I Got Myself New Safety Stirrups

After I fell off Coach last year I realized that getting safety stirrups might be a really good idea. I started looking around at the various types of safety stirrups, some relatively cheap like the Peacock stirrups, and some extremely expensive ($600.00 USD on up.)

I was familiar with Peacock stirrups. While these may be a satisfactory solution for the child rider I had some problems with them as an adult, after using them a while the foot-bed would start sagging down to the rubber band side, the outside of the stirrup. My ankle would break to the outside destroying my lower leg position and making my seat weaker. The Fillis Peacock stirrups were a little more sturdy but all of my problems with Fillis stirrups came back, the horrible foot pain and bruising, and I eventually decided that I could not ride well in them since my body was protecting itself from the pain which sort of destroyed my position in the saddle.

So I had been looking at the various modern alternatives (plus an older alternative the “Foot Free” stirrups with the curved outer branch) but I did not see an alternative that would work for me. I did NOT want stirrup eyes that were twisted around (I had tried the Herm Sprenger Bow Balance Safety stirrups and ended up with a painful bump on my shin bones where the stirrup leather crossed my shins), and that limited my choices somewhat.

So I kept on riding in my beloved double offset Prussian sided Eldonian stirrups with the Comfort Pad. When I fell off my feet had no problem coming out of these stirrups (maybe because my feet were properly heels down) but I decided I would feel safer with stirrups that would still let my feet escape the stirrups. One of my problems with regular stirrups is that my ankles have this distressing tendency to break to the outside and I have to really concentrate to keep my ankle cocked to the inside and my position suffers so I hoped that eventually a safety stirrup would come around that sloped a little bit in the foot-bed.

Some of the modern safety stirrups looked interesting but did not have a sloping foot-bed and I kept looking. I finally ran into the Tech Venice sloped irons which looked promising, except that they cost almost $400.00 USD. Then I found that there were modern safety stirrups that looked interesting but cost hundreds of dollars more without a sloping foot-bed, so I decided to bite the bullet and save up for these irons. The outer branch of these stirrups is hinged at the bottom with a closing spring and connects magnetically to the outside of the stirrup eye, if not kept open the outside branch springs back into place all by itself.

When I saved up enough money I went to my “local” tack store and ordered them. Luckily for me my local tack store is quite willing to order me something carried by one of their suppliers. Since there are several color combinations for these particular stirrups I decided I wanted silver/silver. Well, they were out of stock and I would have to wait over a month for them, so I told the tack store to see if there were any other color combinations available, I just wanted these stirrups.

I ended up with the stirrups with the “silver” colored body and a light metallic blue outer branch, not too garish. The tack store had been given a choice of blue or pink outer branches, they've known me for decades and went ahead and ordered the blue stirrups since they would be less jarring for my sensibilities.

When I got my stirrups they looked HUGE. They are not horribly heavy but the upper part of the stirrup is WAY higher than even my old fashioned stirrups, the bottom of the stirrup is thick, and the grated pad juts up some. These stirrups are labeled left and right, and the branch that opens to release the foot opens to the outside. They run up OK on my Millbrook leathers though I have noticed some light marks on the leather from the grated pads. When run up on the saddle the outside branch of the stirrup ends up next to my knee pads pointing forward. Since the “bell” of these stirrups is so high I went ahead and shortened my stirrups leathers a hole.

The first time I rode in my new stirrups was my lesson on Wednesday on Bingo. Debbie was favorably impressed with these stirrups and she did not seem to mind the blue outer branch at all. She fiddled around with the outer branch, seeing the amount of force needed to open it and seeing that the outer branch opens until it is even with the stirrup's foot-bed. Between the opening outer branch and the high bell of these stirrups there is plenty of room for my feet to escape if and when I fall off again. One of Debbie's granddaughters came up, saw my new stirrups, and immediately wanted a pair for herself, unfortunately the sloped stirrup irons only come in the 4 3/4” width and they are EXPENSIVE. (The Tech company does sell some 4” wide stirrups for children, forty dollars cheaper, which have the same safety features, just not the sloped foot bed.)

When I mounted I noticed that even though I had shortened my stirrup leathers a hole that my legs still wanted them to be half a hole shorter. Since I had been thinking about lengthening my stirrup leathers anyway I decided to let it go, my legs will just have to relax a little more and lengthen!

My feet felt perfectly fine in these stirrups. The slopes of the foot-bed are MUCH less than the slopes on my double offset stirrups, but at least my ankle did not break to the outside, yeah! Debbie noticed that my right lower leg tended to go back more than usual so I still have to work on my lower leg still. My whole body will have to get used to riding in these stirrups, the “geography” of the stirrups feels strange, not bad just a little odd coming from my double offset stirrups, and my feet need to learn the “geography” of these stirrups. The foot-bed is 2” from front to back and with the grated “pads” my feet did not slide around the stirrups at all, in fact it was a little bit hard to adjust where the stirrup was on my feet. I definitely had to lift all the weight off of my feet before I could move the stirrup forward or back on my feet. These stirrups are comfortable to ride in and my feet did not hurt at all on horseback or when I walked around after my lesson, and my feet did not hurt at all the next day.

After my ride Debbie was grousing because my stirrups only came in one width. Being a riding teacher she has spent some scary moments when the kids fall off though no one has ever gotten hung up in a stirrup, so far. We talked about how one of the reasons I spent the money on these stirrups was that if I fell again the insurance company could not claim that I did everything I could to reduce injury (along with my Rider Grips, my RS-tor, the Millbrook stability leathers, my MIPS helmet and in the colder weather my protective riding vest.) It will also help protect Debbie the next time I fall off in that she approved of me riding in safety stirrups in order to minimize any chance of injury, especially when it is too hot for me to wear my protective vest. Later I found out that the Tech company does make 4” wide safety stirrups, but since they are only forty dollars cheaper it will take a good bit of money to equip all of her saddles with these stirrups.

Modern tack that has safety in mind can get expensive. For instance I gave Debbie's riding program my too short for me Millbrook stirrups leathers, and now the saddle that has this pair of stirrup leathers is a favorite with her adult students, some of them do not want to ride in any other saddle at the barn. These leathers are too expensive for her to equip all her saddles with them, which is why I gave her my too short Millbrook stirrup leathers instead of trying to sell them. I just figured they would do more good for more people in Debbie's lesson program, which in many ways is much more fulfilling to me than just selling them.

I never plan to sell my new Tech Venice sloped stirrup irons. They feel so comfortable on my feet, I feel like my whole foot is supported comfortably and I feel much safer using them. I never plan to fall off but I realize that as long as I ride horses falling off is a possibility. At least the next time I won't have to worry about my feet getting hung up in the stirrups.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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