Stirrup Placement and Rider Biomechanics: What’s the Link?

Rider biomechanics significantly impact horse biomechanics, affecting performance, musculoskeletal health, and welfare.
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Stirrup Placement and Rider Biomechanics: What
Researchers found that each studied rider’s biomechanics changed dramatically from one position to another, Martin said, and those biomechanics also differed considerably between the riders. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Pauline Martin
Where do you place your stirrups? We know stirrup length affects your position, forces, and contact with your horse. But recent study results suggest that horizontal stirrup placement does, as well. By adjusting the site where you attach your stirrup leathers to your saddle, you could change the way you ride—for better or for worse.

Equipping saddles with adjustable stirrup bars, bringing the leathers farther forward or father backward on the saddle, can help customize the ride for each horse-rider pair, said Pauline Martin, DVM, PhD, of the University of Lyon, the National Veterinary School of Maisons-Alfort, and CWD France-Sellerie saddlery, in Nontron.

Martin and fellow researcher Marie Sapone, MSc, studied the biomechanical effects on two riders using a saddle with adjustable stirrup bars. Each rider rode the same horse at a canter with the stirrups set to three different positions: forward, central, and back. They presented their results, part of their larger Saddle in Motion Project, at the 2017 French Equine Research Day, held earlier this year in Paris.

They found that each rider’s biomechanics changed dramatically from one position to another, Martin said, and those biomechanics also differed considerably between the riders

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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