If you grew up riding in an English saddle, you may be familiar with peacock safety stirrups. These are metal stirrups with a thick rubber band on the outside of the stirrup that can pop off when pressure is applied. In event of an unscheduled dismount from the horse, the rider’s foot will not be trapped.
Since the advent of peacock stirrups, other styles of English stirrups that allow for the release of the foot have appeared. For whatever reason, the western industry has seemingly not shown the same level of interest in safety stirrups.
True, there are tapaderos and endurance stirrups with cages. These are stirrups with coverings on the front that prevent a foot from getting hung up in the stirrups. But neither style seems to have taken hold in the industry across western discipllines.
For almost ten year now, I have ridden in a combined leather and cordura Fabtron western saddle with plastic stirrups. While I can’t say that the plastic stirrups were the height of safety, fashion or comfort, I managed to have many good rides with them. Still, I considered swapping out the plastic stirrups for something different on many occasions. I finally took the plunge this Winter.
Back in the day, I did experiment with taking off western fenders and replacing them with english leathers and peacock stirrups so I could ride with a set of safety stirrups in place. This photo shows my horse, Bear, and me back in 2009 with this western saddle/english leather/peacock stirrups get up. While this worked fine for me while riding at home, trail rides, clinics and fun shows, it did look a little odd. It wouldn’t have worked well for anything more than casual showing. It was also very difficult to remove and replace those western fenders.
The stirrups I now have are the Tough 1 EZ Out Safety Stirrups. Here is the manufactures description as taken from the JT International website:
“High quality aluminum stirrups with rubber grip tread and spring loaded outside release for safety. When pressure is applied to outside of stirrup like in a fall the side of the stirrup will open all the way up allowing the foot to be released. No way to get hung up in these stirrups. Available in adult and youth sizes for any age rider. The easy way out of a bad situation! Medium size (5” x 5” inside measurement, 7” outside height, 3 1/2” x 1 1/4” tread, .9 lbs.)”
Since their purchase, I estimate I have had about twenty rides with my new Tough 1 Easy Out Stirrups. I am so far quite pleased with them. They have an attractive look that closely mimics a traditional western stirrup. I especially like the way the stirrups hang on the saddle fender. They also sport a comfortable yet solid instep that feel good beneath my feet.
Arrows near the bottom of the stirrup tell you which way the stirrup should face out from the horse in order to facilitate the hinge mechanism releasing in even of a fall. But will they really work in event of an accident?
I still don’t know. I have not fallen off with the stirrups and would like to keep it that way. I have no interest in doing that kind of research, even if it would make for a more comprehensive review. I WAS able to pull the hinge apart with my hands with a quick, firm pull as a way to test how the hinge might work.
I have also read online reviews where the writers claimed that the stirrup did release during their unscheduled dismount. I do not have a way to verify if those reviews are factual though.
I was concerned that the hinge mechanism might be activated accidently somehow during mounting. So far I have not experienced that, but I do think about weighting my left foot more to the inside of the stirrup while mounting now. I could see how that might cause a wreck if the stirrup released as the rider was trying to swing up into the saddle.
The weight of the stirrups is the one feature that is a mixed bag for me. The website notes that each stirrup is about a pound, but my home scale showed their weight as a combined total of 3.8 pounds. That’s closer to two pounds each.
That weight helps provide a nice feel to the stirrups under my foot, but it makes my saddle noticeably heavier. Four pounds doesn’t sound like a lot, but I immediately noticed the difference when I went to pick up my saddle for the first time after attaching the new stirrups. I felt it in my back everytime I picked up the saddle until my body got used to the difference.
My horse, Shiloh, noticed the difference in the feel of the stirrups too. He shot forward a bit the first time I gave him a light squeeze to move away from the mounting block. It occured to me later that lunging him first with the stirrups might have been a good idea.
On that note, I like how the heaviness of the stirrups make the fenders hang more solidly for lunging. My plastic stirrups would sometimes flap around easily because they were so light weight.
I purchased my set of stirrups from an online retailer for about $100. While I wouldn’t consider them inexpensive at that price point, they are the most attractive, quality western safety stirrups I have found for the price. I have the “adult size” stirrups that I think they refer to as “medium sized”, but they do make a smaller-sized youth safety-stirrup that looks the same, just with different size dimensions.
Overall, I like the stirrups and am so far happy with how they look, feel and function. On the minus side, I do wish they were a bit lighter just to keep the overall weight of the saddle down both for my horse and me.
If you would like to read more about the stirrups directly from the manufacturer, go to http://www.jtidist.com/ez-out-safety-stirrup.html. You can purchase the stirrups through that link, but I have found most other online retailers advertise a lower price.
*** Please note that this review is unsolicited and uncompensated.***