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The Importance of Stirrup Placement

Excellent article from PhysioOsteoBook! Horseback riders, see my comments below the article.

Why is this important for riders?

Many riders are taught to ride with the stirrups placed too far forward on the feet, causing them to essentially ride off their toes. This restricts the normal movement and flexibility of the foot and inhibits balance. The flexible and mobile parts of the body need to remain flexible and mobile when riding. Often, riders mistakenly lock up parts of their body when they ride. They might try to tighten the hip joints, pinch their knees, push the hands down, or jam their heels down, in a flawed attempt to find balance, security, strength, or strive for an imagined "position".

If you look at some of the skeletal illustrations in this article, notice that the toes are actually quite long. Picture where you normally place your stirrups. Chances are, you are riding with the stirrups under your toes, thereby lessening the amount of balance and support you might otherwise have.

I want you to think of enhancing your balance and stability from the ground up. Or, if you prefer, from your feet up. We will start by assuming that you are balanced and aligned in the saddle with your "building blocks" stacked one above the other. (Picture the traditional equestrian "plumb line" from ear, shoulder, hip, heel.)

By placing the stirrup farther back on the foot––closer to the Transverse Arch––you will gain a better base of support and will be able to access the natural balance receptors in the foot. (Martial Arts and Centered Riding, call this the "bubbling spring".)

To find the bubbling spring, start with your hand. Hold one hand softly with the palm up. With your other hand, gently trace your second finger from its tip to the palm. You may have to experiment a few times. Notice when you get to a certain spot on the palm, your hand may naturally want to close. This sensitive, but sometimes elusive, spot is what you are looking for. You have a similar spot on the bottom of both feet. If you can place each stirrup so that it touches that spot, you can then access the power of the bubbling spring as you ride. (Note: Centered Riding Instructors can teach you how to find and use this spot when you are in the saddle.)

At first, this new stirrup placement may feel awkward. Try angling the stirrup across the bottom of the foot, with the outer branch of the stirrup further forward than the inner branch. (Only a portion of the stirrup needs to touch the Bubbling Spring.) This angle allows the rider to take advantage of the power of the balance receptors in the feet, allowing the ankles (as well as other joints) to unlock and assume their proper role as the body's shock absorbers. The ankle joints can now "release" in order to allow the heels to go down, without pushing or jamming. The rider can now begin to improve and maintain mobility while in motion.

Once you feel how the stirrups on the bubbling springs of your feet give you a better base of support along with enhanced stability and security, you'll never go back!


Centered Riding concepts can provide the tools that enable you to more easily access the mind/body and biomechanics principals to enhance your skills and help you to become an effective rider—regardless of riding level or discipline. For more information, go to:

Kathy Culler © 2014. All Rights Reserved.


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