety stirrups, such as the Ophena S and Ophena S Pro, utilize a magnetic connection to keep your foot securely in place. This reduces the chance of losing your stirrup during a ride, providing stability and confidence.
  • Improved balance and stability: safety stirrups help maintain proper alignment and balance by preventing your foot from slipping forward or backward. This enhances your overall stability in the saddle, allowing you to focus on your riding technique and aids.
  • Shock-absorption and flexibility: some safety stirrups, like the Ophena A, feature integrated dampening, making them flexible and shock-absorbent. This reduces the impact on your joints and provides added comfort during long rides or intense activities.

Using safety stirrups can significantly enhance your riding experience, especially in disciplines such as showjumping, eventing, and trail riding. Prioritizing safety allows you to ride with confidence and focus on improving your skills.

Ophena stirrups: 1900+ five-star reviews

Determining the correct stirrup length is a crucial aspect of equestrian riding. It ensures your safety, balance, and overall effectiveness in the saddle. By considering factors such as your discipline, leg length, and personal comfort, you can find the optimal stirrup length for your needs.

Remember to make gradual adjustments, listen to your body's feedback, and prioritize safety by using quality safety stirrups. You can enjoy a comfortable and successful riding experience in any discipline or activity with the right stirrup length and equipment. 

The Ophena S and Ophena S Pro safety stirrups have received outstanding stirrup reviews from riders, providing increased safety, balance, and confidence in the saddle.

These magnetic safety stirrups are suitable for showjumping, eventing, and trail riding. For dressage riders or those unable to use magnetic stirrups at shows, the Ophena A offers non-magnetic safety stirrups with integrated dampening for optimal comfort and shock-absorption.