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Stirrup breakaway safety: Alternatives to Barnes Buckles or Swiss Clips?

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  • Stirrup breakaway safety: Alternatives to Barnes Buckles or Swiss Clips?

    I broke my ankle recently in a spook-fall and I'd like to make my riding time safer. I already have stirrups that I love (MDC S Flex). Barnes Buckles or Swiss Clips would have been the perfect solution to keep my current stirrups but make things safer, but neither product seems to be made anymore.

    (I've confirmed with Dream Team Products that despite their web page, the Swiss Clips are no longer available.)

    Does anyone know of alternatives that would clip on to my stirrup leathers (or in my case, Webbers) and allow the stirrup to be ejected with me in a fall?

    Finding stirrups that a rider loves can be such a pain, and we all want to avoid injuries from falls, so I'm sad that safety buckles/clips aren't more common.

    If I'm S.O.L. on buckle alternatives, I may change stirrups, but so far I've been unable to find stirrups that have:

    1) Breakaway or quick-release feature
    2) Flexible joints for shock absorption (might be even more important now that I've broken an ankle)
    2b) Angled footbed front-to-back (I have crazy-flexible ankles and it's unsafe for my foot to be perched on the back edge of flat-bed stirrups, but flexible joints would at least help with this)
    3) Wide footbeds to distribute pressure
    4) Easier pick-up if I lose a stirrup (so a turned eye hole for the leather/webber)
    5) Some weight to them rather than super-light stirrups that fly around
    6) Price under $300/pair preferred. I wear size 9 boots so the FreeJump Petites are probably not workable. The price of the FreeJump Pro and Tech Venices x2 make me wince....though yes, they're cheaper than my health insurance deductible, so I have to consider them.

    I don't really care how the stirrup looks, as long as it's safe and performs well. The MDC S Flex meets all of my needs except #1, sigh. I'm thinking the Herm Sprenger Bow Balance @$230 might be the closest option, but please shout out if I've missed a good option, thanks!

  • #2 better late than never.

    I was just about to start a thread about Safestyle safety hooks listed on the website. They are interesting since they would allow you to use whatever stirrup configuration works best much like the long lost Barnes buckle. However there is no depiction of the hooks in use or much information past a pretty awkward translation. They are also offered at a healthy price for just taking a look see..

    Thoughts? Do we think these would work?
    Last edited by Raincityrider; Jun. 6, 2019, 08:42 PM. Reason: Dog thoughtfully entered my post for me


    • Original Poster

      WOW, I hadn't seen those before. I'm so glad you posted about them!

      Definitely an awkward translation. I guess the leather goes in the top slot, and then the stirrup would be at a 90-degree angle to the leather? Hard to be sure, but I'm definitely intrigued.

      I have managed to locate several pairs of Swiss Clips, but in foreign countries in tack shops that don't export to the U.S. or for which shipping through DHL would be 5 times the cost of the clips.


      • Original Poster

        Actually, I'm going to guess the photo is upside down from the way the hook would be on a stirrup...


        • Original Poster

          No, I take that back. It's probably right-side up. But uggh, I wish there were more pics, a video, or at least a better description!


          • #6
            ..And that’s the point I reached when I decided to post on Coth.

            I’m guessing the clip bolts into the stirrup and clips onto the leathers with the little knobs out. But then again...wouldn’t the stirrup need to release as it was being pulled away from the horse? knobs in? I really wish they had posted a photo of the thing in use.


            • #7
              Nope, nope..has to be knobs out. Where’s the face palm smilie...


              • Original Poster

                Yes, 'tis a puzzle!

                It looks like in contrast to a Barnes Buckle or a Swiss Clip, which separates into two pieces allowing the stirrup to fall away, with a SafeStyle Safety Hook the stirrup leather/webber is supposed to slide out from the mechanism. ("With a fall of the horse, the hook is pulled out of the bracket belt, so that you can never be dragged in a trap." I'm guessing a better translation would be "With a fall off the horse, the hook will be pulled out of the stirrup leather so you can't be dragged.")

                I guess I'm a bit skeptical about the never.

                There are multiple ways a fallen rider can get into trouble from the stirrup. For example: (1) A rider can be dragged behind the horse. (2) I just read about a rider getting pitched forward over the horse's shoulder and then getting dragged backward over a jump. (3) My ankle fracture is likely to be from my ankle getting twisted against the hard bars of the MDCs before my foot left the stirrup.

                I worry that that a leather/webber wouldn't always slide out, depending on how the rider has fallen. And I don't have confidence the Safety Hook could have prevented my ankle fracture.


                In the absence of any Barnes Buckles or Swiss Clips, I've been checking out safety stirrups. I bought a pair of FreeJumps, but I'm going to return them. While the top third to half of the outside bar does flex, the bars are very rigid next to the foot platform, and I could imagine getting the same twist injury in them as I got from my beloved MDCs.

                Next up was the Acavallo Arena AluPro. I just got them and haven't had a chance to test them yet, but I like that they open at the bottom of the bar near the foot platform (so, easy out), and that it's the outside bar that opens. (The open side of the SafeStyle stirrups is on the inside, and while a rider would be much less likely to get a twist fracture, I still imagine it would be difficult for the foot to escape in a forward fall. Maybe I'm not imagining that correctly, but...)

                BTW, I found this video comparing several safety stirrups (and the Swiss Clips) in falls off a mechanical bull:

                Last edited by CanteringOn; Jun. 6, 2019, 09:45 PM. Reason: Edited for a typo. But there are probably more. :(


                • #9
                  I am a huge fan of FreeJump stirrups. I had a friend fall and get hung up jumping and I now only ride in these (including dressage). I don’t think they meet all your criteria but I’ve recommended to a lot of folks with several issues you describe and they love them too. I just got a new pair of the ones that “run up” and they are even more comfortable. (And no, not sponsored, I just love them and appreciate their quality and safety. I used to ride in flexible MDCs, if that helps.)


