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Safe & Secure: The 5 Best Stirrups for Cross Country

best cross country stirrups
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Written by Susie W.

What are the best stirrups for eventing? We compare the pros and cons of top jumping irons.

Eventing is a tough sport, and a key feature for any rider is the safety and security their equipment provides. Tack and protective boots must all fit properly, be in a good state of repair, and remain on the horse while he competes. (That may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many products don’t hold up to the rigors of the sport!)

Riders often have preferences about the type of items they use for each discipline. They will opt for different saddles between dressage and jumping phases, different protective leg wear on the horse, and often different bridles and bits, as well.

The most crucial aspect of cross-country is safety. After all, you are traveling and jumping fixed timber fences at speed. For this reason, most riders opt for certain types of stirrup irons that secures their position over the fence and quickly releases their feet in the event of a fall. Your best options are:

If you have ever wondered whether you should use a different stirrup for cross country, or have seen an unusual stirrup on a saddle at an event, this is your chance now to learn about the best eventing stirrups.

Thanks to Emily Harris for our featured photo!

 

How to Select the Best Cross Country Stirrups

There are five critical considerations:

  • Security of your lower leg – angled or flex-iron stirrups encourage riders to sink their weight down through the knee and ankle promoting a good, cross country position, effective riding, balance, and security
  • Comfort – some riders with joint issues find “flexi” stirrups to be a life changer in terms of comfort
  • Fitthe iron needs to be the right width for your foot
  • Durabilitypremium materials and construction ensure stirrups are robust enough to last the course
  • Safetyin the event of a fall, your feet need to be instantly released so you part company cleanly and swiftly from your horse

Without further adieu, here are our four best stirrups for cross country!

Acavallo Arena AluPro

Heading out on course with confidence is importance, and having the right stirrups can help you do just that. 

Acavallo Arena AluPro safety stirrups have classic styling, super-grippy traction, and a quick release arm in case of emergencies.

acavallo stirrups

Click to see it at Amazon

PROS: 

  • Traditional design looks great when you’re schooling or competing on the flat or over fences. 
  • Substantial footbed features a stainless steel cheese grater stirrup pad that keeps your feet in place.
  • Off-center sole relieves hip, knee, and ankle tension — plus it helps keep your heels down.
  • Available in black and silver, or you can spice things up with Acavallo’s brighter colors.
  • 100% Italian made composite injected high-tech resin is super durable.

CONS: 

  • Your pocket book will take a bit of a hit, but you’ll make back your investment in safety and confidence.
  • The grippy foot pads may scratch your leathers if you’re not careful putting your stirrups up and down.

Cottage Craft Bent Leg Safety Stirrups

Used by international eventer, Tina Cook, who rides for Great Britain, these stirrups from renowned manufacturer Cottage Craft do just what they say on the box — help keep you safe.

Click to see these stirrups at Amazon

Pros

  • Simple to use, it’s easy to see how they work, your foot remains quite secure unless you fall.
  • An upgraded adult version of the child’s trusted Peacock Iron.
  • There is no reliance on an arm snapping or breaking with the weight of the rider.

Cons

  • There are newer more funky designs available, these look a bit old-fashioned.
  • You will have to add your own stirrup tread for grip.
  • You cannot color coordinate with your cross country silks like you can with other brands.

Free Jump Soft Up Pro

These are all the rage at the moment amongst show jumpers. A modern, twist on the traditional stirrup design, the outer branch is made of Estastoll, which combines stability with elasticity.

Ergonomically designed to optimize rider comfort, safety is still at the top of the list with Free Jump. The outer arm is designed to snap away in the event of a fall.

Click to see these stirrups at Amazon

Pros

  • They offer a little flexibility to encourage the rider to push the heel down but are not as flexible as the Flexi irons, which some riders feel have too much movement in the iron.
  • They are wider than most other stirrups across the foot, which gives the rider have greater comfort and assists in balance.
  • The stirrup is slightly angled to assist the rider. If you lose your stirrups, Free Jump have structured the iron so that is swings back towards your foot.
  • If the stirrup snaps in the event of a fall, Free Jump currently offer to replace it free of charge.
  • These also made Shelby Dennis’ list of top jumping stirrups.

Cons

  • They have a hefty price tag.
  • Some rider forums have reported that the branch does not always perform well in a fall.
  • If the branch snaps for other reasons then you will need a new pair. You will need to wait for a replacement.

Chief Rookie Aside: This stirrup also made our list of the 7 Best Safety Stirrups for Adults!

