Safety Stirrups

By Christine Churchill, Five Star Ranch Staff Writer

I did something recently I’ve been meaning to do for years. I bought myself a pair of safety stirrups for my English saddle and western saddle.

We all know there are some inherent risks involved with riding. One risk that has always haunted me is the idea of being dragged. It happens, even to good riders. Anyone can fall from a horse. Your horse could spook and unseat you, and off you go.

To show how easy it is to get dragged, take a look at the video below. This is what happened to a professional jockey – an experienced horse rider.

Recently I even saw a lady nearly get dragged while mounting. She had placed her foot into the stirrup when the horse spooked and knocked her off balance. Fortunately the horse stopped immediately, but the thought stayed with me. If the horse had have taken off with the lady’s foot in the stirrup, it could have been bad.

My philosophy on riding horses is if we can reduce some of the risks inherent, that is just good common sense. Most of us accept that a riding helmet can reduce head injuries, so we wear helmets. I think using safety stirrups is one more thing we can do to make riding safer.

Everyone who rides has an occasional fall. If you haven’t fallen off in awhile, you’re either overdue or very lucky. If we can reduce one danger related to a fall, it makes good sense to do that.

The idea behind the saftey stirrup is pretty simple. The stirrup is designed to break in a way that releases your foot so you won’t be stuck in a stirrup and get dragged. The stirrups come in a variety of designs for both English and Western saddles.

One popular style comes with an elastic on one side of the stirrup. That is the kind I have. The elastic will break loose if the rider falls off with their foot in the stirrup.

The disadvantage to this type is that you need some spare elastic bands around to replace worn or old ones. I bought a couple packs of them and keep one in my saddle bag in a baggie and the rest In my tack box in my trailer. The bands last for a fairly long time, but you know going in the bands have a life span, so you need to plan ahead. The other downside of this style is that the stirrup is not usable without the elastic. That’s why I carry a spare elastic band in my saddle pack.

Other safety stirrups are designed to break off from the saddle if they are torqued in an angle that would be encountered in a fall.

There is a memorable commercial from the manufacturer of a western safety stirrup company that leaves the viewer with a compelling “What could happen” visual. The ad shows a person being dragged on the ground by a galloping horse. It’s a pretty scary sight.

If you don’t yet have safety stirrups, you might want to get a pair. They don’t cost very much and they could save your life. Like I said, they are cheap insurance just in case the worst happens.

I found some links to some commercial safety stirrups below. These are only a few of the offerings out available.