Stirrups as we know them today were originally developed in China during the Jin Dynasty, their invention improved the skill set of the mounted warrior and quickly spread to armies all over the world. Stirrups were commonly forged out of iron, leading to the commonly used term- Stirrup Irons. Materials have changed but stirrups still improve our ability to mount our horses and help us balance and feel secure in the saddle. There are many different types and styles of stirrups, the set that is right for you depends on your riding style and a few key features. If you are planning to enter the show ring make sure you check the rules and guidelines of your organization before you make your stirrup choice. Here are a few examples of the main classes of stirrups.
Fillis Stirrup Irons are a traditional choice for many types of riding, in and out of the show ring. They are made of stainless steel and have a rubber pad to increase traction.
Peacock Stirrups are also made of stainless steel with a rubber foot pad. These stirrups have an elastic band on outside of the stirrup. This band will break under pressure from the riders foot if needed. These stirrups are a good choice for anyone, but are a common choice of beginner riders. As technology advances there are several other options for safety stirrups, some using magnets to allow the outer branch of the stirrup to release under pressure.
Flexible stirrups have inset pieces in the stirrup branches, usually coated in rubber. They allow for movement in the stirrup branches making them flexible. There are quite a few options in this stirrup category, but one of the universal benefits is softening the impact on the riders ligaments and joints.
Not all stirrups are made of stainless steel – both English and Western stirrups are now made in a variety of materials. Composite stirrups are made of a polymer, making them extremely light weight. They can be used in many types of riding but are a great choice for riders concerned with limiting the weight of their gear. This particular option comes with both rubber and metal “cheese grater” foot pads. Aluminum is a popular metal choice for stirrups, it weighs less than stainless steel but provides a traditional metal look.
Many of the above stirrup choices come with offset or adjustable eye options. The eye is the portion of the stirrup for the stirrup leather to loop through. Angling the eye of the stirrup will allow the stirrup leather to lie flat against the horse’s side. This can relieve pressure in the riders joints and also make the stirrup easier to retrieve if it is lost. In western stirrups the entire stirrup can be slanted, the goal of relieving stress in the rider’s joints.
When you have made your stirrup choice the next decision you need to make is size. You should have about ½ inch on either side of you boot, between the boot and the stirrup bars. If you ride in a variety of boot types make sure you take each into account.
Good luck with your stirrup shopping! If you have any questions about stirrups or anything other products that are part of our selection, our Customer Care Team will be happy to help you find what you need.