Let's face it: accidents happen, especially in the equestrian world. No matter how good of a rider you are, there is always a risk of falling off. All riders should always use the appropriate safety gear, such as a helmet, gloves, boots and safety stirrups.
Though having safety stirrups may not seem like such a big deal, they can be the small line between no injury and serious injury. Namely, because safety stirrups help your foot to release from your stirrups in case of a fall, so you will not be stuck in the stirrup and dragged behind your horse.
In this article, we are comparing the pros and cons of the best safety stirrups for adults.
We will look at the following models:
- Ophena S magnetic safety stirrups
- Freejump Soft'Up Pro
- Foot Free Safety Stirrup Irons
- Royal King Metal Endurance Stirrups
- MDC Super Sport Stirrups
- Tuff Rider Stainless Steel Peacock Stirrups
- EquiRoyal Safety Stirrups
- OnTyte magnetic stirrups
- Sprenger Safety Stirrups Bow Balance
After listing the above stirrups and their pros and cons, we are comparing their safety level. But first some background.
What are safety stirrups and who should use them?
Safety stirrups are stirrups that help your foot to release quicker from your stirrups in case of an accident. These can be break-away stirrups, magnetic safety stirrups, peacock stirrups or even flexible joint stirrups. Over the years, companies have developed many kinds of safety stirrups that are available for adults as well as children.
Should you fall off your horse, safety stirrups decrease the risk of your foot getting caught in your stirrup, so it is a must-have safety gear for everyone, regardless of their level or discipline. However, the type of safety stirrups you should get depends a lot on your budget, preference, and discipline. Some types of safety stirrups also have requirements on minimum or maximum body weight or shoe size, which must be considered.
Safety stirrups are meant to keep riders safe in case of a fall - the worst thing that could happen is that you get dragged behind your horse, when your foot is stuck in the stirrups. In fact, these types of accidents are more common than you may think, and many riders say that it is what they are most afraid of.
In the video below, you can see what can happen if you get stuck in your stirrups. The video may contain material that is disturbing for sensitive viewers.
The video shows how the rider falls off after a fence and the horse stops at first. However, because the rider is stuck in the stirrup, the horse panics and starts galloping across the field. The rider is still stuck in the stirrup and gets dragged behind the horse for a while, before her foot gets released.
The rider was in rehabilitation for injuries sustained during the fall.
How do safety stirrups work?
There are multiple different kinds of models and brands out there, and each one of them have their own pros and cons. Also, the level of safety they provide differs and it is good to know that the term "safety stirrup" is not a regulated term. There are no standardised tests or requirements on what a safety stirrup is and can offer. As a consequence any brand can call their stirrup a "safety stirrup" without any proof of its effectiveness. Keep this in mind when comparing safety stirrups.
Brief presentation of safety stirrup models:
Ophena S - The Magnetic Safety Stirrup™
The latest within safety stirrups are these magnetic stirrups from Swedish brand Ophena. These stirrups combine a unique open design for maximum safety with magnetic system that enhances your feel and control. They have received immaculate reviews from happy customers and professional riders (have a look here).
- Magnetic safety stirrup that ensures your foot will always stay on the correct spot
- Open side ensures that your foot is released quickly in case of an accident
- Beautiful design that even professionals appreciate and love
- Smart Attach™ system makes it easy to attach and detach the stirrups
- Not in everyone's budget (but you get what you pay for)
- Not approved for FEI dressage shows (but for FEI showjumping)
Freejump Soft'Up Pro
This is a very popular stirrup that was created in cooperation with Rodrigo Pessoa. It was brought to market already in 2012.
- Flexible outside branches
- Supports better leg position
- Offers a great grip for your foot
- You should have protectors to prevent scratches on your saddle after they are pulled up
- There was an incident, where Freejump stirrups broke in the middle of a 5* showjumping course
- They "can be weakened by a violent shock or a particularly intensive use"
Foot Free Safety Stirrup Irons
Classic look with extra safety that appeals especially for dressage riders.
- Durable and stainless steel
- Curved outer edge provides more safety
- Good foot position
- Not much grip
- Not the best option for showjumpers
- Safer than a "standard" stirrup, but no release mechanism to reliably get loose.
Royal King Metal Endurance Stirrups
These stirrups have a cage over your toe. They may look intense, but they ensure that your foot will not slip through the stirrups.
- Your foot will not slide through them
- Shock absorbing features that are especially useful for endurance riders
- Must be placed over the saddle
- Many screws and bolts that require regular checks
- Not very beautiful
- Not a good option for show jumping or dressage
MDC Super Sport Stirrups
Flexible joint stirrups that have a classy look with added safety.
- Aluminum tread that provides good traction
- Classy look that suits every discipline
- The stirrups can be set in 3 different positions
- Not the most effective safety stirrup
- Pretty pricy option
Tuff Rider Stainless Steel Peacock Stirrups
One of the most traditional models that have been on the market for a long time.
- The rubber band on the side should release in case of an accident.
- Reasonable price
- Stainless steel
- Intended for lightweight riders under 50 kilograms
- Rubber bands will have to be changed regularly
- Cases know of riders getting injured from sharp parts around the mechanism that holds the rubber band
- Not well designed
EquiRoyal Safety Stirrups
Classy and stylish look that suits especially dressage riders. A curved model with some extra safety.
