When I was learning to ride all the ponies at the riding school had safety stirrups. In fact, none of us dreamed of riding without our peacock rubbered stirrups. When I progressed onto my first youngster I was told to buy bent-leg stirrups. The adult version of safety stirrups. This has stayed with me and my jump saddle has bent-leg irons on still, whilst I`ve moved on to plain stainless steel stirrups for my dressage saddle.
However, I`ve noticed during my career that most riding schools don`t use safety stirrups anymore, mostly having plain irons and plastic stirrups for toddlers. That, and the evolution of flexi-irons, has led to the demise of safety stirrup irons, and it was only when a young client told me that she needed them for Pony Club that I realised safety stirrups were now an outdated item of tack.
Traditional peacock safety stirrups should have the rubbers on the outside, so that if the rider was to fall off the elastic pings off and their foot comes out the stirrup safely, so they do not get dragged. To ensure that the stirrup is on the correct way round the rubber should be nearest the horse`s shoulder when the stirrups are run up. However, the design is only suitable for lightweight riders because the weight of the foot is only supported on one side of the stirrup iron and can break if used by an adult. When using peacock safety stirrups it is important to keep spare peacock rubbers and leathers to hand as they are liable to ping off, or perish. For that reason it is also important to check for cracks in the rubber every time tack is cleaned.
The adult version of safety stirrups are bent legs, with the bend on the outside of the iron and facing forwards. Only when they are on correctly can the foot easily escape the stirrup in case of emergency. When the stirrup is run up on the saddle the bend should face into the saddle, and be closest to the horse`s shoulder.
Nowadays stirrups come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and have different purposes – some help stop the foot going too far through the iron, whilst some help the rider balance, and others are flexible to help stiff ankles or knees. Personally, I`m still a big fan of stainless steel, safety or plain stirrups depending on the discipline – I would never go cross country in non safety stirrups!
What stirrups do other people use, and why? What makes your decision – is it comfort, fashion, style or purpose? And more improtantly, does it affect your riding?