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10 Helpful Tips To Keep Your Stirrups In The Canter

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We've gathered the best exercises to improve your stirrup control in the canter. From Legs Away Method to Stamp Your Heels Down, find your perfect fit and enhance your equine riding experience.

How To Keep Your Stirrups In The Canter

You keep losing your stirrups at the canter and you want a solution.

You have an idea of why you keep losing your stirrups when you canter but you are not sure what to do about it.

You need some actual useful tips for how to keep your stirrups in the canter.

Does this sound like you?

If you are not clear on why you might be losing your stirrups at the canter be sure to check out my blog post about the 7 reasons why you lose your stirrups while cantering.

In this blog post I am going to do my best to give you some helpful tips that will help you keep your stirrups when you canter.

How To Stop Losing Stirrups In Canter?

First determine why you are losing your stirrups, so as you are trying to fix this problem you know why it is happening.

Then use try out the tips on this page. Some tips may apply better to you and your situation more than others.

Try the tips that make the most sense for you first. Then if your still struggling try the others as well.

10 Tips To Help Keep Your Stirrups While Cantering

1. Adjust Your Stirrup Length

If your stirrups are too short this will usually put you into a chair seat position. This is where your legs are out in front of you as if you are sitting in a chair. More weight goes into your bum and less in your feet.

If your stirrups are too long, you will pretty much be on your tippy toes and it will be easy to lose your stirrups if you squeeze the horses sides.

Find your ideal stirrup length, with your legs hanging down out of the stirrups. The bottom of the stirrup should touch your ankle bone.

2. Make Sure You Have Equal Weight In Both Stirrups

If you don’t have weight in the stirrups it is easy for your feet to slide around in them or right on out of them.

If you don’t have equal weight on both stirrups it is going to be really easy for the foot that is not as weighted to come out of the stirrup.

Start off by making sure the saddle is in the middle of the horse and the girth is secure. Sometimes when you get on the girth becomes loose because the horse was bloating.

So check the girth a 3rd time after you have walked around a little bit.

Next make sure your stirrups are even.

It is possible your legs could be uneven. Although more correctly your hips are probably out of alignment.

When stirrups are even focus on evening out the different parts of your body. Shoulders level, hips level and feel for the equal weight in both stirrups. You may have to stretch a stiff leg to be able to reach down more.

3. Fix Your Riding Position

This applies to the evenness in your body on both sides and the alignment head to feet.

I mentioned the chair seat which you want to avoid.

There is also perching where your legs come back and your upper body tips forward, with more weight on the front of your pelvis.

You want to be vertical from the ground. Your head balanced over your shoulders balanced over you hips balanced over your feet.

Be careful not to get stiff and tense trying to hold your riding position, because although this is the basic riding position, you need to be flexible and fluid to move with the horse.

4. Lengthen Your Legs

Many times when riders get tense they draw up their legs instinctively. Whether that is to go toward fetal position or to grip the horses sides in the hopes to hang on.

This can lift your feet right out of the stirrups.

Instead you want think about your legs stretching down to the stirrup. Make sure you don’t lock your knee and ankle joints in the effort of lengthening your legs.

You want supple joints with a bend in your knee letting your heels sink down. Remember supple springy ankle, don’t force your heels down.

5. Understand How The Horse Moves In The Canter

If you understand how the horse moves when cantering, the motion you feel while riding it, will make more sense to you.

The canter is a 3 beat gait.

1-2-3 1-2-3 1-2-3 1-2-3.

Here is a video from YouTube so you can see the canter in slow motion. It also shows the trot a 2-beat gait as well.

Video from: Osteo 4animals

You can see that the canter has a rolling up and down motion compared to the trot which is more level.

Not to say the trot doesn’t have suspension and bounce!

When you canter it’s like you are riding a wave coming up and going down continuously or like swinging on a swing.

If you can picture this motion while you ride, it’s going to make it easier to learn to move with the horse’s canter.

Here is another video on how the horse moves at canter and what it feels like by Basic Horse Training on YouTube:

6. Learn To Move With The Horse’s Canter

Once you can picture the motion of the horse’s canter, it’s now time for you to learn to move with the horses canter.

If you sit in the canter and try to stay tall and relaxed, you are still going to bounce and probably lose a stirrup or both. Unless the horse has a really smooth canter.

You can’t just sit there and do nothing. You need to move with the horse’s motion in order to not bounce.

Your seat and legs need to move with the wave or swing of the horse’s canter.

Aspire Equestrian has a good quote below :

 …try feeling the swing as it happens by relaxing all the muscles around your knees and allowing the lower leg to follow the movement of the ribcage – let your legs “breathe” with your horse.

Aspire Equestrian

Make sure when you move with the horse’s canter your shoulders and head are still whiles your hips move with the horse.

It helps to thing of separating your body from about your chest. Above that is still and below that moves with the horse. Except for the arms which will be following the horses mouth.

