Since I am a father of five often times I find my self wondering about the safety of the objects, stirrups for example, are they really that safe?
Stirrups can become a danger when the rider falls from the horse and is unable to remove his or her foot from the stirrup. This can cause serious injury and even death. Each year 350 injuries per year are reported involving a riders foot being caught in the stirrup.
So there is some risk involved in using a stirrup. Why don’t we just ride bareback everywhere like the Boti did in 3500B.C.? Although the Boti people may be the first known to ride horses; the first known saddle was around 700B.C. We went quite some time without saddles or stirrups!
Why do we use stirrups? Is bareback finally cool again?!
If stirrups might be considered unsafe why do we use them?
A stirrup’s main purpose is to increase rider stability. Additionally, they are used as an aid for initially mounting the horse.
The first known stirrup was actually created by the Chinese however it was not originally intended to help improve stability, it was actually used only as a mounting aid.
In fact, the invention of the stirrup is thought of by many historians as one of the greatest inventions in warfare. The improved stability provided by the stirrup allows for much greater maneuverability while riding horseback.
The riding that I typically do, rather most enjoy doing, is trail riding. Depending on the trail it can actually be quite difficult to stay on your saddle even with the help of a stirrup. It would take a much better rider to see some of the sights I’ve seen without the help of the saddle.
Whether or not you choose to use a saddle and stir up may just come down to your style of riding. Most shows have rules that actually require the use of the stirrup. Some even dictate which stirrup you can use. In other cases, you may just be put into a different class than riders using a saddle and stirrup.
Can you ride without stirrups?
After a few too many years riding down steep slopes as a kid has led to my knees hurting after a long ride. To help with this I’ve actually taken to letting my feet dangle while I write on trails.
You can ride without actually using your stirrups; however, you shouldn’t remove them completely. In the event of your horse rearing while your riding you can slip your feet back into the stirrups and have a much better chance of remaining on the saddle.
You certainly can ride using a saddle and not use your stirrups; and this may be a good solution for you; however, if you do this regularly you may want to consider learning to ride bareback. Setting up a saddle is a ton of work.
If you chose to ride bareback you will lose some benefits that your saddle provides. A place to hook on saddle bags for instance or even something as simple as using the stirrups for mounting and dismounting your horse.
What are safety stirrups?
Saftey stirrups are designed to prevent your foot from being caught in the stirrup during an emergency. This is one of the most common causes of injury involving a horse and a stirrup.
Safety stirrups come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some have mechanical release mechanisms while some English stirrups are only closed in on one side.
One of the most basic style of safety stirrup, commonly known as the peacock stirrup, simply replaces the outer edge of the stirrup with a strap or rubber band this allows the rider to easily remove their foot from the stirrup.
One of the most interesting and revolutionary safety straps available are the Ophena Magnetic Stirrup. The stirrups are open on one side to allow your foot to move freely away. The cool part about these is that you actually put in insole in your boot and the stirrups will magnetically stick to your shoe.
What stirrups should I avoid so that I can keep my life?
There is some thought that certain materials to make stirrups are safer than others. For example, I have heard on multiple occasions that aluminum stirrups are unsafe.
The theory is that in the event of your horse rolling over, that the stirrup would crush and in turn crush your foot if it happened to still be inside the stirrup.
I spent quite a bit of time researching this and I was unable to find any instance around the web where this actually happened to someone.
I did what any sane person would do and I dug even deeper. I started researching the actual crushing strength of the various materials. I was able to find stirrups made from wood, steel, aluminum, and iron.
Wood stirrups are mostly found in western style stirrups. In fact, I believe they are one of the most common materials found. I wasn’t able to find any data on these crushing either. As a hobby woodworker, I can safely say that wooden rings are not very strong, so I would say that these are the least likely to protect your foot from being crushed.
Steel Stirrups and Aluminium Stirrups are going to be far stronger than any wooden stirrup. But which one is most likely to protect your foot?
I was able to find an awesome channel on youtube that quickly turned into a distraction writing this article. The channel is dedicated to crushing things on a hydraulic press. What they found is that pure steel is about twice as strong as aluminum. In the video, they are using solid cylinders so it doesn’t exactly correlate; however, the force needed in the video is many times over the weight of a horse. It’s a hard thing to say without actually crushing some stirrups.
BE WARNED THESE VIDEOS CAN BE ADDICTIVE!
Although we may call them stirrup “Irons,” Iron stirrups are not seen too often in today’s market. Iron is a very heavy metal and manufacturers seem to have moved towards steel or aluminum.
Unfortunately, I have to say that all in all the results of my research were fairly inconclusive. I think that one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself is to wear a proper boot so that you can easily remove your foot in the event of emergency.
Another important factor to this is actually stirrup the sizing. Most of the time a pair of stirrups will only be sold in one size so if you’re buying online you may need to return them if your shoes fit snugly.
What really are the safest stirrups?
A lot of this decision is going to come down to personal preference as well as your budget. I was able to find safety stirrups anywhere from $15 all the way up to almost $600!
Picking just one “best” safety stirrup isn’t an easy process. In the end a lot of this is going to come down to personal preference.
In the western space there are not nearly as many options for safety stirrups as there are in the english space. This is probably due to the fact that most western stirrups are already quite oversized and western boots are specifically designed to release the foot.
However, the Free Ride Western Safety Stirrup is widely regarded as one of the best safety stirrups in the western space.
They work much like a traditional english safety stirrup where one side of the stirrup is designed to release in the event of an accident.
An added bonus is that they will monogram the side of your stirrup for FREE when you place an order.
You can also designate part of your purchase to go towards a charity they seem like awesome people in general.
These stirrups also have a lifetime warranty on the stirrup body, if it breaks they will replace it or send you a new set!
English safety stirrups have been around now for quite a while, and as a result they have gotten a bit more technically advanced over the western alternatives.
Since I’m not any sort of english rider I had to do a ton of research; however, based on YOUR reviews and hours of videos the best safety stirrup for english riders is from a company called Ophena.
They took the process to a new level with their magnetic stirrup! These actually magnetically stick to your boot via an included insole. Super cool!
From what I’ve read these are legal in most shows and are available in just about any sizes. As these are made in Sweden though you will need to look up your EU shoe size.
The magnets in the stirrup actually hold to your foot when doing things like jumping which help you to stay in the saddle and pretty much never lose your footing.
Now I just need to get them to make a western style 😉