Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Teach You Tuesday: Stirrups

Equitaly has got it going on
When I posted about my beloved flex stirrups last week, it came to my attention that possibly not everyone is quite as obsessive about tack as I am. I have to be reminded of that sometimes. In light of that, I wanted to do a quick rundown of the types of stirrups irons available on the modern market and their various uses.

boring is as boring does
1) Fillis Iron

This is the most basic and common model of stirrup iron on the market. It's widely available and can generally be had for around $25-35 brand new. Fillis irons are widely accepted as "traditional" (for whatever that's worth to you) and are legal to show in all English disciplines. These things have been around for decades (centuries?) and they certainly get the job done.

They work really well for some people and cause excruciating pain for others. The difference seems to be that people with previous lower limb injuries like a fixed foot? Dunno. I'm injury free and these things murder me.

I call them "leg murder irons"
2) Fillis flex iron

The next evolution is the fillis flex iron. I think Sprenger was the first to come out with a model ($224). MDC has another one ($184) and thank god for knockoffs-- Dover carries a basic model ($49.99). It's the same exact set up as a fillis iron, but with joints inside the rubber on the side. These are also show legal.

These have the same narrow footbed as the fillis irons. My .02 on these is that I really don't love them. They tend to be too flexible. I initially got a pair of knock offs because they were trendy and they sort of helped alleviate some knee pain, but they were just too loose in the flex section and made my leg less stable. Also, if you don't have knee problems and do have knee pain, maybe you should quit bracing your lower leg. ;-)

basic Royal Riders, wide footbed
3) Composite "iron"

The next big leap forward was switching from stainless irons to a composite material--essentially high quality plastic. Composite irons can be as simple as a fillis iron made of different material ($30) or it can be much more cool. Royal Rider (I think) was the first to come out with the wide footbed ($145). Prestige also makes one ($184). If you're cheap like me, the knock offs are made by Equiwing ($65).

The wide tread composites feature the "cheese grater" stirrup pads that theoretically improve grip. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn't. I don't know. I do know that the wide tread is frequently a game changer for people with joint problems in the legs. I also know that the black composites are NOT LEGAL in the eq ring and I suspect they're frowned upon in hunters? There are silver/grey models coming out now that are legal. Hunter peeps, help me out here.

flexi royal riders oooooh
4) Composite flex

THIS my friends, is where it's at. For me. Royal Rider again has the corner on the market ($179). I'm half tempted to get a cheap/broken pair of these just to dissect them and see what's inside. Regardless, they look like normal composites with a short rubber section on either side of the branch. Inside this segment is mechanism that allows the stirrups to flex slightly. It's not the multi-hinged type flex you get in the flex fillis irons.

To be perfectly honest, I actually prefer the Equiwing knock offs ($126) of the RR flex model. The RR is ever so slightly flexier and I want a little give, not my ankle to break in half. Both of these models combine the wide tread, cheese grater pads, and a small amount of flex. They are brilliant. You'd think this is the top of the market, but there's always something more.

just swivel the thing at the top
5) Offset Iron

Offset irons attempt to compensate for the normal amount of torque put on the human leg by the stirrup leather wrapping around it. The MDC collection offers a top that swivels to present angles that you can individualize. Other irons incorporate some sort of twist to design of the stirrup to alleviate pressure for the rider.

Offset irons frequently also incorporate flex, like the MDC Ultimate ($210). There is also famously the Sprenger Bow Balance ($224). There are some interesting non-flex models out as well. Newest on the scene seems to be the composite non-flex Royal Rider Evo 80s ($110ish).

Lorenzini
6) Aluminum/novelty stirrup

This is probably two distinct categories that I'm lumping into one because I can. It includes things like Jin Aluminums ($275), my beloved (someday...) Lorenzini titaniums ($265), and of course the to-die-for Equitaly line ($260+). There's also the Free Jump line that you're starting to see at jumper shows. Try not to gasp too hard at the $400+ price tag that doesn't include the specialized leathers you're also supposed to buy.

These stirrups are substantially more expensive and some of what you're paying for is style points. HOWEVER. This is where the innovations are at right now. These are the people questioning the function of the basic design we've had for ages to see if we can improve it. I'm certain that if/when they do, the cheaper knock offs will filter down.

trippy. expensive. plastic.
That's a basic round up. There are certainly more out there. It is interesting to note that different thigns work for different people. I can't ride in a jump saddle without flex irons--Jess can't ride with them. Some people with leg pain swear by new technology and some can't handle it. I'm not a doctor and I haven't the foggiest idea what will work best for you. If you're experiencing leg and/or back pain, it's definitely worth the time to try a few of these out and see if they might be the ticket for you.