- The curved side helps your foot to release
- No moving parts
- A stylish look that suits especially dressage riders
- Only available in 4,5 inch
- Not the best option for beginners
- Not a real safety stirrup
OnTyte magnetic stirrups
One of the few magnetic safety stirrups in the market that have gotten a lot of attention among riders.
- Magnetic stirrup that helps your foot to stay in the correct spot
- Lightweight stirrup
- Great for showjumpers
- Expensive stirrup option
- Steelplates must be permanently attached to the shoe by a shoe maker. Steelplates must also be exchanged regularly as they bend from walking.
- Plastic stirrup makes it look a bit cheap
- Not approved for dressage competitions
Sprenger - Safety Stirrups Bow Balance
Sprenger is a well-known stirrup and bit manufacturer from Germany that produces quality products with world-wide presence.
- A good rubber grip that keeps your foot in place
- Made from Stainless steel
- Users say that jumping is comfortable and feet won't get tired
- Very ergonomic to help with knee-pain
- Not a real safety stirrup. You can still slip through and get caught.
- Some riders like to ride with the flexible joints, some do not.
Which stirrups are the safest?
If we have to rank stirrups from safest to least safe, we would rank them according to their likelihood of getting your feet caught in case of a fall. Open stirrups like the magnetic safety stirrups from Ophena would rank the safest, together with fully-enclosed endurance stirrups like the one from Royal King. Stirrups with an opening or break away mechanism, which shall release your feet when a certain force is applied, come second. The third place goes to models with flexible joint arms and those with bent arms, which make it less likely to get caught but are not really safety stirrups either. The least safe are, of course, traditional stirrups which simply don't provide any safety features at all.
You can see an overview below:
|Safety Level||Stirrup Type||Examples|
|Very safe||Stirrups with an open side or full enclosure||Ophena, Royal King Endurance|
|Quite safe||Stirrups with an opening or break away mechanism||
|Less safe||Stirrups with flexible joint arms or bent arm||Sprenger Bow Balance, Equiroyal|
|Not safe||Traditional, closed stirrups||various|
How to pick the correct safety stirrups?
As we have seen above, not all models are alike and there are big differences when it comes to the level of safety they provide. When choosing one for yourself, the first thing you should decide how important safety is for you. For instance, showjumpers and eventers need a model that is very effective and safe, because severe accidents are more likely to happen in showjumping and eventing than in dressage, for instance. Then again, accidents can happen in any discipline. And if they do, you'll be thankful if you have better safety gear.
Apart from that, take into account the style and material that you prefer. Most riders prefer heavier stirrups (e.g. from stainless steel or aluminium) over those made of plastic, but some riders like the lightness that plastic ones provide.
In addition, consider the price you are prepared to pay. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for, and you should invest money for your safety. It is of course understandable that not everyone has hundreds of euros to spend on stirrups, but make the math: If you buy a high-quality safety stirrup for, say, 300€ and use it for at least 3 years, that's 100€ per year. If you ride twice a week that's less than 1€ per ride! Doesn't sound that bad anymore, does it?
Can you try safety stirrups before buying?
When investing in equipment, you of course want to make the right decision. So how can you be sure? Test first! Some brands and retailers offer the possibility to try the stirrups out and return them if they are not for you. For instance Ophena offers a 60-day money-back guarantee. This is a huge advantage and should certainly considered when making a purchase.
Frequently asked questions
What size stirrups do I need?
Your safety stirrups should measure the size or your foot plus one inch, or 2,5 centimeters. You can measure this with a measuring tape, or by placing your foot in the stirrup and then placing your index finger next to it. Note that magnetic stirrups typically only come in one size, which works perfectly well for children and adults alike (more about that here).
Does my child need safety stirrups?
Absolutely! However, keep in mind that children should have smaller stirrups than adults. If the stirrup is too big, your child's foot can slide through it, creating dangerous situations. Some brands offer safety stirrups for young riders. Magnetic safety stirrups usually only come in one size, because the magnetic system keeps the feet in place.
Are magnetic safety stirrups, such as Ophena S, accepted at horse shows?
Magnetic safety stirrups are approved by the FEI and many other equestrian federations for. You should check with your national federation about this regarding shows in your own country. When it comes to our Ophena S magnetic safety stirrups, you can see the list of federations that have approved these stirrups.
How to use safety stirrups?
The best part about these products is that you don't have to do anything to activate them. In fact, you don't even have to give them another thought after you have attached them to your stirrup leathers. The only thing you should do is clean them regularly, particularly the tread.
What are Freejump stirrups?
Freejump safety stirrups are stirrups from a French brand, aimed at show jumpers. They have been designed in cooperation with some of the best riders in the world.
Freejump stirrups have gained a lot of popularity, but in a recent five star Grand Prix showjumping show, Henrick Von Eckermann fell off of his horse, Mary Lou, when his Freejump stirrup broke. Freejump stirrups breaking is an unfortunate event, and the company says they are investigating why this happened.
How do Ophena magnetic safety stirrups work?
These stirrups contain magnets and come together with a pair of magnetic insoles (included in the price). That way, you can use your existing riding boots: simply put the magnetic insoles in there and you are ready to go. The magnetic feature holds the stirrups to your feet and release safely in case of a fall or when you need to. You can also find more detailed descriptions here and a video below:
These models are one of the most important pieces of safety gear you can get when you're riding. They are important for every rider, no matter their level or discipline. Take a while to compare and review different types of safety stirrups and pick the ones that suit you the best. If you have any questions, you can always reach out to our team.