Unexpected dismounts happen. We compare the pros and cons of today’s top safety stirrups.
As adults, we’re not as young and agile as we once were in the saddle. But that’s no reason to slow down our equestrian pursuits. No matter your age, experience, or preferred riding style, there are safety features that can add to your peace of mind while in the saddle.
Using safety stirrups (like the popular FreeJump model) help you focus on what really matters, enjoying your horse!
In this article, we discuss the 8 best safety stirrups for adults:
- FreeJump SOFT’UP PRO Irons
- Acavallo Arena AluPro
- MDC Super Sport Stirrups
- Tuff Rider Stainless Steel Peacock Stirrups
- EquiRoyal Safety Stirrups
- Foot Free Safety Stirrup Irons
- Royal King Metal Endurance Stirrups
- Tough-1 EZ Out Safety Stirrup (Western)
What is a Safety Stirrup?
Horse riding has inherent risk, but you can mitigate that risk with a few simple precautions.
One popular decision is to use safety stirrups that allow your foot to easily release from the stirrup in an emergency.
There are many brands and styles available, and although primarily designed for English saddles, Western riders have growing options too.
In a worst case scenario, when a rider has an unexpected dismount, their foot can become trapped in the stirrup, even if they are wearing boots with a heel.
The rider can be dragged if this happens, so safety stirrup address this problem by preventing the foot from becoming trapped in the stirrup.
There are several different ways safety stirrups eliminate the risk, and each stirrup has its own pros and cons.
Rider preference and budget will dictate which safety stirrup is ideal for you.
No matter which model you choose, start with correctly sized stirrups. Your safety stirrups should be one inch wider than your boot–the same as a regular pair of stirrups.
Learn more in our article about How Safety Stirrups Work.
The Best English Safety Stirrups
FreeJump SOFT’UP PRO Irons
Innovation meets safety as ten years of research and development with top riders including Rodrigo Pessoa brings us the latest in stirrup technology and safety.
FreeJump stirrups entered the market in 2012 and are used by top Olympic riders from around the world.
- Outside branches are flexible and open backwards with the principles of elastic band safety stirrups.
- Provide better leg position while pointing the toe inward.
- Offer incredible grip in the tread, similar to mountain biking tread.
- Expensive stirrup option (but you get what you pay for).
- It’s recommended to purchase the FreeJump Stirrup Pockets to prevent scratches to your saddle when stirrups are stored after riding.
Acavallo Arena AluPro
If you want all the safety and grip of FreeJump stirrups with a more classic design, we’ve got the perfect solution.
Acavallo Arena AluPro safety stirrups combine sleek styling, superior traction, and a low-profile safety release arm in case of emergencies.
- Classic style looks great whether you’re schooling or competing on the flat or over fences.
- Large footbed with stainless steel cheese grater stirrup pad keeps your feet where they belong.
- Intentional off-center footbed relieves hip, knee, and ankle tension.
- Go with black or silver for versatility, or spice things up with one of their brighter colors.
- 100% Italian made composite injected high-tech resin holds up to daily use.
- Higher price tag than some of the other options on our list, but quality justifies the cost.
- Cheese grater foot pads can scratch your leathers if you’re not careful putting while stirrups up and down.
Read my detailed review of the Acavallo Arena safety stirrups.
MDC Super Sport Stirrups
Improve your equitation while ensuring your safety with the MDC Super Sport Stirrups.
Your leg, calf, and foot position are improved, reducing pain, and fine tuning your equitation.
- Aluminum tread provides greater traction. This is the only stirrup in the world that features aluminum tread.
- Traditional show ring look.
- Stirrups can be set in three positions: traditional, 45-degrees, or 90-degrees.
- The safety feature of these stirrups is that they are wider, with greater tread. This reduces the chance of your foot getting caught, but doesn’t eliminate the risk entirely.
- More expensive than other safety stirrups.
Staying safe starts with a proper helmet. See our 8 Best Horse Riding Helmets for Hot Weather.
Tuff Rider Stainless Steel Peacock Stirrups
Peacock stirrups are one of the original safety stirrups and have been on the market for years. These stirrups have an elastic band on one side, replacing the metal branch on the outside of the stirrup.
In the event of an unplanned dismount the elastic pops off and releases the foot. (Replacement elastics are available for only a few bucks.)
- The rubber pads in the bottom of these stirrups provide extra grip on the stirrups.
- Reasonably priced.
- Stainless steel stirrups are durable and won’t rust.
- Make sure the rubber band faces away from the horse when you’re riding so it doesn’t pop off and hit the horse, potentially spooking it.
- Attaching the rubber bands can be challenging–they’re pretty tight.
EquiRoyal Safety Stirrup Irons
Do you want safety with a classic, stylish look? The EquiRoyal Safety Stirrup Irons are for you.
These provide the same safety with a discreet look in the curved frame of the stirrup.
- Sculpted outer edge of the stirrup iron allows the foot to easily slide out.
- These stirrups have no moving parts to break off.
- Attractive stirrup that discreetly provides added safety.
- Only available in 4 ½ inch stirrups.
- The sculpted outer edge means your foot can slide around in the stirrup more while riding.
Foot Free Safety Stirrup Irons
These also offer the classic equestrian look with a little bit of added safety.
Many riders who become frustrated with Peacock Stirrups switch to the Foot Free Safety Stirrup.
- Stainless steel and durable.
- One piece design with curved outer edge.
- Feel like standard stirrups in weight and positioning.
- The pads in the stirrup don’t offer much grip.
- Stirrups must be correctly placed on the left and right.
Tired of heavy metal stirrups? Check out our Compositi Stirrup Review.
Royal King Metal Endurance Stirrups with Leather Guard
Go big or go home? There’s no way your foot is getting trapped in these endurance stirrups with a cage over the toe.
Although the look may be a bit intense, you’ll soon realize why so many endurance riders swear by them.
- Cage prevents the foot from going through the stirrup.
- Deep foot bed has shock absorbing features for hours in the saddle.
- You can’t run your stirrups up after a ride and have to place them over the top of the saddle instead.
- Multiple bolts and screws hold these stirrups together and should be checked routinely for wear and tear. The bolts and screws can also occasionally rub the foot or shin.
The Best Western Safety Stirrup
Tough-1 EZ Out Safety Stirrups
Here’s an option for our western riders. The Tough-1 EZ Out Stirrups offers a traditional look with added safety.
- Side of the stirrup opens in the case of a fall to release the foot.
- Aesthetically pleasing and classically “Western” style.
- The rubber grip tread adds stability and keeps your feet from sliding around.
- A bit heavier than some traditional Western stirrups.
- May run too large for young adult riders.
Our article about Horseback Riding Safety Equipment helps keep you in the saddle and out of the emergency room.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the best dressage stirrups?
The MDC Super Sport Stirrups are more than classically beautiful. They also help improve your leg, calf, and foot position — especially for riders who tend to angle their toes too far outward (i.e. duck feet).
You can set your stirrups to traditional, 45-degrees, or 90-degrees based on your personal preference. Plus, the MDC design helps reduce pain ankle and knee pain and improve your equitation.
Q: What are the best stirrups for leg position?
The answer to this varies based on the type of leg position issues you struggle with.
- Correct duck feet: Go with the MDC Super Sport Stirrups
- Improve boot stability: Go with the Acavallo Arena AluPro Stirrups
- Sink weight deeper into heels: Go with the Acavallo Arena AluPro Stirrups
Q: What are the best endurance stirrups?
A caged stirrup is your best bet, so go with Royal King’s endurance stirrups.
You won’t have to worry about your foot slipping through the stirrup, and the shock absorption features ensure you stay comfy for long hours of riding.
Q: What are FreeJump stirrups?
FreeJump stirrups are a newer brand of safety stirrup that were created after intensive research and development, including work with professional riders.
They provide better equitation, stabilizing the rider’s leg position, outstanding grip, and the safety features made popular by the peacock stirrup.
Q: How do FreeJump stirrups work?
In the event of an unplanned dismount the outside branch of the FreeJump stirrup releases backwards thanks to three small holes in the branch, freeing the riders’ foot.
While riding, the stirrups provide superior grip for the foot, and point the toe inward, giving you a more secure ride.
Q: Are FreeJump stirrups worth the money?
Yes! After 10 years of research and development, as well as the seal of approval from top riders such as Rodrigo Pessoa, these stirrups should improve your ride and safety in the saddle.
Expect to see them more as Olympic and world-class riders are adopting them, and riders at all levels begin using them regularly.
Q: What are oxbow stirrups used for?
Oxbow stirrups have a rounded bottom when compared to the flat bottomed bell stirrups used by western riders.
Oxbow stirrups are often used by riders on bucking horses or young horses and in cutting and barrel racing because the shape allows feet to more easily slide in and out of the stirrups.
Q: How are stirrups measured?
Stirrups are measured by the diameter of the opening for the foot. This area is also called the tread, and is measured from one branch of the stirrup to the other.
Q: What size stirrups do I need?
Your stirrup size should be the width of your boot plus one inch. If you don’t have a ruler or measuring tape handy, try placing your foot in the stirrup, and make sure that you can fit your index finger on either side of your foot.
Q: What are the best stirrups for children?
There are two things to look for when choosing stirrups for a child: the stirrup’s size and its safety features. Most stirrups designed for adults are too large for a child’s foot, increasing the chance of the child’s foot sliding through.
Peacock safety stirrups are a popular choice and are likely what you picture when you think of a stirrup. There is a rubber band on the outside, designed to release easily in case of a fall or accident.
Covered toe stirrups are another common choice, as the cage design prevents foot slippage and they are easy to pick up when mounting (or if lost while riding).
Q: Who invented safety stirrups?
The Western safety stirrup was invented by Timothy J. Harvey and Robert Oaks, in 2012. Peacock stirrups, a common English safety stirrup, only came to be in the last twenty or so years.
Mike McCoy invented a Western breakaway stirrup in 1989, inspired by hearing about the death of a young rodeo rider who was dragged to death.
While stirrups have been around for about 1,300 years, designing them with safety in mind is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Q: What are the best safety stirrups?
The best safety stirrups fit your foot correctly, easily release your foot in the event of an unplanned dismount, and aid to your comfort in the saddle.
We all have our personal preferences, and the most important thing is to choose a safety stirrup that’s right for you, your horse, and your riding goals!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- Compositi Stirrups Review: I’ve Never Jumped Better
- 6 Best Horse Riding Body Protectors for Unplanned Dismounts
- How Safety Stirrups Work (Pros/Cons, Uses, Features, Brands)
- Equestrian Hit-Air Vest Review: My Favorite Fall in 30 Years
- 10 Best Stirrups for Jumping Clear (and Staying Safe)
- Horseback Riding Safety Equipment That’s Worth Every Penny
- Safe vs. Sorry: How Often to Replace Horseback Riding Helmets
- Scared to Ride Your Horse? Here’s How to Get Your Mojo Back