Your dressage saddle needs stirrups, and there are many to pick among. Choosing the right stirrups will help increase your comfort level in the saddle and improve your safety while riding. The best stirrups for you will be those that meet your needs and requirements as a dressage rider.
Dressage is the equestrian sport often compared to dancing. Horses and riders work to perfect both physical motions and rider cues. Dressage at its highest level is an Olympic event, but riders and horses of all levels can compete. The appearance of the horse, rider, tack and equipment is expected to be flawless and uniform. Dressage saddles are specifically designed for the purpose of dressage competition and do not serve in any other riding disciplines or events.
The sport of dressage does not leave a lot of room for creativity or unique designs. Individuality is not encouraged when it comes to tack choices, so dressage riders are limited in their equipment selections. Dressage stirrups are required to meet certain criteria, according to the the United States Equestrian Federation, which requires riders to use classically designed English stirrups without additional attachments, or approved safety stirrups, while riding in dressage competitions. Failure to use the right equipment can result in disqualification during competitions, or points being taken away from a rider's final score.
Traditional English stirrups are shiny metal U-shaped stirrups with standard white pads on the bottoms, where your feet go. Basic English stirrups are static in design, but modified ones have jointed sides and even swivels at their tops that allow the stirrups to pivot. The purpose of jointed or pivoting stirrups is to ease the pressure on the rider's knees and ankles. Traditional stirrups can be uncomfortable for individuals who suffer from knee and leg problems, and jointed stirrups can make riding more comfortable for those individuals.
English safety stirrups are allowed in dressage competitions. Safety stirrups are used by riders who are concerned about the risk of getting a foot caught in a stirrup if they fall off a horse. Getting your foot caught can cause serious injury or death. Riders who believe they are at a high risk of falling off are best off using safety stirrups, most of which are designed to twist or give way when a rider's foot slips through a stirrup or becomes stuck. Some safety stirrups are angled so it is nearly impossible for a rider's foot to become stuck in the first place.
The Best Dressage Stirrups
The best dressage stirrup for you is going to be the stirrup that meets both United States Equestrian Federation requirements and your needs. If you ride a young horse, have balance problems or are otherwise at a high risk of falling off a mount, you will benefit from the use of safety stirrups. If you have leg problems, you may want to try a swiveling or jointed dressage stirrup. Otherwise, the standard English stirrup is always a safe choice for the competitive arena.
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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.