Should you stand up in the stirrups to help your horse pee?
Yes. And also no. This really boils down to a few things, which may be best for your horse. But for different reasons and also some of the same reasons. And lots of myths to bust here. You’re welcome for the vague answers and confusion, let’s clear it up.
As a kid, I learned that you should stand in the stirrups while your horse is urinating to take pressure off the kidneys. Let’s blow this one up, shall we?
- The photo below shows the approximate location of the kidneys (K) and the bladder (B) of Miguel. Thanks, Migs, for showing us the stance. The kidneys are not symmetrical in your horse’s body, but they are roughly in the same area when looking at them from the side.
- The kidneys are not just under the skin of your horse. They are under the spine and the last bits of rib. They are also under a giant and thick muscle called the longissimus dorsi. And also many layers of sub-dermal fat.
- And, most importantly for the sake of argument for this article, most saddles are in front of the kidneys. Even large western saddles. Your vet is able to palpate the kidneys during a rectal exam. This is not because your horse’s rectum heads skyward, it’s because his kidneys are that low.
The kidneys serve to filter the blood, this process occurs 24/7.
- The waste products from the kidney travel to the bladder, which gets full and needs to be emptied during urination. The bladder does the storage of urine. The bladder expands and contracts as urine collects and is released. The BLADDER does the peeing. Not the kidneys.
- If there was even an organ in your horse where pressure could be felt by him, it’s the bladder. Ever been driving and you just can’t wait to get to a restroom and the seat belt is squishing in? That’s your bladder, not your kidneys.
- Can we be squishing or putting pressure on your horse’s bladder when we ride? Probably not, due to the location of your horse’s bladder.
If we needed to stand in our stirrups to alleviate pressure to the kidneys which are under bone, fat, and muscle while your horse is peeing, we should be doing that the entire time we are riding.
- But we don’t, and this myth of taking pressure off the kidneys while your horse is peeing is BUNK.
- I did leave my veterinarian a message about this, to which she responded “WHAT” in a partially sarcastic and partially quizzical voice. I explained, and she confirmed the location of the kidneys and bladder, what they are under, the relationship to the saddle, and what their actual job is.
- I then also had to explain why I was asking, and what really is my actual job. I had no concrete definition of my job for her. I barely know on most days.
Let’s talk about the stance your horse takes during urination.
- It’s often described as a parked-out stance. His hind legs go out behind, and his front legs stretch forward. There may be a tilt to the pelvis as well as muscles move around to allow for urination. Clearly the spine and back are hollowing out, as well.
- There is a school of thought out there that addresses this parked-out stance. We should stand in the stirrups to make him more comfortable when he’s parked out. This might make our horses more comfortable as their backs hollow, and might make it easier for them to reposition their legs back under themselves again when they are done urinating.
- There is a significant shifting of their legs and body position for urination, shouldn’t we just help them out a bit? Just as our bodies move and change shape to allow them to jump things under us, the same can be said for shifting our bodies when they are parked out.
What this really boils down to is that you should do what works best for your horse if he pees under you. But let’s get rid of the whole “taking pressure off the kidney’s thing”.