My Heels Creep Up Again

In my search for more stability while doing the “rider's push-up” exercise, it occurred to me that my double-offset Prussian sided stirrups might be destabilizing me while I bent my hip joints so I could touch the horse's neck with my chest. So I dug out my pair of regular Prussian sided stirrups, bought another pair of the Super-Comfort stirrup pads, put the new pads on the stirrups, and I put the regular Prussian sided stirrups on my saddle. My first impression when I started riding was that my legs had shortened since the side-to-side offset had effectively lengthened the inside of my legs, giving my leg more room to grip the horse. This made the regular stirrups make me feel more insecure, because that extra ½” of “extra” inner leg length got my lower calf down further under the widest part of the horse's barrel.

So during my lesson I went around the ring trying to make sure I kept my weight pressing down on the inside of the stirrup which helped some, but then Debbie started yelling at me about keeping my heels down! All the time I used my double-offset stirrups she NEVER yelled at me to keep my heels down, so I had to add “heels down” back to my mental check-list again while riding. Thanks to the Super-Comfort stirrup pads I had no difficulty with foot pain while I rode with my stirrups “home” (under the arch of my foot), but all in all I felt less secure in the regular stirrups, especially when I tried to do the “rider's push-up” exercise. Even as I made sure to grip with the lower part of my calves the feeling of “teetering” in my stirrups returned big time, making me use my hands on the horse's shoulder to make sure I did not do a headlong dive off the horse at the halt. What a bummer!

Another reason I wanted to try the regular Prussian-sided stirrups was that every time Debbie has ridden in my Pegasus Butterfly saddle she complained about my double-offset stirrups making her feel like her feet were slipping out of the stirrups. I wanted Debbie's opinion on the saddle itself, not on the double-offset stirrups! She seemed to like the saddle better, but after a few minutes of riding she started complaining about how the insides of her thighs were started to get sore. After a minute of thought I told her it might be because the front of the Pegasus Butterfly tree is made to move out of the way of the top of the horse's shoulder when the horse moves, thus moving the rider's thigh out more than usual. She did like how the saddle encourages the horse to move its fore legs more freely and how the horse can move out in comfort.

My body's preference for the double-offset Prussian sided stirrups leaves me with a difficult choice. Since nowadays no riding stable equips their saddles with double-offset Prussian-sided stirrups I will have to get used to riding effectively using normal stirrups again. IF a stable has double-offset stirrups on a saddle they would probably be Fillis double-offset stirrups since these are the only ones made today, and the Fillis stirrups, whether regular stirrups or double-offset stirrups, make my feet hurt horribly and I doubt I could ever ride with my feet home in them because of the pain. So, if I ever want to ride at another stable again, in that stable's saddles, I need to be able to feel secure in regular stirrups again. Otherwise I would have to cart my saddle on trips so I could feel secure when I ride a strange horse. I am not too worried about the Pegasus Butterfly saddle fitting most horses with normal backs, but if the horse has a big dip in its back I would need that stable to have a shimmable pad AND I would need that stable to have a string girth or another type of non-slip girth. It seems to me like this would be too much of a hassle for a 30 minute ride! I cannot use my shimmable pads or string girths at another stable because I worry so much about transferring skin diseases between stables, this is why I spent the money to have a separate saddle pad and string girths for the two stables I ride at now. The ladies who run the stables where I ride really appreciate me doing this, they do not want the risk of skin diseases or parasites being transferred to their horses from saddle pads or girths either. In fact Debbie told me that she does not really mind outside riders using their own saddle, but she does not like the outside riders using their dirty saddle pads on her horses' backs!

As far as riding at my regular stables, I guess I could try lengthening my stirrup leathers a hole when I ride in the regular stirrups, on the one hand it would make my leg less stable, but on the other hand it would get the inside of my leg 1/2” longer, down to where I could grip with my lower calf under the widest part of the horse's barrel. I definitely should ride some with regular stirrups since I never know when I will have to ride with them if I ride elsewhere. However I know that I will be missing my double-offset Prussian sided stirrups since when I ride in them I do not have to worry about keeping my heels down as the slanted tread of the stirrup just about guarantees that my heels will stay down, and the side-to-side slope of the stirrup really helps my keep my leg against the horse without much muscular effort. For me it is just too bad that the Fillis stirrups became so popular that every Hunt seat stable uses them, I can stand them for a short ride but I am nowhere near as secure as I am with the Prussian sided stirrups that do not hurt my feet.

During my ride Bingo was quite good to me in spite of my problems with my security in the saddle. He is turning out to be a very forgiving horse as long as I do not hurt him with my riding. I noticed that he reacted to my increased insecurity by moderating his forward motion and he did not thrust off with his hind legs as strongly as he had been. When Debbie rode him he went back to his normal motion, but then Debbie has a much more secure seat in the saddle than I do! To me this is a very encouraging sign as far as making Bingo a lesson horse as a good lesson horse will moderate his movement according to how secure the rider is at that time.

I find it truly amazing that a half inch can make such a bit difference with my security in the saddle. It did not use to, back decades ago, but with me being crippled a half inch can make all the difference in the world.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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