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One of my biggest fears when it comes to horses isn’t falling off, but falling off and getting dragged along behind. This is particularly true for Scottie who is a panicker when we do part company. Touch wood, I have never experienced this but it is still always in the back of my mind.
Because it is something that has always played on my mind, I am picky about my footwear and stirrup combination. We should all know that we should ride in a shoe with a heel. The reason for this is that if your foot slips forward, the heel should stop your foot sliding through the stirrup and you getting stuck.
This means that you shouldn’t be riding in trainers, dolly shoes or lots of wellies which don’t have a heel! But if you are an instructor or a horsey parent, you sometimes do end up getting on a horse when you weren’t expecting to. Because of this, it’s not just your footwear what is important, but also your stirrups.
While I would be lying if I said I have never ridden in trainers, we’ve all done it! But I have only ridden in them with safety stirrups. There are lots of types of safety stirrup available. The main ones I remember growing up were very effective, but not the nicest to look at.
The Original Safety Stirrups
Elastic Bands (Peacock)
One of the ones I remember using the most were the ones with elastic bands on the outside. These were great because even if your foot slipped forward, the elastic band would pop off and your foot would be free. Unfortunately, I also found that sometimes if I wasn’t perfectly balanced over a fence, my foot would move slightly in the stirrup, popping and sometimes snapping the band. Which while it’s good as it shows they are working, is really annoying to have to do back up several times in a ride.
Another popular design I see especially for children are toe cages on the front of the stirrups. This cage stops your foot from sliding through the stirrup. I have used these when riding in New Zealand, which was great as I hadn’t packed my riding boots!
These stirrups have a slight forward facing wave on the outside, giving your foot more space to slide out in the result of a fall. They aren’t quite as safe as the other two, but they look much better.
Modern Safety Stirrups
In recent years a few more safety stirrups have appeared on the market.
Stirrups with flexible joints have become quite popular in recent years with the main selling point being that they can be more supportive. But most also claim that in the event of a fall where you foot gets stuck, the joint snaps.
However, depending on the brand, you hear of some joints breaking with regular use, especially jumping. Or in the strong brands, they do not break if your foot is stuck in a fall. So while I like them as a stirrup design, I wouldn’t buy them for safety.
A brand who has done a very good job of marketing their safety stirrups is FreeJump. Designed with jumping in mind, most of the FreeJump range features a flexible outer branch what can bend to allow your foot to get free in the event of a fall.
However, you may have seen that there have been a few cases over the years where the stirrup has snapped off during professional show jumping competitions, causing at least one fall.
Magnetic Alternative from Ophena
These stirrups have been appearing on my social media for a while now and they have really interested me. They have a completely open outside and work with a magnetic insole to stick to your foot. Not only is there no risk of your foot becoming stuck in a fall, but the magnets also means you shouldn’t lose your stirrup and then struggle to get it back.
How they look
I think they look incredible. They come in a few different colour options, but I think the silver ones look really smart. While they do look very different to other things on the market, I don’t think they would look out of place at a competition at all.
Each pair of stirrups comes with a pair of insoles. The magnetic insoles come in 15 different sizes and should fit into most riding boots without a problem. I did wonder if you rode in boots with thick soles whether this would effect them at all. As in winter I quite like to ride in my warm yard boots! But they haven’t had any feedback about them not working with certain boots.
Not only do you not have to worry about losing your stirrup, even in the rain! But these stirrups can actually improve your position. The tilted head and positioning of the magnets on the insole should place your leg in the perfect position, which should also increase leg stability.
If you ride a few horses, it can be a pain to keep swapping stirrups over or pricey to have multiple pairs. But part of their design includes a quick attach feature where you don’t have to remove the stirrup leathers, just unbuckle and slide on and off. So you can quickly swap them between horses if needed.
Where you can use them
Unfortunately, they aren’t allowed in all competitions. They are currently approved by FEI Show Jumping (and British Showjumping), but not Dressage or Eventing. It’s not clear if they are allowed in the show jumping phase or not of eventing. This is a bit of a shame, but I do think that Show Jumping is probably the best discipline for them.
I also think they are perfect for young or green horses at home and out hacking. While they are expensive if you can’t compete in them, I think if you do a lot of hacking or working with green horses at home, then they are worth the investment. I’m seriously considering a pair for myself, the only thing holding me back is I promised myself not to buy any new tack until Scottie is back in full work.