Are safety stirrups allowed in hunters?

Riders in the hunter discipline prepare themselves and their horses to compete at the highest level. One important aspect that riders need to consider is the equipment they use, including their stirrups.

Safety stirrups have gained popularity in recent years due to their potential to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. However, there is some confusion about whether safety stirrups are allowed in hunter competitions.

Girl riding in safety stirrups

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the rules and regulations surrounding safety stirrups in the hunter discipline and provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.

Understanding the hunter discipline

Before we dive into the rules and regulations, let's take a moment to understand the hunter discipline. Hunters are judged on their movement, form, and style over fences. The goal is to demonstrate the horse's athleticism, grace, and obedience while maintaining a consistent pace and rhythm.

The rider's position, balance, and effectiveness are crucial in presenting the horse in the best possible way. With this in mind, let's explore the role of stirrups in the hunter discipline.

The importance of stirrups in hunters

Stirrups play a significant role in a rider's balance and stability. They provide a solid base of support, allowing the rider to maintain proper position and control while jumping fences. In the hunter discipline, where style and form are essential, having the right stirrups can make a noticeable difference in a rider's performance.

Traditionally, riders in hunters have used traditional stirrups, such as fillis or peacock stirrups. These stirrups have a solid construction and provide a reliable connection between the rider's foot and the stirrup iron. However, safety stirrups have become increasingly popular among riders of all disciplines, including hunters. Let's explore the benefits of safety stirrups and whether they are permitted in hunter competitions.

Benefits of safety stirrups

Safety stirrups are designed with additional safety features to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. They offer several advantages that make them appealing to riders:

  • Foot release mechanism: safety stirrups typically have a mechanism that allows the rider's foot to release from the stirrup in the event of a fall. This feature can prevent the rider from being dragged by the horse and reduce the risk of the foot getting caught in the stirrup.
  • Wider footbed: many safety stirrups have a wider footbed compared to traditional stirrups. This provides more stability and support to the rider's foot, enhancing balance and reducing the risk of the foot slipping out of the stirrup.
  • Shock absorption: some safety stirrups are designed with shock-absorbing technology, which can help reduce the impact on the rider's joints, especially during landings after jumps.
  • Improved grip: safety stirrups often feature enhanced grip surfaces to prevent the rider's foot from slipping out of the stirrup, providing a more secure and stable position.

Considering these benefits, it's no wonder why many riders are opting for safety stirrups in their equestrian pursuits. However, it's important to understand the rules and regulations surrounding their use in hunter competitions.

Rules and regulations for safety stirrups in hunter competitions

The rules regarding safety stirrups and magnetic safety stirrups in hunter competitions may vary depending on the governing organization and the specific division within the discipline. It is crucial for riders to familiarize themselves with the rules specific to their competition to ensure compliance. Let's take a look at the regulations set by some of the prominent governing organizations:

United States Equestrian Federation (USEF)

The USEF provides guidelines for hunter competitions in the United States. According to their rulebook, safety stirrups are permitted in all hunter divisions, with the exception of the traditional hunter division. The traditional hunter division adheres to more traditional equipment regulations, and safety stirrups are not allowed to maintain the traditional aesthetic.

International Equestrian Federation (FEI)

For international hunter competitions governed by the fei, safety stirrups are generally allowed. However, it is essential to review the specific rules and regulations for each competition as they may vary depending on the country and level of the competition.

Local and regional associations

Local and regional associations may have their own set of rules regarding safety stirrups in hunter competitions. It is crucial for riders to consult the specific regulations set by these organizations to ensure compliance.

Choosing the right safety stirrups for hunters

When selecting safety stirrups for hunter competitions, several factors should be taken into consideration:

  • Style and aesthetics: as mentioned earlier, some hunter divisions may have specific rules regarding the type of stirrups allowed to maintain a traditional appearance. Consider the style and aesthetics of the safety stirrups to ensure they meet the requirements of your chosen division.
  • Weight and balance: safety stirrups come in various weights and designs. Consider the weight and balance of the stirrups to ensure they do not interfere with your position and balance in the saddle.
  • Grip and footbed: look for safety stirrups with a secure grip and a wide footbed to provide stability and prevent your foot from slipping.
  • Release mechanism: different safety stirrups may have varying release mechanisms. Test the mechanism to ensure it is easy to engage and disengage, providing a reliable release in the event of a fall.

Ophena A - stylish non-magnetic safety stirrup

Ophena A is a stylish safety stirrup manufactured by Ophena and loved by amateurs and professionals in all disciplines. As mentioned above, while some hunter classes may not allow safety stirrups, most of them do. 

Ophena A is a unique and innovative non-magnetic safety stirrup that includes patent-pending technology, The Twister. It's a silicone piece that closes the outer side of the stirrup and anchors at two release points, releasing The Twister when pressure is applied.

This safety mechanism will allow the rider's foot to release easier in case of an accident.


Safety stirrups offer several benefits that can enhance a rider's safety and performance in the hunter discipline. While the rules and regulations regarding safety stirrups may vary, they are generally allowed in hunter competitions, with some exceptions in traditional divisions. It is crucial for riders to review the specific rules set by governing organizations and local associations to ensure compliance.

When choosing safety stirrups for hunter competitions, consider factors such as style, weight, grip, footbed, and release mechanism. By selecting the right safety stirrups, riders can enhance their stability, balance, and confidence in the saddle.

Remember, safety should always be a top priority when participating in equestrian activities. Stay informed, follow the rules, and choose equipment that offers both style and safety to enjoy a successful and fulfilling hunter competition season.