Who else has had sets of these and can share a little knowledge?

35 comments:

  1. Huh. I still wonder how/why they work. I guess if you have an issue with the way the leather wraps around your leg that can be a problem. Though, the wide foot and offset ones do make sense to me.

    Maybe I don't jump enough any more to actually have a voice in this debate. They seem pretty universally silly for dressage. Am I alone here?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. Maybe it's a dressage thing, I just never understood the need for "different" stirrups.

      Delete
    2. FWIW, if/when I get my novelty stirrups, they are totally going on my dressage saddle. Y'all need more innovations than bling.

      Delete
    3. I would still love to try the offset irons as my legs keeps turning outwards a lot ...wonder if they would help in that case....

      Delete
  2. Add in the JINS! My RR flexes are older and the flex is not as flexy on them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. All I know is that I have a two sets of stirrups from your "fillis flex" category (sprenger and knock off) and can't stop pulling something right above my left ankle on the outside this winter. Interestingly I did this some last winter as well. It's driving me crazy and I would love to figure that out! The only bonus is that I drop my stirrups more to avoid the pain....

    Anyways, I've been feeling like I need to explore other stirrup options but unsure where to start. Composite is definitely out, some of the MDC stirrups look interesting and the fact that you can trial them is nice.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have always had the traditional irons and I had no idea there were any other kinds until I started blogging (I don't show and I ride alone...I'm an equestrian hermit!). My friend gave me a pair of composite stirrups that she spray painted silver and I'm curious to take them for a spin.

    Thanks for the informative post! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have very limited ankle mobility on the right side. It is impossible for me to turn my foot in or out (which makes picking up my stirrups a bit of a nightmare).

    Before my injury I rode in the original Sprenger flex irons and really liked them. After the injury I switched to Bow Balance for my jumping saddle. I find that the offset takes stress off my ankle and is way less painful. I have the original MDC swivel-eye irons for my dressage saddle and every time I forget to switch them to a 90 degree I notice within minutes that my ankle is giving me problems.

    If I didn't have a compromised joint, I'm not sure I would find much extra value in my irons. With the limited mobility I likely won't ever go back to irons that aren't offset.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I might be the last rider alive that truly likes my plain old fillis irons best!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are not alone! I LOVE my plain old fillis irons. A few years ago, I borrowed a friend's saddle for several months. She had a pair of Sprenger flex fillis irons on it; I constantly felt like my lower leg was totally unstable. When I bought my jump saddle, I bought a pair of solid fillis irons for it, and have felt WAY more secure ever since!

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I third the plain fillis irons. I bought the Dover knockoff flex irons and they never used to bother me, but in the last year or so my lower right leg gets really sore. I switched back to the regular irons and had no trouble.

      Delete
  7. I have used the flexy fillis irons for YEARS and recently purchased some composites with the wide footbed and no flex and I am a believer. My toes don't go numb anymore, my knees don't get that tweaked feeling after a long ride and I don't think I will ever lose a stirrup again. Plus my saddle is like 10x lighter:) I will have to switch back to the metal fillis irons for showing, but schooling in these is so much more comfortable!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's good to know! My feet go numb too. I just thought maybe my boots were a little to narrow for my wide clown feet.... :-)

      Delete
  8. As soon as I get a new horse, I'm getting new stirrups for my saddle. I really want a pair of the novelty ones but I"m going with a flex type. They make my knees feel so much better!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I haaaaate the flexy stirrups. Hate. I feel like my heel just goes down and down and down and NEVER STOPS and then my leg is somewhere underneath the crust of the earth. Awful. I ride in plain fillis irons now and I have no issues with them, although I did really like the wide-footbed stirrups that I've ridden in on friends' saddles. I just can't seem to pull the trigger on that one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe part of the difference here is that I literally have the world's least flexible ankles. I can't physically put my heel down, so the flex isn't going to make me bend any farther but it accommodates what I can do.

