Safety Stirrups

I’ve come to realise that I have a couple of hang ups when teaching. One is chin straps being tight enough to stop the children talking. I joke. But they mustn’t be able to get the strap in front of their chin as their hat becomes loose. Or spend their time chewing the end of the strap.

My other hang up is stirrups. I hate seeing kids riding in non safety stirrups. I prefer to see adults using them too, particularly when jumping, but I understand that they can make their own informed decision. Kids though, have far less control at keeping their stirrup iron on the ball of their foot, with the iron often getting close to the ankle. So I’d much rather have the option of the foot coming out sideways in an emergency, particularly when jumping.

The traditional peacock stirrups are my usual go to for kids as they are affordable and as soon as pressure is applied to the outside of the stirrup iron the rubber pops off, freeing the foot. Of course there’s always the odd band with a life of it’s own which is forever springing off.

For adults, there’s the bent leg stirrup irons, which I have on my jump saddle. Stronger because they’ve iron on both sides of the foot, the shape means the foot is able to come out easily. I bent a pair once, whilst hacking Matt out. He spooked, slipped on some mud at the side of the lane and fell onto his side. My leg was between him and the tarmac. I survived with just a bruised foot, but the stirrup iron was bent. When a similar incident happened a month later when I was schooling without stirrups my foot had much more of a squash injury.

Anyway, I digress. Bent leg irons are still popular, and I definitely prefer to see my riders in them as opposed to fillis irons.

You may remember a month or so ago Harry Meade had a fall cross country, which resulted in his foot getting caught and he was dragged along. Regardless of his stirrup irons (I have no idea what stirrups he uses so not passing any judgment) if a rider as good as Harry can get their foot stuck in a stirrup it should serve as a warning to all of us. Use safety stirrups!

The two safety stirrups I’m familiar with have been around for donkeys years. Incidentally, did you know that donkey originally rhymed with monkey when it first came into general usage in the 18th century because it derived from the word dun, describing the colour? I.e. It was dunkey, not donkey.

More digression, apologies. Since hearing about Harry Meade’s accident I’ve done some research into safety stirrups on the market now because technology has moved on in recent years and there’s bound to be more modern alternatives which I’d like to be more informed about.

Modern safety stirrups, such as the Acavello or Equipe, have a release mechanism on the outer strut. When pressure is applied to the outside the strut pops out and the foot is released. The strut can then be clicked back into place. Some makes have magnetic clips, others have springs, others have a silicon outer strut. From what I can tell, it’s important to keep the stirrup irons clean and free of grit as this might cause the mechanism to become stuck. And to monitor the condition of any springs or magnets so they don’t weaken and damage the integrity of the product.

I’ve a couple of clients starting to use Acavello safety stirrups, attracted also by their grippy tread, and they certainly seem to have been extensively tested for safety. Definitely some for me to consider when I need new jump stirrups, or am asked for my opinion.

I think in light of Harry Meade’s accident, it’s worth checking our own stirrups. Do they need new treads, peacock rubbers etc? Are they the best design for our foot? Are they the right size for us? Are they safety stirrups?

Uncommon Sense

Please may I let off some steam?


Earlier this week I read, on a coaching forum, about a road traffic accident witnessed by a coach. A girl had been riding her horse past a school at pick up time, and it had spoiled, bolted and crossed the road into an oncoming vehicle. Horrific, I know.

This coach was suggesting that the Riding Road Safety legislation should be altered to explain the possible hazards of hacking near schools.

I was aghast. What is the world coming to? Do we have to spell everything out to everybody? Am I part of the last generation with any common sense?!

I don’t know what part of your brain says, “I know, let’s go for a hack today. Yeah, we’ll go past the primary school… oh, it’s 3pm? Doesn’t matter, it will be fine”

It’s not just your horse that you are stressing and putting at risk by riding in places that are known to be busy at particular times. It’s parked vehicles – do you want to pay for that scratch of the 66 plate BMW that your whip caught? It’s the public themselves – kids run out of school, slam right behind a horse. Horse kicks out in fright. I won’t continue. Parents have an awful habit of pushing prams in front of them as they cross the road – horse spooks, rider falls off, loose horse amongst hundreds of children. 

You get the idea.

We have a bridleway near us that goes alongside the playground and comes out next to the school gates. It’s the ideal length for me to walk with Otis at the moment. But I won’t. Because I walk him out between 7.30 and 8.30am – prime going to school time – and between 3 and 4pm – picking up time. Whilst he is ok passing the playground as I have accidentally ridden it during break time, I don’t want to risk him getting scared by a child and causing an accident, and I don’t see the point in causing more of a traffic jam then there already is with dozens of cars parked on one side of the road and other road users trying to pass them. It’s a weekend route for us, and when I’m riding him again it will be light enough for me to ride that route at 5pm, once everyone has gone home.

I totally understand that you want to ride your horse, and that for some people hacking is limited. Some like to expose their horses to as much as possible, but don’t go looking for trouble! I’m sure you can adjust your day to hack before or after school time – perhaps ride in the morning and muck out after, or even muck out in the afternoon. Or you could change your plans for the day to hack a route that will avoid the school run, or if you have to exercise your horse at that time then lunge or go in the arena. Hack another day!

It strikes me that as much as horse riders play the victim, with fast and rude drivers, we also have a responsibility to keep ourselves safe by avoiding congested routes, not hacking out in fog (don’t even let me get started on this stupid act. I saw someone hacking from the yard a couple of months ago in such a pea souper of a fog I couldn’t see from one end of the arena to the other – a hi-vis does nothing to help you when light doesn’t penetrate the atmosphere) or dangerous ice, dark (another subject not to get me started on), and wear hi-vis clothing.

Perhaps the riding and road safety legislation should spell these things out to riders, but it saddens me that common sense is becoming more and more uncommon.