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Lorenzini Stirrups

Lorenzini Stirrups are made from a blend of aluminum and titanium, so they’re lightweight yet strong. Available in a wide range of colors, this product can be a fun addition to your cross-country wardrobe.

Lorenzini stirrups

Click to see it at SmartPak

Pros

  • Ergonomic design allows your foot to easily release during a fall.
  • Unique shape relieves torsion (i.e. twisting/torque) and increases balance.
  • Wide tread base increases stability while galloping and grip while jumping.
  • These also made Shelby Dennis’ list of top jumping stirrups.

Cons

  • Some riders are distracted by the sound of the stirrups parts making contact, but it’s unlikely to be an issue when you’re galloping full-speed on cross-country.
  • With heavy use (or abuse) the outer coating *may* chip over time.

Amidale Flexi Safety Stirrups

This is a good-looking durable iron from Amidale in smart stainless steel, which comes complete with integral black rubber treads.

Click to see these stirrups at Amazon UK

Pros

  • They are a really keen price and mimic more expensive versions by Sprenger, so you can try them and if you do not like them, then you will not have spent a fortune.
  • The flexibility encourages the rider’s weight to drop down through the foot promoting a more secure jump position.
  • There is a tread included so you can pop them on the saddle and go.

Cons

  • There is always a concern with cheaper goods with the integrity of the flexible structure within the stirrup, which you cannot see to inspect for wear – you would not want it to fail as you were just cantering along.
  • They do not seem to last as long as more expensive versions.
  • It is difficult to work out how they promote safety over and above a normal stirrup. In the event of a rider fall there is no release mechanism.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the best stirrups for grip?

Grip is provided by the tread of the stirrup, which is the central part where the rider’s foot sits. If you buy a stirrup iron that has changeable treads, then you can choose the level of grip for yourself.

Free Jump stirrups have particularly grippy treads and use metal “teeth” to keep your feet in place.

Q. What are the best safety stirrups?

It does come down to personal preference. Our staple favorite is the Cottage Craft Bent Iron because you know absolutely that your foot will be released. Bent irons have been around for years and have a proven history.

Q. What are the best stirrups for joint pain?

Flexi irons are the best choice if you suffer from pain in any of the joints in your legs, ankle, knee, or hip. As the rider pushes their weight down through the foot, they do not meet a hard, resisting force of steel, the case with a traditional Fillis iron.

Amidale stirrups are designed to balance comfort and secure your jump position.  

Q. How do Free Jump Stirrups work?

The outer branch snaps away in the event of a fall responding to the rider’s weight.

Q. Are Free Jump Stirrups worth the money?

Riders are raving about them. Equestrians love new designs, and Free Jump Stirrups are all the rage. Free Jump will even replace a stirrup if it ever snaps in a fall. (They want the damaged stirrup returned to them as proof.)

Some cynics want to watch the performance of these newer stirrups in field conditions for a few more years before deciding if they’re worth the investment.

But, these stirrups do seem to offer both safety release and a super design which promotes the rider’s position and security. 

Pro Tip: Perhaps try these for a few weeks in a confined environment and then riding out before using them for cross country.

Q. How are stirrups measured?

You should have a clear half inch on each side of your foot, but no more. A stirrup that is too wide will keep slipping from your foot. A stirrup that is too narrow is dangerous, as it cannot release your foot quickly should you fall.

Some of the irons because of their design, like Amidale, require a wider fit than a typical stirrup.

Pro Tip: If you are buying just for cross country, remember to think about the boots you will be wearing. They may be wider or more fitted than your usual boot. This affects stirrup sizing.

Q. What is the best stirrup length for galloping?

That depends on the length of your leg, and to some degree, the design of your saddle. A shortened leather is key to closing the angle between the rider’s hip, knee and ankle.

Your leg should perform like an accordion and will sit further forward on the saddle flap with a short stirrup. You should be able to hover above the horse’s back, taking your weight down through the leg joints without your leg slipping backwards.

If you cannot balance in this way then your stirrups are not short enough.

Enjoy your next event, and stay safe!

P.S. If you liked this article, trot on over to:

 

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About the author

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Susie W.

Horses are my first love, but travel is a close second! I grew up riding in 4-H and went on to ride on my college equestrian team. As an adult, I've ridden and shown Quarter Horses for 20+ years, including several wins at Quarter Horse Congress. I also worked for 7 years at a leading horse feed company, and I'm passionate about equine health and nutrition. Lastly, I have a big soft spot in my heart for senior horses!