All about stirrups

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Treading carefully 

Do you give much thought to your stirrups and irons? Maybe they came with your saddle… or you have simply changed your old irons onto a new saddle, with little thought for whether they suit the style and design of the saddle. And do you regularly check that your stirrup leathers are safe and functional? For most of us, they are a well-used part of our tack and equipment arsenal; but we should pay them more attention.

Your choice of stirrup should depend on your discipline. For example, pleasure riders or endurance riders often like wider stirrups, partly because they may rider in wider boots, but also as they often ride with a longer length, and need the stirrups to take more weight.

Dressage riders generally have a longer, straighter riding position, with a stirrup length that allows the back to become straighter, with the pelvis tilted backwards. The rider’s knee should maintain a bend, as it needs to act as a shock absorber. Dressage riders tend to put more weight into the balls of their feet, as opposed to the heel and ankle – this is because in jumping, the ankle is more of an ‘anchor’, with a closer angle, while in dressage, the leg is longer and closer to the horse’s ‘barrel’.

Products for flatwork

The traditional stirrup iron for flatwork is the stainless steel Fillis; this is also ideal for show riding. It is the predecessor of the more modern stirrup irons available today, for example in aluminium. A good example is Horze’s Standard Stirrups – these are Fillis irons in stainless steel with a rubber inlay – product ID: 16000, sizes 110/120. Accompany these with a traditional stirrup leather – such as Finn-Tack Stirrup Leather, product ID: 16500. These are made from high-quality leather and feature numbered holes. They have solid buckles in stainless steel. Sizes 110-160. Remember that leather is the best choice for stirrup leathers, as it has a tested breaking point, in the event of an accident.

If you’re looking for a more lightweight stirrup iron, why not try Horze’s Aluminium Stirrups, product ID: 16085 – these feature an anti-slip rubber on the foot plates. Sizes 110/120.

Secret weapon

If you need to encourage a better leg position, there’s a secret weapon – Horze’s Slanted Rubber Inlays, product ID: 16730, sizes 110-120. These are sloping inlays made of rubber with a rugged surface for extra grip. Ingeniously, they encourage the rider to put more weight into the outside of the ball of the foot – the wider ‘wedge’ is placed to the inside of the iron. We were all taught to ‘keep our heels down’ but actually the secret to an effective lower leg is to keep the weight in the ball of your foot, specifically to the outside. These treads allow the rider to wrap their legs around the horse and maintain a stiller, more effective position. Ideally, they are used as a training aid and once your position has improved, you can revert to standard stirrup treads.

The showjumper or XC enthusiast sits further towards the back of the saddle than the dressage rider, and keeps the legs in a more forward position, with shorter stirrups. Too-long stirrups may cause the rider to balance on the horse’s neck or reins. If you engage in activities that could increase the risk of falling, why not try Horze’s S-Shaped Safety Stirrups, product ID: 16030 – these are S-shaped stainless steel safety stirrups with rubber inlays, size 120 only. The foot comes out of the stirrup more easily than with traditionally shaped irons.

S-Shaped Safety Stirrups

Quick-release stirrup irons have been developed over the years with a hinge or elastic insert on the outside edge of the iron that’s designed to pop open and free the foot, in the event of a fall. A good example is the Peacock Safety Stirrups w/Rubber Donut, product ID: 16020 – these have rubber bands that release if the rider’s foot gets trapped – they feature a rubber inlay. Sizes 110/120.

One of the most innovative safety stirrups around is the Foot Saver Stirrup from Horze, product ID: 16012 – sizes 110-120. These worldwide-patented stirrups boast a heavy magnet and coil system that helps to prevent the foot from getting caught in the stirrup iron when falling. They are stainless steel with rubber inlay.

As a general rule, you should have half an inch space on each side of your foot in a stirrup iron – this will allow the foot to come out more easily in the event of an accident. Remember, with too-wide irons, your foot may move around too much. When choosing, measure your widest riding boots to make sure they fit in the stirrup; and if other people ride your horse, measure their widest boots too!

Horze has a wide range of stirrup irons, leathers and treads available. Visit for details.

Horze have a team of experienced riders, trainers and equestrian journalists who shared their knowledge and expertise through this blog.

  • dumguy

    can you say how many holes in your stirupes from flatwork to jumping?