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by CanteringOn View Post
                    Yes, 'tis a puzzle!

                    Next up was the Acavallo Arena AluPro. I just got them and haven't had a chance to test them yet, but I like that they open at the bottom of the bar near the foot platform (so, easy out), and that it's the outside bar that opens. (The open side of the SafeStyle stirrups is on the inside, and while a rider would be much less likely to get a twist fracture, I still imagine it would be difficult for the foot to escape in a forward fall. Maybe I'm not imagining that correctly, but...)

                    BTW, I found this video comparing several safety stirrups (and the Swiss Clips) in falls off a mechanical bull:

                    That video is great and just convinced me not to invest in FreeJump. I really like the Acavallo's but I strongly dislike the cheese grater foot bed. I have seen riders get their arms/other body parts cut by those in a fall. I wonder if they offer or know of a company that will make rubber foot beds.


                    • #11
                      Interesting video, thanks for posting. It makes me want to steer clear of lightweight composites.

                      I wonder how the action magna/footsaver stirrups would stack up in that test. They are definitely a regular/heavier weight stirrup. I have a pair but there seem to be zero left in the marketplace and I really would prefer them a size smaller. They are big, beefy stirrups. If you can find a pair they seem very well made.

                      I agree that the safety hook is interesting but I don’t have a lot of confidence it would reliably release either. There seems to be a decent market for a Swiss clip type product in the US. I wonder why there is nothing available.


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by Raincityrider View Post
                        There seems to be a decent market for a Swiss clip type product in the US. I wonder why there is nothing available.
                        I agree, wish I knew.

                        Those action magnas look good. Too bad they aren't really available anymore. (This seems to be a running theme in the safety stirrups / buckles area, d'oh!)

                        The Samshield Shield'Rup Stirrup Irons look like an option, too, but they're about twice as much...and yep, difficult to find. :-/

                        I'm eager to try my Acavallo Arena AluPros, but it may be a couple more weeks before I'm cleared for riding in stirrups. The Acavallos don't seem to have the same ouchy sharp cheesegraters as some replacement pads I've seen for other stirrups — the top of each point is rounded — but I still don't think it would be pleasant to scrape yourself on.


                        • Original Poster

                          I just came across two more possibilities, both non-traditional though.

                 (edited to add: STS safety irons)

                          Composti Ellipse Safety Stirrup Spikes (currently out of stock, of course):

                          As usual, I would like to see videos of them to get a better feel, including exactly how flexible the rubber is because of my twist fracture.

                          For such expensive products, the manufacturers of many safety stirrups don't seem to put a ton of thought into what buyers want to know or see before buying...
                          Last edited by CanteringOn; Jun. 7, 2019, 07:11 PM.


                          • #14
                            There are also the STS irons from Jacks..I believe they are more of a racing brand but they do make an english safety stirrup that looks quite...interesting:


                            I’ve never seen a pair in person.


                            • Original Poster

                              Yep, I think that's the same one at the EquineOutfitters link in my previous post. The only testimonial I spotted on them was from a para athlete and it was a little hard to hear her on the video, but she seemed to like them a lot. For my purposes I wish the rubber went a little lower on the outside branch, or rather that there was a shorter metal sprig for the outside branch...but they look intriguing.

                              I've run across a number of mentions of the Mountain Horse safety irons, but those also seem to be discontinued.


                              • #16
                                I got these stirrups 3 years ago when I switched from straight dressage to eventing:

                                I've not had a fall, so I can't speak to the safety of them yet. They are similar in designn, but 1/3 the cost of FreeJump and look more like a round bell shape vs a triangle. The "open" side of the stirrup is very soft/flexi rubber - softer than the rubber composite on FreeJumps. I've also heard that some of the BNRs who compete in FreeJump stirrups have had them break where they connect to the stirrup leather. The SafeStyle was $100 USD with free shipping.
                                Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...


                                • Original Poster

                                  I like that the SafeStyle stirrups only have one side and I've definitely considered them, but the open side being against the horse instead of on the outside worries me a bit. It makes the stirrups look more traditional, but I'm not sure it would be as effective in a forced ejection, especially to the front. But I could be wrong. If they made them with the open branch on the outside, I'd probably snap up a pair.

                                  I found some more on those Composti Ellipses. They actually look pretty good! Seem to be more widespread in Australia (and cheaper, too, considering the exchange rate right now). I have a pair of the wide-tread non-safety Compostis. I liked them, but they felt a little light to my taste and I switched to regular fillis and then the MDCs. But maybe the Ellipses would be heavier (since they have that weird fin on the bottom). They have a regular-tread version and one with spikes on the tread like the FreeJumps. They come in lots of eventer-friendly colors, are shock-absorbing, and have an adjustable stirrup eyelet so they'll hang at the angle you prefer.




                                  All that said, I'm still going to test out the Acavallos first because they seem best to me for avoiding a twist fracture.


                                  • #18
                                    Just FYI, someone I know just posted today about her Avacallos breaking mid-jump at a horse trial (literally the bottom snapped completely off). She's had them less than a year so it isn't like they were weak from years of use or abuse.
                                    I have Higher Standards... do you?

                                    "For the love of my horse, I know who I am."


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Yikes, that's scary!

                                      I know that's happened to some folks with the FreeJumps, too though I think in those cases the inside bar broke(?). GutsNGlory, did that poster mention if her stirrups were the Acavallo Arena AluPros (safety stirrups)?


                                      • #20
                                        She didn't post the model but they are safety stirrups so I think so.
                                        I have Higher Standards... do you?

                                        "For the love of my horse, I know who I am."