A few months ago the concept of forward facing stirrups, made me curious enough to start researching them.
It never really made sense to me that most English stirrups (and some western stirrups too) were designed to roll up neatly when you weren’t using, but actually faced inwards – instead of forwards – when you were riding in them.
Ever spent 5 minutes riding trying to find your stirrup after you lost it? This isn’t always the easiest thing in the world!
And every time you get into the saddle, of course you need to twist the stirrup icon 90 degrees so its lined up for your foot to go into. Why most stirrups are designed like this? I have no idea!
I was also aware that usually when I rode as my normal stirrups were always trying to go back to their ‘natural’ position (flat against the saddle), this meant the part of the stirrup my foot rested on, was always at an odd angle. It wasn’t flat across my foot. And I was learning that based on the way the human foot is designed, this could make my position in the saddle more unstable than it should be.
A friend of mine introduced me to these MDC stirrups and said that she, and the professional showjumpers she recommended them to had loved them. I had a look at them, so they seemed of really good quality.
So naturally I fired up Google search & off I went. I found a number of different makers who sold stirrups that faced forwards, along with the MDC stirrups.
After some googling I found the website of the company and a few minutes later had emailed the inventor of the MDC stirrups, Martin Cohen, to get more information. Martin was very kind & answered all my questions.
So I decided to test the MDC Ultimate Black stirrups.
My reasons were:
1. The top of the stirrup can be adjusted to 45 degrees and 90 degrees, so good room to test these out.
2. The base of the stirrup will move a little when I put my heels down, as the side can bend a little. This will keep this part of the stirrup flat against my foot for good stability.
3. I got black because they match the colour of my saddle! Though Martin did say the black colour can chip, so they should really only be work for ‘good’ use. The other colours are better for every day use.
So then I waited! Unfortunately the stirrups managed to make their way to England, instead of Ireland, so with the help of the UPS tracking system & Martin we managed to find them & they arrived at my house!
To start with, I tried them out on my saddle. Because you can have the top of the stirrups the ‘normal’ way, they look very similar to traditional stirrups when you roll them up.
The magic happens when you roll down your stirrups. You can adjust the stirrup to be at a 45 degree or 90 degree angle. These are two photos of my dressage saddle. In the first picture, the stirrups are at a 45 degree angle. As you can see, because the stirrup leather lies flat against the saddle with a twist, this means the 45 degree angle isn’t enough for this particular stirrup/saddle combination.
This is a picture of the same saddle with the 90 degree angle, which works really well. You can see that the stirrup is pointed forwards. This was exactly the same when I put the saddle on my horse.
I also tried these stirrups on another saddle I had. Because the second saddle had a different design, as the stirrup leather came down the side of the saddle flap, the knee rolls actually causes them to twist a little on their own. So for that saddle, the 45 degree rotation of the stirrups was enough to have the stirrups facing forwards.
So its worth noting that having both 45 & 90 degree options is a good thing! You can also check this by looking at your saddle & stirrups & seeing what why they naturally hang.
Now it was time to go out & ride my horse! I tested these for about a week & here are the results:
TEST #1 ‘DOES IT LOOK GOOD’: What did it look like in use?
RESULT: I really like the black colour, it goes really well with my black saddle.
TEST #2 COMPARISON: Was there anything I missed, comparing my MDC stirrups to my normal stirrups?
TEST #3 MOUNTING: Did it help me getting on from a mounting block (or from the ground?).
RESULT: Much improved. It was like the stirrup was just waiting for me! This made a big difference.
TEST #4 LOSING A STIRRUP: Losing a stirrup when riding and finding it again.
RESULT: I definitely found a big difference here. It was much easier to find my stirrup after I lost it. Could be really useful for riders doing fast paced work & jumping, where every split second counts.
TEST #5 WALK: Did I feel a difference in walk?
RESULT: I didn’t to be honest. Walk felt like my normal walk. No big changes that I notice.
TEST #6 TROT & CANTER: Did I feel a difference in trot & canter
RESULT: YES! And I didn’t expect this after the walk test. Trot was the biggest difference. I felt MUCH less wobbley, and more like I was standing on the ground. I felt a lot more balanced & secure in the saddle. A really food result.
TOTAL SCORE: 50/60
Ease of purchasing: 7/10: When I was trying to buy these, there were very few retailers I could find in Ireland / UK / Europe that had what I was looking for. In the end I bought them direct from the inventor, who is based in the US. So if you live outside the US you might need to order from the US, or spend a good while on google looking for a local retailer.
Customer service: 8/10. Some points were taken off for UPS delay but points added on for great communication with Martin throughout.
Product design: 10/10. This product is very cleverly designed. The options for the rotation are great, and are suitable for different saddles. I really liked the movement in the sides, to allow your foot to still be flat on the stirrup even when you have your heels down. Very well done all round.
Quality of product: 10/10. This product looks & feels of excellent quality.
Performance improvement: 9/10. I really, really like them. My balance is improved and getting on & regaining stirrups is simpler now. One option I would like to have is a toe guard, but other than that, these are great.
Price: 6/10. The model I bought was quite expensive, compared to the price of normal stirrups. But they do have a unique design & a lot of work has gone into them. Based on having them over a number of years these are a good investment. A few friends of mine have their MDCs for years and will not ride in any other stirrups! This product gets 6/10 for price, compared to normal stirrups.
I got these stirrups about 6-8 weeks ago, and I am still riding in them. Would I change them for something different? No.
My new ease of mounting & ‘finding a lost stirrup’ are great in itself. The main difference to me in how more balanced I feel in faster gaits, as the stirrup is positioned much better under my foot. It’s worth noting there are different, less expensive forward facing stirrups out there in lower prices. They don’t all have the 45 & 90 degree twist, and they don’t all have the bend in the side of the stirrups to keep your foot flat on the stirrup when you ride.
But if you know someone who has MDC stirrups I would definitely ask to borrow them for a ride or two. I’m pretty sure you will be very nicely surprised.
Have you tried out these stirrups? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you want to get your product reviewed on Honest Horse Tack? You can apply here.
WHERE TO BUY IN USA:
WHERE TO BUY IN UK: