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Stirrups are an essential piece of horse riding equipment and in an article last year, I wrote about the types and history of stirrups. However, this time around, I’m focusing exclusively on English stirrups.
English stirrups are thinner and narrower than Western stirrups. They may be made of steel, aluminum, polymer, or nylon. They are also equipped with holes and buckles for length adjustment, and you can attach them to the saddle using narrow leather straps. Some English stirrups have an open design which makes them safer in the event of falls.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to English stirrups, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, I discuss what English stirrups are, why they’re popular among riders, and showcase seven of the best picks on the market today.
So, whether you’re a beginner just starting out or an experienced rider searching for a new pair of English stirrups, read on for all the information you need.
In this guide, I cover:
- Types of English Stirrups
- Best English stirrups for dressage, jumping, etc.
- And more…
What are English Stirrups? What are the Different Types of English Stirrups?
English stirrups are also called irons. They are made of metal, although modern ones come in nylon or polymer too. They are open-ended and attach to the stirrup leathers, which in turn connects to the saddle at the stirrup bar.
You need to keep the stirrup bar latch in the open position. This arrangement detaches the stirrup leather attachment from the saddle when pulled backward (in the event of a fall), which enhances the rider’s safety as the open-ended design prevents the rider’s foot from getting caught in the stirrup.
The design of English stirrups also allows riders to safely wear tighter boots compared to western riders. Also, riders may even wear lace-up boots thanks to the release bars on the English stirrups on English-style saddles.
Another significant difference between English and Western-style stirrups is the length. Depending on the type of English riding, the stirrup length will vary. For example, dressage riders need longer English stirrups, whereas jumping events need shorter stirrups.
Let us discuss some of the popular types of English stirrups:
#1. English stirrups with flexing sides/Flexible stirrups
As the name indicates, these stirrups have flexing sides. This flex helps make riding more comfortable and is especially great for older riders or those with knee/foot/ joint issues or injuries. E.g. of this type of stirrup is the Herm-Springer stirrup.
#2. Icelandic Stirrups (Stirrups with the eye set at a 90-degree angle to the stirrup)
This type of English stirrup also makes riding comfortable but in a different sort of way. They do not offer the flex feature as the stirrups described above, but the offset eye means that the stirrups hang in a position so that riders can easily pick them up.
#3. Intelligent stirrups
The intelligent MDC stirrups combine the best features of most English stirrups. They offer flexibility by adjusting to three different positions. This means you can let them lay flat against the horse’s side (which is the traditional position), at 90-degree or perpendicular like the Icelandic stirrups above, or hang at a 45-degree angle.
#4. Peacock stirrups
Peacock stirrups are ideal for children who ride the English style. They consist of sturdy rubber bands in the place of metals. These bands detach in the event of a fall, thereby freeing the feet. Adults should not use Peacock stirrups because they may not support their weight, especially for jumping.
#5. Australian stirrups
This style is best suited for adults who ride the English style. They have an all-metal construction that can support their weight and also a forward curve on the outside edge. This particular feature helps your foot exit the stirrup in the event of a fall/emergency.
#6. Offset stirrups
This style of English stirrups prevents the stirrup leathers from twisting. They enhance rider comfort by preventing their legs from getting forced into uncomfortable positions when in the stirrup.
#7. Magnetic safety stirrups
Magnetic safety stirrups take the stirrup safety of English stirrups to a whole new level. They come with an open design and have magnetic insoles that firmly attach your feet to the stirrup. This means that if your foot moves, the stirrups move with it.
They are also equipped with foot stoppers, so if your foot slides, the stopper prevents it from sliding out of the stirrup. Magnetic safety stirrups also feature a smart attachment that lets riders remove the stirrup without removing the saddle leathers.
You won’t need any special footwear to enjoy the superior safety of magnetic stirrups because they come with magnetic insoles. These stirrups help your balance and foot position. And the best part: magnetic safety stirrups are permitted for showjumping.
At present, very few equestrian brands make magnetic stirrups. The one that stands out the most is the Swedish brand Ophena. I suggest you visit the Ophena website; it has lots of helpful information and pictures of the various stirrups they sell.
Ophena magnetic safety stirrups are available in several sizes from EU 32 to 46 with one-size increments in between. They offer unprecedented safety, grip, and performance. As mentioned earlier, their open design prevents the rider’s foot from getting caught in the stirrup in case of falls. This dramatically enhances rider safety. Ophena allows users to try their elegant stirrups risk-free for 60 days, and they even ship worldwide.
On the flipside, magnetic stirrups are pretty expensive and unacceptable in dressage events. However, that should not stop you from using them for pleasure riding.
You can find a lot of English stirrups on Amazon, but first, let’s look at the best English stirrups available in 2022.
Best English Stirrups – 2022 Top 7 Picks
#1. Best Dressage Stirrups – Herm Sprenger Bow Balance
My daughter’s trainer recommended wider stirrups for greater stability. So we went with the Herm Sprenger Bow Balance stirrups. They worked brilliantly in that; they kept her leg and foot movements minimum. My daughter also reported reduced knee-soreness after using these stirrups.
Here are its outstanding features:
- 4-F bow balance stirrups allow the four-direction pivot
- Manufactured to strict standards using the highest quality materials
- Made in Germany
- Shock-absorbing footbed
- Lift your foot while dismounting. Failure to do so will lead to an ungraceful dismount.
How they compare
Herm Sprenger Bow Balance dressage stirrups are expensive compared to dressage stirrups from other brands. However, the price is completely justified as they are made using the highest-quality materials and adhere to strict standards. Riders with knee pain will also appreciate the relief they get from using these stirrups.
#2. Best Jumping Stirrups: Equinez Tools Flex Stainless English Saddle Stirrups Iron Pads Knee Ankle Stress Pain Relief
It would be best to have special (yet legal) stirrups that have the outer side longer than the inner for jumping. This helps keep knees parallel to the ground thereby relieving pressure from the knees.
Equinez jumping stirrups have the following features:
- Made with rust-free steel and equipped with foot pads
- Provide freedom of mobility to riders especially for jumping
- Traditional shape with a rubberized covering for a modern look
- Legal stirrups for hunter and jumping competitions
- Removable footpads
- To order the right size, measure the ball of your foot while wearing your riding boots. Ensure the stirrup iron is wider than this measurement.
How they compare
Equinez flex stirrups are some of the best English stirrups under $50. They are incredibly sturdy and well-made and ideal for showjumping. A vast majority of the users who used them found that they reduced the soreness in the knees that comes during jumping and other events. They are definitely recommended for people with ankle and knee pain.
#3. Best Safety Stirrups Under $50 – PRORIDER Horse Saddle English 4-3/4″ Irons SS Bent Leg Safety English Stirrups 51158
I recommend Ophena magnetic stirrups in this category, but if those are out of your budget, then the stirrups from PRORIDER are my next best choice.
PRORIDER Safety English stirrups definitely give you that feeling of safety. They are durable and lightweight, and their bent design prevents the rider’s foot from getting stuck in the stirrup in the event of a fall.
Here are some of the top features of PRORIDER stirrups:
- Feature a changeable rubber ridge for extra tread
- Made with durable, lightweight, rust-proof stainless steel
- 4 3/4th inches wide
- Each pair is made for the left and right foot. Make sure the wider side points to the outside.
How they compare
PRORIDER horse safety stirrups are also among the best English safety stirrups under $50. Despite their affordable price, they are very well-constructed. Most riders who used them felt a feeling of safety with these stirrups.
#4. Best English Stirrups for Bad Ankles: The Mane Range Flex Horse Riding Stirrups. with Ankle Support
Not only do the Mane Range Flex stirrups reduce ankle strain, they even prevent hip and knee soreness after prolonged riding. Their design offers additional support in the ankle region, and they come with the added benefits of lightweight construction and elegant looks.
- Removable rubber grip inserts
- Attractive, glossy finish
- Boot width of 4 ¼ and boot height of 4 ½ inches.
Go a size up to prevent ankle pain. For example, switching from a 4 1/2″ hard iron to a 4 3/4″ joint can clear the foot off the rubber coverings.
How they compare
The Mane Range Flex horse English stirrups with ankle supports cost less than $75 and are well worth the price for those with ankle issues.
#5. Best English Trail Stirrups – PRORIDER Flex Fillis Double Jointed 51112SL
Here is what a rider had to say about the Flex Fillis stirrups from PRORIDER: “I am very pleased with these flexible stirrups, no more ankle or knee pain after a 3-hour trail ride. They are well balanced and have a good tread”.
PRORIDER Flex Fillis stirrups are double-jointed. This helps with foot positioning and relieves pressure on the knees, ankles, and feet.
Here are some other features of PRORIDER Flex FILLIS:
- Double-jointed for enhanced flexibility and comfort.
- Elegant silver matte finish
- 4 3/4th wide with a 5-inch height
- Replaceable rubber spiked tread
- For some riders, the Flex Fillis need breaking in without which, they tend to feel a bit heavy.
How they compare
Flex Fillis PRORIDER English stirrups for trail riding cost less than $50, and their design helps keep your heels down. This offers greater flexibility and also absorbs impacts when jumping.
#6. Best English Stirrups for Kids: Lift Sports Peacock Irons FILLIS Stainless Steel
Made of high-quality stainless steel, your kids will love these stirrups. My teenage grandson uses these, and he loves them.
- Rust-proof stainless steel construction
- Available in sizes 4.5 and 4.75 inches
- Peacock stirrups are best for older kids. Always discuss with your child’s trainer before buying.
How they compare
Great inexpensive English peacock stirrups for kids costing less than $50.
#7. Best English Stirrups with Cage: PRORIDER 4-1/2″ Wide English Aluminum Endurance Safety Cage Saddle Stirrups Blue 51110LB
Stirrups with cage designs prevent the feet from going too far into the stirrups and further enhance rider safety.
Here is an excellent testimonial from an actual user of PRORIDER aluminum English stirrups with a cage: ‘I bought these so I could wear my hiking boots while riding. I thought I’d buy another nicer pair of stirrups, but these end up being my “nicer pair”!
- 4 ½” h x 4 ½” w
- Lightweight and durable aluminum construction
- The rubber cage is removable
- Great for endurance riding
- Avoid using them with soft calf leather as the cage’s metal could rub on and damage them.
- These are ideal for trail, endurance, and safety for pleasure riding – but do make it a point to wear sturdier boots.
How they compare
Excellent pair of English stirrups under $50. The cages enhance safety and make you feel more secure when you ride.
8. Best Magnetic Stirrups- Ophena Magnetic Safety Stirrups
Magnetic stirrups are a relatively modern innovation. However, the Ophena stirrup has been a hit with customers so far. They offer an affordable, high-quality product that delivers what it promises, and many people love them.
The customer feedback on this particular model is impressive: over 1000 ratings at five stars. There are a couple of models available, and each is a good choice if you’re looking to try something different – we think these stirrups have established a unique place in the English riding. For more information on this product, check out Ophena’s website.
Are English Stirrups Bad for the Knees?
There is no straightforward answer to the question: are English stirrups bad for the knees?’
Knee pain and knee injuries attributed to horse riding can occur due to various reasons such as bursitis, torn ligaments, arthritis, etc.
After all, a rider on the horse uses their legs to cling to the horse’s body. This puts pressure on the knees, calves, and shin bones. This pressure can occur despite the kind of tack you choose.
So, we cannot say for sure whether English stirrups cause greater strain on the knees than western stirrups. Having said that, one of the primary causes of knee pain is improper stirrup length adjustment. This is why it is crucial to ensure proper stirrup fit.
To minimize this type of knee pain, make sure you adjust your stirrup length appropriately. Here are the tips to follow:
- Sit in the saddle with your regular riding boots. Let your feet hang down.
- Ideally, your ankle bones should be in line with the stirrups.
- There should be room to slip in a pencil between your boot and the side of the stirrup on both sides.
- Some riders use stirrup pads to improve traction with their English stirrups. But do avoid rubber pads if your riding boots have rubber soles with treads – they may stick.
English riders can also minimize knee issues by using Flexi stirrups. These flex and provide a ‘give’ that prevents forcing your feet into uncomfortable angles. This can go a long way in minimizing strain on the ankles, shin bones, and knees.
English riders can also choose from one of the well-made stirrups I have recommended above. Most of them have features that could reduce strain on the ankles and knees.
FAQs on English Stirrups
Why are English stirrups called irons?
English stirrups were called irons because iron was the only metal used for making them in the earlier days.
What are the measurements available in English stirrup leathers?
English stirrup leathers come in 1 inch, 7/8th, and 3/4th inch widths.
Which way do English stirrups go?
The stirrups will either have an unlocking mechanism or an open side. These should face outside when your feet are in the stirrups.
English stirrups are used with English saddles, typically for eventing, showjumping, and dressage. They are available in a wide variety of styles and materials.
Some English safety stirrups keep your feet and legs more comfortable by offering flexibility. They even have an open design that is considered a lot safer in a fall.
Many equestrian brands manufacture high-quality English stirrups. For the high-end ones, go for Herm Sprenger stirrups. For affordable ones, choose PRORIDER, Mane Rider, or Equinez.
I hope this guide helps you make an informed choice.