Horse Journal OnCall: Slipping In Stirrups

The stirrup pad can make quite a difference.
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The stirrup pad can make quite a difference.

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?

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 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 al- most 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 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 ¼"). 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 pro- vide 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.

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.

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