Stirrups help give a rider balance in the saddle and assist the rider in performing tasks including mounting the horse. Selecting the right type of stirrup for the type of riding you participate in encourages a successful event. Oxbow stirrups are among several different styles of western riding stirrup. The benefit of using oxbow stirrups is that the design encourages a better seat and leg position for some disciplines.
Oxbow stirrups are rounded, snug-fitting stirrups that are designed so that the arch of the rider's foot, rather than the ball of the foot, sits across the base of the stirrup. The name comes from the stirrup's resemblance to the U-shaped oxbows that were used as the collar for actual oxen when they were attached to a yoke.
The design of the oxbow stirrup encourages the rider's heel to go down and creates a deeper seat as a result. A lower heel and deeper seat are beneficial to the rider because they help the rider maintain proper riding position on the horse. The better the rider's position is, the less likely he is to lose his balance and come off of the horse. Oxbow stirrups can help improve the position but they will not automatically teach a rider with a bad leg or seat how to ride properly. The rider has to already be sitting correctly to achieve the benefits from using an oxbow stirrup.
Flat bottomed stirrups are most commonly used for the majority of western riding disciplines, including trail riding, roping, western pleasure and western horsemanship. Oxbow stirrups, which feature a rounded bottom, are used for riding bucking horses, breaking young horses, cutting and barrel racing. These are all events where the rider needs to have the best seat and balance possible to succeed.
Oxbow stirrups are normally made from a wooden or metal frame that can be covered with rawhide or leather to create the finished product. Aluminum framed oxbow stirrups are lighter than those made of steel, and may be preferred for speed events where the weight of the rider and tack can negatively affect the horse's performance. The price of a new pair of oxbow stirrups starts around $40 and increases based on quality.
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Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.