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Western Saddle Guide > Western Saddle How To's > Turn Stirrups

How to Turn Stirrups

Does a long ride leave you with aching knees? Many riders end up with knee pain from fighting to keep their stirrup leathers and fenders turned so that their stirrups hang in the right direction. Learning to turn your stirrups will prevent one of the the most common physical complaints of western riders.

While most custom saddles and a few high quality manufactured saddles come with pre-twisted stirrup leathers, the vast majority of manufactured saddles, unfortunately, come with the stirrups unturned.

A turned stirrup will hang at a 90 degree angle to the fender. An unturned stirrup will hang parallel to the fender. In the photos on this page you can see an example of turned and unturned stirrups.

stirrups stirrups
Unturned Stirrups
Turned Stirrups
When the stirrups are turned, you can easily slip your boot in without having to reach down and hold the stirrup. You also won't have to fight the natural twist of the leathers and fenders, which is what causes the knee pain. There are several stirrups now on the market that are on a swivel and therefore, don't need to be turned. But, there's really no need to buy anything special. You can easily fix the problem with your existing stirrups.

How To Turn Western Stirrups
  1. Place your saddle on a saddle stand

  2. Insert a broomstick, 2x4, or something similar, through each stirrup so that both fenders turn back towards the back of the saddle. This will position the stirrups, stirrup leathers, and fenders into the correct riding position.

    The stick needs to be long enough to go through both stirrups and heavy enough to hold the fenders in place. As you can see from the photo, the broomstick is a bit light and not providing as much turn as we'd like to see.

  3. Periodically, (twice a month or so) oil (pure neatsfeet oil) the fenders prior to inserting the stick. The oil will make the fenders more supple and bendable. Some folks recommend wetting the fenders with water, but we're not a fan of putting excessive water on saddles.

If you make a habit of always storing your saddle with a stick through the stirrups, you'll find that they'll be trained pretty quickly. And your knees will thank you.


Check out the other Western Saddle How-To's:

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