Ocala, Fla.—March 10
In the show ring there are colorful stirrups, black stirrups, plastic stirrups, bendy stirrups, stirrups with magnets—but have you ever seen circle stirrups?
We sure haven’t, and we were intrigued by Sharn Wordley’s unique choice of stirrups when he galloped away with the win in the $10,000 Waldron Private Wealth 1.40-meter Power And Speed class at the Live Oak International Horse Show.
“I have really bad ankles, I’ve had surgery on my left ankle twice, and I couldn’t find a stirrup that worked for me,” Wordley said. “I sprained it really badly once and I think there was some sort of small break and I never rested it. And I had bone spurs taken of the front, and I have lesions on my ligaments—my left leg is just shot.”
New Zealand native Wordley is based out of Lexington, Ky., and he spotted these ErgoIrons in a booth at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in 2016.
“It’s got a really big foot plate with big spikes in it, so you feel really steady, and what’s great about them is you can change the angles of the foot pad,” Wordley said.
ErgoIrons are the brain child of Heather Pearson of Zimmerman, Minn. A lifelong amateur rider herself mostly in the sport of endurance, Pearson was convinced there was a better way to design stirrups.
“I just always realized there was a problem with stirrups and how they kind of twist your feet a little bit, and it causes pain and over the years,” Pearson, 34, said. “I realized I was kind of self-correcting for it and I was kind of leveling out my foot when I rode, but when you do that your foot is only in contact with maybe a portion of the foot rest, so I kind of started to play around with different ideas.”
Her brother, a welder by trade, melded her first prototype from pieces of old stirrups, and after Pearson got the design she wanted she took it to a prototype company to make the official model. Pearson manages eye clinics for a living, but she found time to take her passion project to the Minnesota Horse Expo two years ago, and a woman suggested she try and get a booth at the Rolex Kentucky three-day event. Pearson did, and like the horseman’s version of Cinderella, Wordley finally found the stirrup for him.
“They’re a lifesaver for me; I ride two holes different in my stirrups because I have no dorsal flexion in my left leg,” Wordley said (meaning he can’t really put his heel down). Wordley sets different slants for his good right leg and his bad left leg that help him feel like he can keep his leg on the horse better.
In addition to the stirrups, Wordley also uses modified reins to help him cope with the remnants of other injuries.
“I have 22 pins in my left hand, and I have 10 pins in my elbow,” Wordley said. “So I have 32 pins from my finger tips to my elbow, all titanium. I have to have special reins. It’s like geriatric reins, special stirrups!
“I have reins with grips on them because I can’t really grip,” Wordley continued. “Dy’on makes them, and Tiffany Foster actually came up with the idea. It’s like a rubber martingale stopper that’s sewn into the rein and then you can shorten or lengthen with a buckle to where you want it.”
Gripper reins in hand and ErgoIrons on foot, Wordley piloted Caiman Des Sequoias to the top of the opening show jumping power and speed class at the Live Oak International Horse Show.
“He’s a good horse, he’s only just coming nine and I’ve done a few ranking classes with him at the end of last year and he was getting some mileage, and today was the first time I actually went faster to try and actually win,” Wordley said. “So I think he’s ready now to go and win some classes, he’s very fast.”
Click here for full results from the class, and don’t forget to check out the March 27 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine for more pictures and stories from the Live Oak International Horse Show!