The humble stirrup has come a long way since it was first used in the second century BC. Evidence suggests that the original stirrup was invented in China and quickly spread throughout the horse-riding world.
The stirrup was a significant invention because a rider using stirrups in warfare had a massive advantage over those who did not have them. Riders were much less likely to fall off when fighting and had the ability to balance themselves in order to deliver a heavier blow with a weapon that could use the momentum of the horse and rider at speed.
Nowadays, of course, it’s not about the importance of stirrups in warfare, but the importance of how they can support the rider and keep them safe. We’ve come a long way from the crude stirrups of bone and wood – and although metal stirrups enjoyed centuries of popularity, we’ve entered a new phase where safety is king, and the creation of a correct seat position for every individual can be taken into account. We take a look at a few of the latest stirrups on the market…
Freejump stirrups took the world by storm with their advancement in technology and unique look – the stirrups don’t actually join together under the stirrup leather ‘eye’ like traditional stirrups. They have an open side.
The weight bearing area of a Freejump stirrup is made from a spring steel branch that reduces the shock and impact of the horse’s movement on the rider’s feet and legs. The branch also helps to keep the stirrup balanced and in the correct position without twisting or moving. The less ability to twist or move means more stability for the rider’s footing stable and less chance of losing a stirrup.
The foot bed is non-slip and quite wide which gives the rider a secure leg position as well as taking the pressure off the ball of the foot. The side of the stirrup that points away from the horse is flexible, and will click out should a fall occur so that the rider can free the foot and remove the risk of a rider being dragged. Not only are these stirrups the latest design, they are a good quality plastic which comes in funky colours so you can individualise your look.
Tech Stirrups are safety stirrups that stand out in a range of bright eye catching colours. Made of aluminium, they have the look of a traditional stirrup but without the heavy weight of the iron.
Tech Stirrups have a safety mechanism that allows a section of the stirrup facing away from the horse to open slightly due to applied pressure which will release the rider’s foot should they fall. The open section will also close itself with a spring mechanism, so it can return back to its original state by itself if the rider has fallen or if the rider accidentally put pressure on the area without falling.
These stirrups have a number of design options to choose from depending on discipline, which includes a wide foot bed with patterned grip. The design also incorporates shock absorption in the foot bed, so the rider has increased performance in their legs without the added jarring of the horse’s movement.
Unlike the other stirrups previously mentioned, the Lorenzini stirrup does not have any moving parts to free a rider’s boot should they fall. Instead it relies upon its unique ergonomic triangular design that widens at the foot bed. The emphasis of this stirrup is on a quick foot release in case of a fall.
The shape of the stirrup reduces stress on the rider’s body and increases shock absorption, the design also allows a rider to quickly recover their stirrup and balance if required. The foot bed is wide which takes the pressure off the ball of rider’s foot, allowing secure footing and better rider balance.
Not to be left out, the Lorenzini stirrups are made of titanium and aluminium so that they are strong but they are also lightweight and come in a range of colours with either high gloss, shimmer or matt finishes.
MDC stirrups are very much like the traditional stirrup irons, they look almost identical and they aren’t made of a lightweight material. Their point of difference lies in their multi-pivot point, which is where the stirrup leather can be threaded through.
This pivot point does exactly that, a rider can turn their stirrup iron to a pre-set angle of normal, 45 and 90 degrees which helps stop a rider losing their stirrups, as well as the ability to quickly retrieve a lost stirrup should the foot become dislodged.
MDC stirrups do not turn back against the horse’s side as aggressively as traditional stirrups when lost, which is the primary reason a rider’s foot can get caught during a fall with the potential of being dragged.
The stirrups also have shock absorbing sides that reduce concussion on the foot and legs as well as relieve pain in the ankle, knees, hips and back. The wide foot bed also assists in balance was well as relieving pain on the ball of the riders foot.
While the MDC options don’t have many colour options, they do come in traditional silver and a limited edition black.
Do I need the high tech option?
There are a number of technical stirrups on the market; the ones listed above are just a small sample of what you can purchase for your hard-earned dollar. Most riders don’t need a high-tech stirrup to develop and maintain a good position. A plain stirrup will do just fine most of the time, but for those who compete at a high level, a small adjustment in equipment can often make a significant difference in results.
The technical part comes to the safety area, that either the angle of the stirrup or a mechanism will snap out and allow the foot to become free should a fall occur. The larger foot beds and material that acts as a shock absorber also bring comfort to the table, which is welcome when you’re spending a lot of the time riding horses and want to take some of the jarring out of the ankle, knees and back.
Do technical stirrups actually help you rider better?
This really does vary from rider to rider. All of these stirrups depend on the rider’s personal needs, so one type may suit one equestrian but may not be perfect for another. When it comes down to the stirrup technology, it is thought that the more the stirrup can ‘help’ the rider, the more benefits will be seen in the results.
An example of the stirrup helping a rider is the material from which it is weight. Lightweight means no added pressure and weight to the leg so the rider can move their leg and ankle around the horse’s side without too much restriction. This would benefit a dressage rider due to the fact that their legs need to move freely to issue subtle cues and aides.
Another example is the shock absorbency of the stirrup, which would be beneficial to a cross country or jumping rider who may retain perfect balance even though the movement of the horse may be jarring to their leg, back and ankle – less jarring means the rider has better control over their body which helps their riding. It will also help balance, so ,for example, if a long spot was taken over a large fence it may not mean the shock of hooves hitting the other side will jar the rider and increase the chance of them being thrown out of their saddle.
Which ones should I choose?
Like saddles, stirrups are a very personal choice. Not all stirrups will be the perfect fit for you, so it’s a matter of trying them to see what works for your body. The advancements of technology don’t make the technical stirrups a budget friendly choice as a lot of money is spent on their design and ongoing studies into improvements.
Some companies allow a period to purchase and try the stirrups within a set time frame and if the rider doesn’t like them, they can return them. Not all companies offer this option, but it is peace of mind if you’re dropping a few hundred on some stirrups that you’re unsure will make a difference to your riding.
Another option is to read the reviews of the stirrups that you’re interested in and do your own homework. These can be a big investment, so shop wisely. Choose the stirrups that best suit your budget and are comfortable – also remember that not all stirrups are legal in competition so read your rulebook to ensure your stirrups can be used for their intended purpose.