How to Determine what Stirrup Leathers and Irons You Need

Posted by Mary's Tack & Feed on 30th Apr 2021

How to Determine what Stirrup Leathers and Irons You Need

Stirrups are an essential part of just about any horse tack. Despite how straightforward this piece of equipment appears to be, it actually comes in a number of variations to suit different riding styles and goals. Stirrups also have a direct impact on the rider's position and comfort  while in the saddle, so it's important to know exactly which type is the best fit for your needs.

Typical stirrups feature two main part: stirrup leathers and irons. Let's take a closer look at each to figure out which components you should select for your tack.

What Are Stirrup Leathers?

Stirrup leathers are the straps that connect the stirrup irons to the riding saddle. Most straps can be adjusted to get the proper fit for different riding styles, varying height between different riders or varying horse size when using stirrups on more than one horse. For example, these KL Select Black Oak Riveted Stirrup Leathers adjust with a buckle and pre-punched holes.

What Length Stirrup Leathers Do I Need?

The right stirrup leather length depends on rider height and riding style:

  • Jumping stirrup leathers
    • Adult: 54" (56" for taller adults, 48" to 52" for shorter adults)
    • Children: 48" (42" for younger children)
  • Dressage stirrup leathers:
    • Standard: 60"
    • Tall: 62", 64" or 67"
    • Short: 56" or 58"

Types of Stirrup Leathers

Almost all stirrup leathers have similar adjustable designs, but they can be made of different materials. Some of the most common stirrup leather materials include:

  • Full Leather: Traditional stirrup straps are made of authentic leather. They are easy to clean and durable, though they may stretch a bit over time. You can also add holes for creating a custom length.
  • Nylon Lined with Leather Wrap: Stirrup leathers can be made from nylon webbing. Often, the nylon is wrapped in leather. This type of strap is especially durable and less likely to stretch.
  • Synthetic: Synthetic saddles are often paired with synthetic stirrup leathers.

Besides the materials, there a few common strap widths from which to choose as well: 1", 7/8" and 3/4". While narrowed straps reduce bulk under the leg, wider straps are sturdier, such as these Freejump Classic Wide Leathers. To further reduce bulk under the leg consider a set of leathers that hang single ply from the stirrup bar by adjusting at the stirrup iron end at the bottom. A good example are the equipe mono leathers allowing less bulk and closer contact.

What Are Stirrup Irons?

Stirrup irons are suspended from the bottom of the leathers. They feature a stable base where the foot can be placed while mounting and riding a horse. The base is surrounded by a loop which helps to keep the foot securely in place.

What Size Stirrup Irons Do I Need?

In general, the rule is that your stirrup irons should be one inch wider than the width of your boot at the ball of the foot, giving you a half inch of room on either side when in the stirrup.

Types of Stirrup Irons

There are a few types of stirrup irons from which to choose:

  • Traditional Fillis irons: This is a classic stirrup iron made of stainless steel. A Fillis iron is very durable and sturdy.
  • Quick-release irons: A quick-release stirrup iron has a breakaway feature along the side which prevent the foot from getting caught in the stirrup during fall.
  • Flexible & Composite irons: Some newer designs feature flexion in the side for enhanced flexibility and comfort while riding, such as the Royal Rider Sport Flex Stirrup.  Others are made of a composite material to provide a lightweight iron with a strong base.

Use this guide to make sure you get the best set of stirrup leathers and irons for your riding needs.