      Delete
  10. i honestly never paid attention to stirrups. rode in normal fillis irons forever, then my leased mare's saddle had the flexi fillis irons - which i didn't hate but maybe didn't love. then i got curious about the composites and got a cheapo pair of them and haven't looked back - i love them!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I want fun colored stirrups! Maybe not for $400 though. Thanks for breaking down the different stirrups for us! I'm curious to try the wide footbed composites though. I rode in my plain old fillis irons last night and sure enough, no sore lower right leg, no sore knees.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The offset irons have CHANGED my life! I love them and they've been worth every single penny <3

    ReplyDelete
  13. I just use regular boring irons for my dressage saddle, never had a problem with them and I don't feel my knee/ankle problems when riding dressage. I do, however, feel them over fences so when I jumped, I needed flexible irons. I used to have the Sprengers but I got rid of them because they were too flexible.

    My most recent ones (and the ones I still have which are now gathering dust on my jumping saddle) are MDC's with the little swivel top. I liked those a lot, although I jumped in a friend's saddle years ago and used composite stirrups and ahh those are nice! So was the saddle though, so it may not have just been the stirrups...

    ReplyDelete
  14. I just learned so much. Thanks woman!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I had no idea you were such an expert on stirrups haha! Excellent breakdown. I for one get murder by Fillis irons. Like crippled. I WISH I could own the Free stirrups but settled for the composites with wide bed which have helped immensely. Before those came out I had the knock off flex fillis irons and they really helped until I fractured my tibia/tore miniscus. Now I'm basically useless and forever a cripple.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have the Herm Sprenger Bow Balance. I got them used so I didn't spend that much. They seem better than regular irons, but I still get knee and ankle pain so maybe I'll try the composite stirrups.

    ReplyDelete
  17. My RR Flex stirrups have changed my life. My feet go numb in regular fillis irons and my leg swings like Nadal's forehand in Sprenger flexes, but so far I haven't had an issue in these. Plus, I rarely lose a stirrup and feel so secure - definitely an A+++ for my wimpy nervous tendencies.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have the mdc s flex ones because of foot surgery and age. They are very comfortable and a little more stable that the hs knock offs. The wide tread makes a huge difference.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I simply do not understand how companies can charge so much for little bits of plastic and metal. Sheesh!

    ReplyDelete
  20. The flex fillis kill my ankles, like they bend in half. But the flexible composite wide foot beds are from heaven. Eliminate ankle and knee pain, I would love a pair of the bow balance (used to ride a client's horse in them, love) but they are so spendy! Had a friend with broken ankle and she swore by the mdc irons.

    ReplyDelete
  21. love my MDC ultimates. both for jump and dressage.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I was contemplating some composites but was scared off by multiple tales online about people whose stirrups snapped while they were riding. Anyone had any breakage issues?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't had any issues and I don't know anyone who has. You might look into the reviews and see what brand they were--could have been an earlier model?

      Delete
  23. LOVE my Royal Riders. I didn't know I'd care about stirrups until I got them. I have ankle issues on both sides, though one is worse than the other (shattered it into tiny little bits playing roller derby and now there's a lot of titanium in there). My knees got fairly wrecked by running. That wide footbed is my favorite thing ever.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thank you so much for doing this TMT, I have been eyeing up splurging on new stirrups but dis not know where to start with so much choice. I typically don't do well with too many options and end up sticking my head in the sand like an ostrich or walking away empty handed.
    However I love the look of the Equitaly's & the RR composites.
    Am heading to the horsey mecca that is Equitana at the end of this month and hoping to see fab stirrup options in person and perhaps snag a bargain of possible...or at least get my mitts on them and feet in them prior to purchase!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I never used a thing except regular 'ole Fillis until I was riding a Percheron (of all things) in my H/J lesson program. My knees hurt a LOT when I got off of her. Don't know why, but they did. My friends at the barn swore by their Sprengers - at the time, ca. 2001, they were really the only "new" thing on the market - and I wanted to get some but big $$. Was very happy when Dover made their original knock-offs with black rubber and snapped them up! (They must have gotten in trouble because now the rubber is grey) Have ridden in them and loved them ever since. Whenever I've gotten on someone else's horse I immediately notice plain irons now and my knees don't appreciate it.

    What I REALLY want, however, is the MDC Ultimates. I've long had an issue with really, really bad leather rubs on the inside of my calves and these would eliminate that problem. We'll see...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to get those calf rubs. BRUTAL!!

      Delete
  26. I am liking my wide track composites. My trainer hates them. It's a very personal thing, I think.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...