Product Review: Western Safety Stirrups
By Julie Goodnight
The risk of severe injury or death by dragging from the stirrup of a runaway horse is a serious concern for ride providers and riders everywhere. The risk of getting hung-up in a stirrup exists even when proper footwear is worn, but the risk is greatly increased when riders are allowed to mount in improper footwear such as athletic shoes or sandals.
While CHA standards recommend that ride providers require riders to wear proper footwear, we realize that this is not always an option, particularly for programs dealing with tourists right off the street. Even when proper footwear is required, the risk of dragging still exists, especially when riders wear lace up boots that will not pull off when stuck in the stirrup like a non-lace up boot will.
Saddle Technology Incorporated, of Laurel, Montana has invented and patented a safety breakaway stirrup, which looks just like a high quality Western stirrup and comes in several styles. Invented by a veteran cattle rancher and former PRCA cowboy, Mike McCoy, these stirrups were actually made to protect the professional rodeo cowboy. However, their application to recreational riding programs is perhaps even more significant.bearkaway stirrup
The safety breakaway stirrup is designed to release itself from the stirrup leather when it reaches a 45-degree back angle or a 70-degree forward angle. The back angle would be activated when a horse shies out from under a rider or when the rider is thrown. The forward angle of release is generally activated when a horse falls. Whether the foot is through the stirrup or the toe is wedged in the stirrup, this stirrup will always rotate around the stirrup leather activating the release mechanism.
The mechanism controlling the stirrup release is a spring-loaded pin holding the stirrup in place that fires inward, releasing the stirrup when it hits the predetermined angle of release. A torsion pressure feature restricts the flopping or free-swinging motion of the stirrup at the end of the stirrup leather. This feature will prevent 70% of those situations where the rider’s foot slips out of the stirrup, causing the rider to lose balance and fall.
One of the best features of the stirrup, according to professional riders, is that it will not release under normal riding conditions. Another important safety and financial consideration is the stirrup’s durability. The stirrup is made from high quality, high tensile strength materials and comes with a five-year warrantee. It appears to me that the stirrup could last for the entire useful life of a saddle, with reasonable care.
The stirrups come in three different models to meet the needs of a variety of riders. It is available in an Oxbow style, a roping stirrup and a traditional style western stirrup with a wide footrest. All three styles are available in nylon, leather or rawhide coverings and range in price.
I had the opportunity to test the traditional style stirrup, which would be used for a trail riding operation. The stirrups are very attractive and once on the saddle, there is no indication that it is anything other than a normal high quality stirrup. It rode just like a regular stirrup but with its weight and stability, there is less slipping around on your foot. Fortunately, I did not have the opportunity to be drug or thrown to see how it releases in an emergency situation, but I could simulate the circumstances and it released effortlessly every time when cocked to the release angles. The only downside I could find to the stirrups is that if you throw your saddle on the ground (instead of hanging it from the saddle rack), it could cause the stirrups to release inadvertently. But there is an easy fix for this problem: treat your saddle properly and it won’t happen.
Although the cost may seem a little high at first, it is important to consider the longevity of the product and compare it to the potential cost of an injury or death caused from dragging. It is quite possible that your insurance company would offer a discount if these stirrups are used across the board.
For more information on the STI Safety Breakaway Western Stirrups, contact STI at (406) 248-7331 or www.breakawaystirrups.com.