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Rider Inspiration

Stirrups…Worth the money?

By August 16, 2020 August 24th, 2020 No Comments
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I have been riding in a pair of trusty Korsteel for (shock horror) 10 years! I had invested in a beautiful Prestige saddle that was the most ideal fitting saddle for my horse Denny’s shape, and I have loved riding in it! But when the white grips of my stirrups were finally wearing I trawled online for what my options could be. I found that Horseland Midland in Perth stocked these and I haven’t looked back!

WOW! As riders we have so many options when it comes to quality tack we are spoilt for choice.

I am not a natural rider, I don’t really like gadgets or fads, but I also need to be open to anything that will help support my riding. So I went into looking at the sheer number of stirrup options and the price tags accompanying them with an open mind. I thought hard about the purpose of a stirrup and how their design could impact riding in relation to rider fitness and our core strength and overall position in the saddle.

I didn’t learn to ride until I was an adult and 18 years, now 16 years later I am 34 and still learning, still losing my right stirrup in canter and despite physiotherapy and rider fitness still continuously work on keeping my heels down. I wouldn’t ever give up horses, despite how hard I have to work for improvement!

This sole experience is the reason I started in my journey as Muscle Sense, I feel so passionate about helping other adult riders become the strongest rider they can be out of the saddle, because let’s face it…. Riding is a hugely rewarding sport and hobby but equally challenging!

My core is strong with having committed to my own core strength as part of my journey starting my rider fitness business, however I am still struggling with my position in the saddle.

SO this leads me back to my search for new stirrups…

I came across the Jin Stirrup and their anatomic stirrup which is designed specifically with a left and right foot, it has a nice wide grip footbed and a slight downward incline. I am always losing my right stirrup and literally at my wits end thinking I will record a loop of ‘heels down’ on my iPhone to replay on repeat while I ride haha!

The original design of the Jin stirrup has come from Italy and was designed by a rider AND a human Physiotherapist. This was the first main factor in my curiosity to try these out, not to mention how stunning and high quality they looked. I also loved that there was a lot of great feed back from dressage riders such as Amanda Ross, Stuart Archibald and Tara Campain.

The gradient design really does help to plant your rider seat and support sitting trot a lot more…When you think about the riders body and leg position you can see how a slight gradient would help support a lower heel. For me they have significantly supported a balanced stronger two point position for my cross country because I can really get my heels down and weight into the stirrups.

So what was the verdict? I LOVED THEM.

I am not going to lie and tell you they fixed all my ridden problems, but I can honestly tell you they have drastically improved my comfort and feeling in the saddle.

Firstly, that slight incline of the footbed really did help to keep my heel down a little more than normal, I also took my stirrups up a hole and although shorter than I like to ride helped me get the feeling of riding in my stirrups and not gripping with the knees. As my muscle patterns start to change which will take 6-8 weeks of riding like this, I will be able to hopefully drop my stirrups again.

So from a fitness trainer perspective, I want to share with you exactly what and how this stirrup helped me.

To keep ours heels down, we need to be able to lengthen through the hamstrings in the back of the leg which requires our smaller glute medius muscle, located on the outer surface of our pelvis to active. I am getting technical here sorry so please stay with me

So this stirrup with the angled footbed really helped me to engage the right muscles. See… what happens when we hitch at the hip or our heels slide upwards is we ride using our large quadriceps at the front of our thighs. Naturally with our quadriceps turned on, our centre of balance shifts forward, and then our heels upwards. It then becomes near on impossible to use your core in the saddle for balance, we end up gripping with our knees and blocking the swing of our horse rib cage making impulsion near on impossible for our horse.

The comments ‘lacks impulsion’ are a regular occurrence on my dressage test and quite frankly I’m over it.

So instead of using the muscles in the image above causing us to collapse over the front of the horse, we want to use the ones in the image below.

Then we are riding with our seat and glute muscles, we can have a strong core which keeps us light and upright in the saddle. This means we are driving our horse’s movement and can turn on our inner thigh to support and use our heels for aids. If we use our quadriceps to drive, our core is collapsed and we can’t be effective with our heel aids as they are hitched upwards!

This all sounds technical, but if you are anything like me you want to know how and why something might work for you. So yes the angled footbed is a winner for me.

Lastly. The left and right angled footbeds which make the anatomical stirrup unique, put your foot in such a position that makes it easier as a rider to use your inner thigh muscles the adductors. The main role of these muscles is to be the base for your pelvis and help to keep your core stable. When these muscles are strong and activated they support internal rotation at the knee, in the saddle this looks like a long leg with the riders heel turned slightly out and off the horses body. These are the muscles that make sure we are not using our aids every single rise and digging our heels in at every stride.

Trust me – I have been there. In fact this is the reason my quiet lazy clydie x eventer can get dull to the aids. It’s a viscous cycle to be honest as the more I ask, the more I block, the lazier he gets as its hard, then I get tired and I use my large quadriceps for stability and then suddenly I’m gripping with me knees and forward over his shoulder.

So what was the final verdict? Did they drastically change my riding overnight? No.

I have to be honest as it would be naive of us as riders to think something can fix everything without the time and mileage under saddle to change the muscle patterns that have been limiting our progress for a long time.

If riding properly was easy, we would all be better and not need lessons and coaching.

They were however insanely comfortable right from the first ride, and right from the first ride they gave me an awesome two point position on cross country. I also felt some tightness in muscles I hadn’t felt post ride, a good sign they were supporting muscle pattern changes. I don’t sell these, but for me I am passionate about anything that might make the journey as an adult rider slightly easier, so I have taken the time to write about these just for you!

So I am sticking with these as stirrups for myself because I know they are going to support me in changing the muscle patterns in my body that lead to me losing my outside stirrup in canter, and that damn right heel that keeps creeping up! If you feel these are worth a shot, honestly give them a go! Horseland Midland even have a few trial pairs you can ride in before you buy. if you arn’t local to me in perth, give JS a call and find out who else is stocking and trialing these.

Don’t get disheartened as a rider, especially if you are learning for the first time as an adult or have had years off starting a family. Invest in the right gear for your body shape and find a good support network of friends and instructors to keep you striving for change. Horses are the most rewarding sport around and I know even on my darkest days or roughest rides they have been my saving grace.

Jem and Den xx

Jem and Den

Author Jem and Den

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