When I judge dressage tests at a show, I often detect a ?theme? as I hear myself repeating the same phrase over and over.? The theme will be different at each locale. Sometimes it's a positive phrase and sometimes a negative.? I presume this is because people copy what they see others doing around them, whether they realize it or not and whether for better or worse.? I wonder sometimes if they are picking this theme up at the shows themselves or if tHere's an alpha pro nearby whose style has influenced many people in the area. (I remember when I warmed up for my first-ever Prix St. Georges test.? I planned this to be at an out-of-the way show grounds where I could do my FEI maiden voyage under the radar.? But there was a huge class with some really top riders.? I didn't realize it until later, but I started doing the same things in warm-up that they were rather than playing my own game.? Half way through the test, I realized my horse was cooked because I'd over-ridden him in the warm up.? Lesson learned. Since then I've made a game plan for the warm up and stuck to it.) So, I might be in some far-flung corner of the country and see half the people there riding with reins that are too long.? Or the reins are okay but the stirrups are too long.? Or everyone seems to have good equitation basics but the horses are just trudging along.? Or are over-tempo.? Or half the horses have lateral walks.? Or I might see rings crowded with 8-movers at one show and 6-movers at the next.? Or really brilliant riding, test after test.? There almost always seems to be a theme. Last week the theme was stirrups that were too long.? I understand this in a way ? people think, gee, this is dressage and dressage means long stirrups or at least a long leg.? What they don't realize is that they still need angles in the joints of their leg so that the back of the leg can stretch down and long.? If the toe is lower than the heel, the back of the leg is actually contracted.? The stirrup dangles below the foot and the rider often loses her stirrups.? The biggest problem is that the rider has now lost the base of support that comes from a flexible ankle. This seems to happen more with amateur riders than with the pros.? Most amateurs ride a desk more than they ride a horse.? They ride one horse a session, maybe four or five times a week.? Many pros will ride several horses each day and develop the core strength that will keep them steady and supple no matter the type of saddle, length of stirrup or how smooth the horse's gaits.? And, it also seems to happen more in certain locales.? I can judge another show in another corner of the country the next weekend and not see any overly stirrups at all. This month's issue of ?The Horse Journal? has a question I was asked to answer about the best kind of stirrup pad to keep the rider from losing her stirrups.? I went through the list of stirrup pad options, but then of course I had to ask the writer whether the problem might be that she simply has to shorten her stirrups.? Stirrup leathers can stretch without us even realizing it, and we may need to come up a hole every few months, more often if We've been riding in the rain. It still blows my mind when I see so many people in one area riding with stirrups too long.? If your stirrups are dangling below your foot and you keep losing them, it seems pretty obvious that you need to do something about it.