Ask Horse Journal: December Letters

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Trotting in two-point will help stretch the back of your leg and make your ankle more flexible.

Trotting in two-point will help stretch the back of your leg and make your ankle more flexible.

Question 1: My feet seem to slide out of my stirrups more easily than they used to. I think the rubber pad is worn, so I'm going to replace it. I mostly trail ride and do some local schooling dressage shows. I see a number of choices for stirrup pads out there, including ?grated? and other abrasive surfaces for better grip. Should I consider these pads'

Question 2: In my efforts to buy a used saddle, I've been riding in other people?s stirrups. Recently I tried a very high-end saddle, but to me the stirrups seemed almost dangerous. The stirrup foot had a wide rubber insert with a great deal of tread, almost like a snow tire. When I began to trot I needed to change my foot position and could not move my foot at all. It was impossible. Is there such a thing as a 'too grippy? stirrup insert'

Associate Editor Margaret Freeman replies:These two questions come from the opposite sides of the problem, which highlights that this is an individual choice. A stirrup that slips can be just annoying and inconvenient or, if you're headed toward a jump, it can be dangerous. A stirrup that holds onto your foot if you fall is very dangerous.

The stirrup should hang no lower than the bump on the inside of your ankle, higher if you jump.

The stirrup should hang no lower than the bump on the inside of your ankle, higher if you jump.

The key to safety here, grippy or not, is that the stirrup is the right size (and your boot heel long enough) so that your foot can't slip through if the grip lets go but can fall out when gravity takes over if you separate from the saddle. Your index finger should be able to fit on both sides of your boot when your foot is in the stirrup (including the rubber sides to hinged stirrups, which add about ??). We agree that we?d be concerned about safety if it won?t let go when we try to lift the foot above the stirrup pad.

If your feet slip out because the stirrup pads have worn smooth, then buy what worked before ? new stirrup pads, with textured rubber or a lightly abrasive metal center portion at an economical $4 to $12.

Your feet could also slip because the leathers are too long, possibly from stretching over time. The stirrup should be no longer than the bump on the inside of your ankle for any discipline and higher when jumping. Raise your leathers a hole or two and try some exercises to stretch the back of your leg so that your ankle gains stability.

So-called ?cheese-grater? pads, made from stainless steel, will provide superior traction for a slightly higher price than standard pads, $9 to $23. Their greatest downfall is that they can also shred the flap of your saddle when you run them up the leathers. Some people also don't like the added pressure against the ball of the foot or the additional grip.

Polo wraps are popular with dressage riders.

Polo wraps are popular with dressage riders.

A standard pad is about two inches wide. You can get more grip from a wider replacement pad, such as the ?Super Comfort? rubber pad ($30) that wraps around the stirrup base rather that inserting into it, but you may not like its non-traditional look or even feel that it's too bulky.

All things considered, we?d stick with the simple rubber insert, especially if you also pay attention to your equitation. Even a smooth stirrup pad shouldn?t slip unless it's muddy as long as your heel is lower than your toe. Drop your heel when you use lower-leg aids, and don't allow your heel to rotate up around your knee. Spend some time in each riding session trotting in two-point (grab mane if necessary), which will help anyone develop a more-flexible ankle.

Should I Use Polo Wraps or Tendon Boots'
Your August 2011 article on tendon boots and the effects, both positive and negative, they can have on our horses? legs, made me wonder about polo wraps.I often found legs hot after removing them, and I would imagine they would not have as much give as boots, so does that mean they?re not so great after all' Several people have suggested they don't offer the kind of support that is claimed.

Contributing Veterinary Editor Grant Miller DVM responds:

Some people prefer to use a cotton wrap underneath their polo wraps. This horse is also wearing bell boots.

Some people prefer to use a cotton wrap underneath their polo wraps. This horse is also wearing bell boots.

The use of wraps and boots is controversial, but overwhelmingly, riders seem to gravitate toward using them. Polo wraps are one of the oldest types of athletic wraps for horses and are commonly used in polo and dressage especially. There are benefits to using polo wraps:

1. Polo wraps protect the cannon bone region and the tendons and ligaments in that area. Horses that play rough (like polo horses) often step on each other and get tangled up in one another?s legs. Devastating lacerations and bruises can occur if they aren?t wearing protection. Polo wraps offer a decent padded barrier to help protect the leg from these insults.

2. Polo wraps protect a horse from itself. Forging, cross-firing, and striking are all interferences in which a horse is hitting itself with a wayward hoof. These gait abnormalities can lead to splints and bucked shins, among other problems. Polo wraps are a simple, inexpensive way to help stop this collateral damage.

3. Polo wraps are versatile. They are stretchy and conform nicely to a horse's leg, which allows them to stay on during movement. For instance, dressage horses, polo ponies and cutting horses make intricate turning, twisting movements that can cause boots to slip.

To specifically answer your questions: Are they that great' Well, for the reasons stated above, this veterinarian likes polo wraps and can justify saying some great things about them.

However, as for their efficacy in ?supporting? the tendons and ligaments...well, there's no way that polo wraps are providing any kind of structural support. So, do they protect the leg' Yes. Do they provide structural support' No.