Sitting the Canter by Basic Horse Training on YouTube:

7. Exercise: Legs Away Method To Release Grip

Legs away will help to release your grip if you tend to grip at the canter with your legs.

As we now know gripping is a major cause for losing your stirrups at the canter.

Caution: Make sure you are on a horse that isn’t overly sensitive to leg movement.

If you are a little nervous to try this right off in the canter you can start practicing this exercise at the sitting trot or even the walk.

What you want to do is become aware and pay attention to your legs especially your inner thighs.

Ask yourself:

  • Are your legs getting tense?
  • Are you starting to pinch with your knees?
  • Are you gripping?
  • Are your legs starting to rise up out of the stirrups?

If you answer yes to any of these questions or it’s even a maybe… kick your legs away from the horse’s sides from your hips. So both your legs fully come off the saddle and your weight goes into your seat bones.

Your legs can come immediately back down to the horse’s sides.

It’s possible you could lose a stirrup when you practice this at first. But the point is to train yourself to not grip.

Any time you grip take your legs off for a moment, even just a second.

Be careful not to kick your horse when your legs come back onto your horses sides.

When you do this exercise you are taking away your ability to grip and must rely on your balance.

You can ride the horse’s gaits just balancing on your seat bones you don’t need to grip in order to stay on.

Of course you need to move your hips properly with the horse as well and stay upright.

8. Exercise: Locate And Release Unwanted Tension

This exercise not only helps you to be more relaxed in the canter but helps you to become more aware of where you carry tension.

Start the exercise in the walk. Move to the trot and then canter as you feel ready.

Go through your body and try to find areas where you feel tense.

Just know some areas that you should be using your muscles. Such as your core muscles which stabilize your torso.

For this exercise we are talking about getting rid of unwanted tension.

When you find a spot of tension imagine letting it go in that spot and releasing it. Then look by feeling for the next spot of tension.

You may have to repeat over the same areas again and again for a while if the tension comes back. Just be patient and you will start to feel more supple, loose and better able to move with your horse.

9. Exercise: Stamp Your Heels Down With Supple Ankles

This exercise helps you to move your legs with the horse in the canter and keep weight in your stirrups.

First be able to count the beats in each stride.

Your horse moves in the canter with the 3 beats. 1-2-3.

Beat 1 is when the hind hits the ground.

Beat 2 is when the diagonal pair hits the ground.

Beat 3 is when the leading front leg hits the ground.

Then you can practice stamping your heel every stride on beat 1. The first beat of the 3 beat stride.

1-stamp-2-3… 1-stamp-2-3… 1-stamp-2-3… 1-stamp-2-3…

Here is Tash from Your Riding Success explaining it in her YouTube video:

10. Exercise: Alternate Between Half Seat & Sitting

This exercise helps to work on your balance, your leg position, and getting weight into the stirrups.

I put this exercise last because it may be the most difficult one to do. Not that it is really too hard or anything, just that it is harder than the others I think.

The exercise is simple enough every 3 strides change from sitting in your basic riding position into your half seat position.

Every time you go up into half seat you are going to be taking weight out of the saddle and putting it into your legs and stirrups.

Let your weight go down your leg your heels flex down but have springs. Be careful not to push your legs forward or let your legs swing forward.

If your legs swing forward you are more likely to fall back into the saddle and land hard on the horse’s back.

Alternatively if you grip with your knees and have your legs too far back in half seat, your upper body with fall forward.

To stay balanced you need to have your leg under you in the right spot. It will help to find the correct leg position and then try to keep it as you continually change positions.

If you struggle with leg position. Try this exercise in walk and trot first and then move on to the canter.


Now that you have some ideas for ways to start keeping your stirrups while you canter, pick 2 or 3 of them to try out.

You don’t need to do them all. You just need to keep trying until you find what works for you. So again it is a good idea to first know why you are losing your stirrups.

Then choose the previous tips that you think will most help you.

I wanted to share this with you because I want you to have confidence and fun when you canter. I know it can be nerve racking and frustrating but don’t give up you will get this.

Comment Down Below:

Let us all know down in the comments. Which of these tips are you going to try out?

Cheers, Kacey

P.S. If you would like some other articles to read on improve your riding at the canter check out the following blog posts.

Keep Your Stirrups While Cantering

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Disclaimer Notice: Please be aware that horseback riding and related equestrian activities carry inherent risks. The advice and experiences shared on this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional training or advice. Ensure your safety and that of your horse by wearing appropriate gear, practicing safe horse handling, and consulting with certified equestrian professionals. Remember, each horse is unique, and techniques may vary accordingly. Always prioritize safety, respect, and patience in your equestrian endeavors.

Kacey Cleary Administrator
Kacey has been an equestrian since 1998. She was a working student at several eventing and dressage barns. She has owned horses, leased horses, and trained horses. Kacey received an A.S. in Equine Industries from UMass Amherst, where she rode on the dressage team. She was certified with the ARIA and is licensed to teach riding in MA. She has been a barn manager and has run her own horse farm.
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