I am known to be something of a new tack aficionado.
You better believe I’ve got shoulder relief girths, ergonomic bridles, and a bevy of riding clothing to keep me warm, cool, dry and/or some combination thereof. But the one thing I’ve never given thought to switching out is my stirrup irons.
Because, frankly, that’s cheating.
Everyone knows that even considering a deviation from the traditional iron is an act of blasphemy punishable by 40 lashes of George Morris’s whip. It’s right there in black in white in the old testament, Hunt Seat Equitation.
And for good, never-to-be-questioned reasons, which I’ll now breakdown point by point for the betterment of horse-loving kind. (You’re welcome!):
1. It’s TRADITION
The first stirrups were used around 100 CE. And from there they basically never, ever changed. Like the wheel, telephone and your Mother, the original was perfect in its whole and beyond reproach. Also, it’s the way it’s always been done and therefore, the way it always should be done. End of story.
2. So, maybe they changed a little…
Okay, the earliest stirrups were probably some sort of metal ring. But the traditional stirrup design as we now know it has been around since about the 10th century. After extensive research (I definitely didn’t start with Wikipedia, btw), I learned that stirrups were extremely important to the development of warfare. Riders with stirrups were less likely to fall from a charging steed (um, duh), and they were also much more effective at the stabby and slashy parts of battle (since they could balance or even stand in the saddle with the aid of two stirrups). With the rise of the stirrup came the rise of the knight, cavalries and (eventually) romance novels.
Updates to stirrups have been made over the years with regards to materials, tread, and sizing, but the main design has remained largely unchanged. In short, stirrups have pretty much always looked like we see them today. The right way.
3. Traditional stirrups are elegant
Traditional stirrup irons are the definition of elegance: sleek, timeless and generally restrictive. New “modern” irons threaten to ruin that.
Martin Cohen—a horseman with such insignificant credits to his name as “FEI and USEF Judge, Course Designer, and Chief Steward” and “international judge at two Olympic Games”—had an idea in the late 90s to *gasp* change stirrup irons. One night while working late in his garage, the sound of hammers and drills spilling out into the night, a single “Eureka!” echoed across the land (probably) and the seed was planted for a stirrup iron that lays where God intended, performs as riders wanted, and naturally supports correct leg positioning for equestrians of all riding disciplines.
Untold hours calculating stress and spring tension and perfecting his designs to Hunter Goddess and Dressage Queen standards later, Martin got his answer in the form of MDC Stirrups™. They too are sleek and timeless. But, unlike their predecessors, they are intentionally unrestrictive. Womp, womp.
4. New-fangled stirrup irons are for lazy people
Sure, we equestrians will gladly try any and all of the newest technology to make our horses perform better, faster, harder, or more comfortably. But we draw the line at stirrup irons. Because correct riding requires suffering.
MDC Stirrups™ allow riders to put their stirrup in the exact position for optimal riding via their patented adjustable top, which can be set to your ideal angle, or, by way of the patented ‘S’ Model, which stays fixed at the most popular 45 degree angle. Not only do these angles help the rider maintain a more functional and natural foot, ankle and leg position, it’s more comfortable. (And safer. And easier to retrieve. And relieves and/or eliminates pain.) Which is fine… for slackers who can’t take a little soreness in the name of correct riding.
5. It’s not the stirrup, it’s you
Inflexible heels? Unstable ankles? Unremitting pain after every ride? If you experience discomfort because of your stirrup iron placement, it’s because there’s something terribly flawed in your anatomy and not the awkwardly angled metal step upon which you rest your foot whilst riding.
MDC offers flexible rubber sides than are intentionally tighter than the German brand to provide additional shock absorbing relief from stirrup concussion AND provide a solid base of support to help to relieve foot, ankle, knee, hip and back pain while riding. That’s because MDC Stirrups™ were designed by a horseman who has a true understanding of function and saddle hours and not by an engineer with no real riding experience.
Traditional stirrups, on the other hand, allow you to practice stoically muscling your way through pain.
6. If you just keep your heels down, you won’t lose your stirrup
Traditional stirrups lay flat against a horse’s side, so if a rider loses one because they failed to keep their heels down (*SHAME BELL TOLLS*), it’s incumbent upon them to master the catch and release technique of wrestling said stirrup back on to their foot mid gallop—like our forefathers before us.
MDC Stirrups™ do not lay flat against the horse’s side, meaning that a dropped iron can be easily picked up again. (Charlatans!) And should a rider fall, the stirrup remains open to the side of the horse and is much less likely to twist and a trap a foot. (Safety. Pffft!) They also come with a high traction, ultra-low profile tread in both a wide and traditional width to fit any rider’s needs. (The nerve!)
Safe? Check. Comfortable? Check. Beautiful? You betcha. COP OUT? I mean, it must be… (right?)
7. Real riders don’t need gadgets
If thousands of years of tradition and the stubborn attitudes of people who work with 1000-pound toddlers on a daily basis have taught us anything, it’s that horse riding wisdom is best passed down through the ages. After all, 10-time American Grandprix Association Rider of the Year Margie Engle (USA) would be caught dead with “smart” stirrups…
What’s that? She rides in MDC Stirrups™? Has for years? Oh.
Well then… polo star Nic Roldan, US team eventer Caroline Martin, USHJA champion hunter rider Jenny Karazissis and junior superstars Sophie and Mimi Gochman, Augusta Iwasaki and Kat Fuqua, they know better than to—
Them too, you say? Goodness.
You can BET YOUR BOTTOM DOLLAR that dressage team veterans Debbie Macdonald and Steffen Peters, the ONLY two Americans to have ever won the Dressage World Cup Final, understand the value of tradi—
Dressage riders were the first to adopt them?! DEBBIE AND STEFFEN BOTH RIDE IN MDC STIRRUPS™? Huh. (Note to self: Strike #7 from the list.)
So in conclusion, remember this simple formula: “new = bad, old = best.” Unless, of course, you want a stirrup that was designed a) “from the saddle” by an accomplished horseman and b) for your comfort, safety and well being.
I think the choice here is clear. (At least to Margie, Nick, Caroline, Jenny, Debbie, Steffen, Sophie, Mimi, Augusta, Kat et al.)