10 Helpful Tips to Keep Your Stirrups in Canter – Joyful Equestrian

How to Hold Your Clips in the Canter

You keep losing your stirrups on the dial and want a solution.


You have an idea why you keep losing your stirrups when hunting, but you’re not sure what to do about it.

Need some real handy tips on how to keep your stirrups on track.

Does that sound like you?

If you’re not clear on why you might be losing your stirrups on the dial, be sure to check out my blog post on 7 Reasons Why You’re Losing Your Stirrups While Cantering.

In this blog post I’ll do my best to give you some helpful tips to help you maintain your stirrups when you’re shimmying.

How to stop losing stirrups in Canter?

First determine why you are losing your fasteners so that as you try to fix this problem you know why it is happening.


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

Try the tips that make the most sense for you first. Then, if you’re still struggling, try the others.

10 Tips to help you keep your stirrups while having fun

1. Adjust the length of your stirrup

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

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


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

2. Make sure you have equal weight on both stirrups

If you have no weight on the stirrups, it’s easy for your feet to slide in or right out of them.

If you don’t have the same weight on both fasteners, it will be too easy for the leg that isn’t as weighted to come off the stirrup.

Start by making sure the saddle is over the horse’s middle and the girth is secure. Sometimes when you mount the girth loosens because the horse has bloated.

So check the perimeter for the 3rd time after walking a bit.

Next make sure your stirrups are even.

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

When the stirrups are still, focus on resting the different parts of your body. Shoulders level, hips level and feeling for the same weight on both fasteners. You may need to stretch a stiff leg so you can stretch more.

3. Correct the driving position

This applies to smoothness in your body on both sides and head-to-toe alignment.

I mentioned the chair seat you want to avoid.

There is also a squat where your legs come back and your upper body comes 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, your hips balanced over your feet.

Be careful not to be stiff and tense trying to hold your riding position, because even though 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 are under pressure, they instinctively pull their legs. Either go for the fetal position or grab the horses sides in hopes of getting stuck.

This can lift your legs right off the staples.

Instead, you want to think of your legs as stretching up to the stirrup. Make sure you don’t lock your knee and ankle joints in trying to lengthen your legs.

You want elastic joints with a bend in your knee that lets your heels sink. Remember the ankle elastic band, don’t push your heels down.

5. Understand how the horse moves in Canter

If you understand how the horse moves during the canter, the movement you feel while riding it will make more sense to you.

The canter is a 3 beat walk.

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


You can see that the canter has an up and down roll compared to the trot which is flatter.

Not to mention the trot has no suspension and bounce!

When you cane it’s like riding a wave that goes up and down all the time, or like you’re swinging on a swing.

If you can visualize this movement while riding, it will make it easier for you to learn to move with the horse.

Here’s another video on how the horse canter and how it feels from Basic Horse Training on YouTube:

6. Learn to move with The Horse’s Canter

Once you can imagine the horse’s roll movement, it’s time to learn to move with the horse.

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


You can’t just sit there and do nothing. You have to move with the horse’s movement so you don’t bounce.

Your seat and legs should move with the wave or swing of the horse’s roll.

Aspire Equestrian has a good suggestion below:

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

–Aspire Equestrian

Make sure that when you move with the horse, your shoulders and head are still, while your hips move with the horse.


It helps separate your body from your chest. Above it is stationary and below it moves with the horse. Except for the arms that will follow the horses mouth.

Sitting the Canter by Basic Horse Training στο YouTube:

7. Exercise: Legs apart method to release the grip

Feet apart will help release your grip if you tend to grab the canter with your feet.

As we now know snagging is a major cause of losing your binders on the hunt.

Caution: Make sure you are on a horse that is not overly sensitive to leg movement.

If you are a little nervous to try it right away on the hunt, you can start practicing this exercise in the seat or even while walking.

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

Ask yourself:

  • Are your legs stretching?
  • Are your knees starting to pinch?
  • Does it catch you?
  • Are your legs starting to lift off the stirrups?

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

Your legs can immediately return to the horse’s sides.

You are likely to lose a stirrer when you do this at first. But the point is to train yourself not to get caught.

Every time you catch, take your feet off for a moment, even if it’s just for a second.


Be careful not to kick your horse when your legs come back to your horse’s sides.

When you do this exercise, you take away your ability to catch and you have to rely on your balance.

You can ride the horse’s strides simply by balancing on your seat bones that you don’t need to grip to stay on.

Of course you have to move your hips correctly with the horse and stay upright.

8. Exercise: Identify and release unwanted tension

This exercise not only helps you be more relaxed in the hunt, but helps you become more aware of where you are transferring tension.

Start the exercise by walking. Move into the trot, then jog as you feel ready.

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

You just know some areas to use your muscles. Like your core muscles that stabilize your torso.

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


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

You may need to repeat the same areas over and over again for a while if the tension returns. Just be patient and you will start to feel more flexible, relaxed and better able to move with your horse.

9. Exercise: Strike your heels with elastic ankles

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

First be able to count the beats in each step.


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

Beat 1 is when the rear hits the ground.

Beat 2 is when the diagonal pair hits the ground.

Beat 3 is when the front forefoot hits the ground.

Then you can practice hitting your heel on each step 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’s Tash from Your Riding Success explaining it in her YouTube video:

10. Exercise: Alternate between semi-sitting and sitting

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

I’m putting this exercise last because it might be the hardest. Not that it’s really too hard or anything, just that it’s harder than the others I think.

The exercise is quite simple every 3 strides change from sitting in your basic riding position to half sitting position.


Every time you go up into the half seat, you’ll be taking weight off the saddle and putting it on your legs and stirrups.

Let your weight fall down into your foot, your heels bend down but spring. 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 feet too far back in the half seat, your upper body falls forward.

To stay balanced you need to have your foot under you in the right place. It will help you find the correct foot position and then try to maintain it as you constantly change positions.


If you have difficulty with foot position. Try this exercise by walking and pulling first, then move on to the canter.