Could we be changing saddles when we should be changing stirrups?

“My instructor hates my saddle. Today she tried it with my new RIB stirrups, she not only loved the stirrups but loved the saddle too this time!” 

Very controversial topic, but as this comment came from a saddler, it made me sit down and think. 

I have a badly smashed left ankle and for years have been trying to find a solution to my problem. I have also changed saddles far too many times to the point that my bank balance has screamed at me to stop (not to mention my husband). I have also used multiple types of the new fads of stirrups as they have come along, my collection is impressive,  hoping beyond hope that they will cure my problem. 

If I am truly honest, the squidgy soft footplates have allowed me to ride for longer without too much pain but they have done nothing to correct the issue – foot sticking out, swinging leg, leg not in the right place on my horse’s side making me slow on the aids – as my coaches regularly tell (shout at) me. Not to mention those knees that grip on for dear life, although my brain is telling them to relax – they don’t tend to listen. 

My balance isn’t too bad, I know this as I have been tested 😉 but the picture is not great and I am very aware that I could be so much better. 

Then along came these funky stirrups from RIB in Norway. Always inquisitive and spurred on by my saddler, I tried them.

Blow me down with a feather is all I can say. Why didn’t these things turn up years ago?  As with all ground breaking equipment, it is genius. The difference is that these stirrups are the result of years of study , a thesis on postural strategies in skilled riders ( https://pub.epsilon.slu.se/15488/ ) and a lot of prototyping.    

Yes, I had to get some new longer stirrup leathers that were not thick to make the stirrups work correctly (Kieffer Elefant Soft II or the Primera Soft stirrup leathers seem to be good inexpensive choices) but man was it worth it. 

The one big thing that I had forgotten is that despite your brain telling your leg to come in and not to grip with your knees – it doesn’t work like that. Your brain works with patterns in this respect and therefore the pattern has to change – which is exactly what these stirrups do. 

So what is it that they do?

The way they attach to your saddle is very different from normal stirrups. They attach through the top of the stirrup but then through an S bend before returning to the saddle. This automatically dramatically reduces the pendulum effect that most of us have – except for the lucky few, Carl Hester and Charlotte DuJardin for example. 

Riders-in-Balance-Stirrups-2

The S bend allows you to change the rotational degree of each footplate to provide you with the ability to change the stirrups for each leg and gain good balance and stability. 

The solid nature of the stirrups ensures that our feet are in the correct place to give the aids as we need to, making us much quicker. 

Most amazing of all my knees are no longer are gripping and surprise, surprise my horse is far more forward going as I am now not confusing him by asking him to go forward with my legs while my knees and thighs are telling him to slow down. 

The stirrups are 750 grams each, so are weighty but they are designed that way to train us in to being better riders. 

I have seen comments on Posts and Forums with regards to safety from those that judge from afar having not seen nor understood the stirrup, the assumptions are impressive. The arm is made of a pliable polymer that is soft with a rounded end, should you get caught on a gate or fall, it will simply pop off.  In my opinion far safer than “normal” stirrups, having been dragged myself, I am well aware of the dangers. 

So ok, the price tag is not small but the way that I look at it is this. I have had lots of lessons in my life, thousands and thousands £’s to try to resolve some of these issues but no teacher in the world can get your body doing what it needs to do. The way I justified it to myself was that this, it was 5 or 6 lessons. Now I am really benefitting from both my flat and jump lessons, so for me the investment was more than worthwhile and I am reaping the rewards. 

Or just maybe if I had had these stirrups earlier I would have saved thousands of pounds of saddle purchases which were not required, as Sameena found out (see her words below). 

Will I get to Grand Prix, do Badminton or jump a 5* Longines course, no probably not but my riding, balance and confidence has improved beyond belief and now I am ready to push the envelope at my level.  

Most importantly and the one thing that I believe is the biggest game changer, is my horse. His way of going shows marked improvement.  It wasn’t him, it was me and that is the thing we often like to forget. 

Reflecting back, my changes of saddles have often been about me rather than my horse. Maybe if I had had these stirrups years ago it would have saved me thousands in new saddles!

And I am not alone in this!

“As a saddle fitter who loves biomechanics I am always interested in new products. I have 2 damaged knees awaiting replacement, and an injured ankle, so wasn’t expecting a huge change.

OMG – game changer!!

Not only did my legs sit totally differently, but I could even dismount as my knees weren’t hurting. They have a nice solid feel, but get your legs in totally the right place, wrapping your leg effortlessly around the horse. I was able to tweak them to get my ankles really comfortable.

I really feel that these will work well for the majority of riders, you really need to try them to see just how different they are!

PS I won’t be letting anyone try mine as they are now tweaked for me.” – Julie Knaggs

I have just tried the RIB stirrups on a saddle refit as I was looking to buy a new saddle and now I’m not!! I have just ordered the stirrups online, would it be possible for me to collect?” – Sameena Rankin

I just wanted to let you know that I tried the stirrups this morning and really loved them, I felt it immediately in my right hip, my knees felt really loose and less grippy.  – Joanna Philpot

“Got the new RIB stirrups at Badminton at the weekend. I broke my ankle 3.5 years afo and haven’t been able to ride pain free with “normal” stirrups. Rode in the RIB stirrups last night. I was shocked how stable my ankle flet (even with Bud throwing some impressive shapes). It ached a bit after but this is because they are putting my ankle/leg into the correct position. Excited to ride with them more” – Becca Stojak

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