Stirrup styles and uses
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Saddle stirrups are one of the most basic accessories for riding a horse. Stirrups are typically metal footholds connected to a leather strap that hangs down from the saddle. While it's possible to ride a horse without using stirrups, they do help keep the rider in the saddle and increase the control the rider has over the horse.
English Saddle Stirrups
English stirrups come in inexpensive nickel, lightweight aluminum or the standard stainless steel, depending on the usage. Additionally, English stirrups are easy to trade in and out, so one saddle may have several different stirrups attached to it throughout its lifetime.
Because stirrups were originally made from iron, the basic stirrup is still called a standard iron. It basically consists of a tread, with two branches meeting at an eye for the connecting strap.
Safety stirrups have a rubber and leather band that can detach quickly with pressure, making it easier to get off the horse in case of an emergency or a fall. However, the leather and rubber wears over time, so the stirrups should be replaced regularly to keep them reliable.
Western Saddle Stirrups
It's difficult to detach and replace Western saddle stirrups, so it's not unusual for a Western saddle to have just one set of stirrups attached to it during its lifetime.
While you can find some pre-twisted Western stirrups, they usually lie flat against the sides of the horse, which can make riding more difficult. For simplicity's sake, most riders turn the stirrups for easier access and to prevent straining their hips, ankles and knees.
Training the stirrup fenders and stirrup leathers is a simple process:
- Place the saddle, with stirrup leathers and Western stirrups attached, into a saddle stand.
- Twist the front of both stirrups toward the back of the saddle.
- Use a pole, belt or other material to hold the stirrups in the modified position.
Soft leathers take just a couple of days to adjust to the new positioning, but stiffer materials could take weeks before the stirrups are permanently turned. Apply a leather conditioner to the stirrup leathers and the back of the fenders for an even quicker transition.
Austrian Saddle Stirrups
Austrian saddle stirrups are known for high quality and model diversity. Austrian saddle stirrups encompass a variety of English saddle stirrups as well as Western saddle stirrups. The most popular models for Austrian saddle stirrups are peacock stirrups (also known as safety stirrups) and Austrian saddle brass stirrups. The Austrian saddle brass stirrups have a variety of uses, but are most often used by dressage riders or people entering their horses into shows.