Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Stirrup Iron Advice

The show season has wrapped up, the awards banquet tickets have been purchased, and I'm going through my usual end of year evaluation. What went right? What went wrong? What do I want to change or do different? I also go through all my tack and show clothes to see what I want to keep, get rid of, and add to. While I've been working on upgrading my western tack, finally getting the show saddle I've been looking for forever (and I'm hoping to get a show headstall for Christmas!), my focus has turned to my english tack and attire.

I'll start by saying I never ride english at home. Never. I can't remember the last time I used my english saddle off the show grounds... it's probably been years. While the main reason is because I've been focusing more on western with Lilly, there's nothing saying I couldn't ride english here and there, just to practice the essentials we need to place well in the english classes, so what's the real reason I don't ride english at home?

I guess it's because I find it very uncomfortable.

I have a wonderful saddle that is really comfortable, and more importantly it fits Lilly, but I'm always having trouble with my knees and ankles. When I'm at the show, and it's finally time to hop off and switch over to western, I'm SO thankful! I get off as often as I can to stretch my legs, but by the end of the day, my ankles are screaming. I don't know if I'm compensating for my knees and my ankles suffer, but I feel like my legs are all sorts of wonky and they just don't "hang" right.

This is a picture from several years ago, but it still feels the same way today. My ankles roll to the outside and they don't really sit flat on the bottom of my irons. I'm constantly having to take my feet out and stretch them just to get some relief.

My ankle is jacked...
So is this happening because my horse is fat, and that's how my legs have to be to get around that giant belly of hers? Is it because my stirrups are too long or too short? Is it because my leathers suck? Is it just how my saddle is made and that's the position it puts my legs in? Is it because I'm riding in paddock boots and half chaps, so my ankle isn't getting the support it needs?

Stirrup length look ok?
In order to size stirrup length, I use the old arm trick. You know, the one where you put your fingertips on the top of your leathers and as long as your irons go into your armpit you're good? I did drop them a hole at the last show to see if that would help, but I didn't really notice a difference. I also didn't do it until after my ankles were screaming, so it's possible it helped but it was just too late.

I've been having this problem for a while now, so several years ago I looked into getting a new pair of irons. I ended up buying the MDC Sport Classic Irons because I thought my knees ankles were being tweaked due to having to hold the irons in the correct spot.

The MDC Sport irons.
Irons sit nice and straight.
With these irons, you can turn them 90 degrees, 45 degrees, or have them in the normal irons position. I turned mine so they're 90 degrees, but I can't really say if it helped or not. I think maybe they helped with my knees, but they definitely haven't helped with my ankles.

So this makes me wonder if I need to take them one step further and get something else. The MDC irons were about $185, and it took all I had to stomach spending that kind of money on irons, and I'm not fond of the though of spending even MORE money on another similar pair, but I'm really tired of having the ankle pain all the time. I've been browsing what other kind of stirrups are out there, and I came across several that have piqued my interest.

Stubben Double Offset Stirrup Irons ($70)
I can't really picture if these could help or not. I think their purpose is to help keep the rider's leg on the horse, while allowing them to keep their heels down, but since they're angled, maybe they would roll my heel in?

Herm Sprenger System 4-F Stirrups With or Without Offset Eye ($230 or $245)
With these stirrups, I know they rotate in four positions, but it's not side to side, it's only up and down. I don't know if having a stirrup that rotates down with my heel would help my ankle or not.

Herm Sprenger 4-F Bow Balance Stirrup Irons ($230)
These irons just look like some kind of alien contraption, but they seem to have received the best reviews of the bunch. I wish I could try a pair of each so I could see how they feel before I spend several hundred dollars on them.

When I initially did some research, I got the impression that people think these things are "gimmicky" and good old fashioned irons are where it's at. I just want something that's going to help my ankle pain, assuming there's something that can help with that. I'm also open to any other possibilities (like my position, or my fat horse, or whatever).

So I'm reaching out to see if any of you have had luck with any of these irons, or found a way to relieve your ankle pain in some other way. I would appreciate any thoughts or ideas.