One of the reasons many equestrians stick with the sport so long is that there’s always more to learn. Sometimes the answers to our questions are straightforward. “Should I let my toddler stand directly behind a horse?” No. Full stop. Other times, though, we find ourselves in “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should” territory. That’s the case here.
English and Western saddles serve different purposes, as do the stirrups designed to use with them. While it might be possible to modify a pair of stirrups for both types of saddles, it’s not recommended. Use English stirrups on English saddles and Western stirrups on Western saddles.
English and Western stirrups attach differently
The main reason to avoid switching stirrup types is that English and Western saddles are designed differently.
English saddles have stirrup leathers, skinny pieces of leather that attach to a metal bar under the skirt and run through a hold in the top of English stirrups at the other end.
Western saddles, on the other hand, have something called fenders. These are wider pieces of leather that run along the entire length of the rider’s leg.
One end of the fender attaches under the seat jockey and the other end wraps around the top of the Western stirrup.
Plus, most new English saddles do NOT include stirrup leathers or irons — but most Westerns saddles come completely ready to use.
“But I really love my English stirrups!”
As a multi-discipline rider, I hear you. There have been many times I’ve wished I could always ride in my beloved Acavallo Arena AluPro safety stirrups or Compositi Reflex stirrups from my jump and dressage saddles.
That’s an idea better kept in your mind than put into practice.
My western saddle simply isn’t designed to attach English style stirrups safely and securely. (Plus, they’d look pretty silly!)
Instead of wishing you could find a way, focus on something more useful — finding English stirrups you love AND Western stirrups you love.
Where to begin
Finding the “best” stirrups largely comes down to personal preference. That said, we have several suggestions to help your search start out on the right… foot.
Tough-1 EZ Out Safety Stirrups (Western)
Tough-1 EZ Out Stirrups offer a traditional look with additional safety. The side of each stirrup opens to release your foot in the case of a fall so you don’t get dragged.
It’s one of the only quick release stirrups available for Western riders, but the design is so classic no one else will realize they’re safety stirrups at all!
Acavallo Arena AluPro (English)
Acavallo Arena AluPro safety stirrups combine sleek styling, super grippy traction, and a useful safety release arm in case of emergencies.
Not only do they look great for shows and schooling, the wide stirrup pad is really grippy, and the off-center footbed relives hip, knee, and ankle tension. It also helps you keep your heels down.
If you want to see even more of our favorites, check out 8 Best Safety Stirrups for Adults.
Where the line gets blurry
Though English vs. Western stirrups are typically quite easy to distinguish by simply looking at them, there is one discipline that can blurs the lines — endurance riding.
Sometimes you’ll see endurance saddles with a Western appearance paired with more English-style stirrups. Other times, you’ll see more English-type saddles paired with more Western-design stirrups.
If you’re an endurance rider, you may be able to have the best of both worlds.
Just be sure the stirrups you choose are designed to work with your exact endurance saddle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which way do western stirrups face?
This question often confuses new riders or those new to riding Western, as the stirrups tend to naturally hang flat against the horse’s side. This can cause some trouble for riders, whether it’s getting their feet into or out of the stirrup, or can even be a source of leg pain from holding the stirrup at a ninety-degree angle.
The side of the stirrup closest to your horse’s shoulder (when it lays flat) should be turned outwards once you’re mounted. Many riders choose to train their stirrups to always be at this outward angle for convenience and safety.
How long should stirrups be on a western saddle?
While everyone prefers a different stirrup length, there are a few rules you can use to judge the best length. From the ground, grab the stirrup with one hand and place it under your armpit while placing your other hand against the topmost part of the stirrup leather (where it connects to the saddle).
If the stirrup hits above or below your armpit, it may be either too short or too long, once you’re mounted.
If you’re in the saddle and aren’t sure if the length is right, drop your stirrups. They should hit your ankles when your leg hangs freely.
Can you find a way to put your English stirrups on your Western saddle? Yes, I’m sure you can. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- 8 Best Safety Stirrups for Adults
- Compositi Stirrups Review: I’ve Never Jumped Better
- How Safety Stirrups Work (Pros/Cons, Uses, Features, Brands)
- 10 Best Stirrups for Jumping Clear (and Staying Safe)
- What is it called when you put a saddle on a horse?
- Horseback Riding Safety Equipment That’s Worth Every Penny
- 20 Different Types of Western Riding (with Video Examples)