The Freejump system is massively popular in Europe — you’ve seen eventing monoliths like Michael Jung, Ros Canter, Tim Price and Maxime Livio sporting this French product line in world championship competition. And now Freejump has made its way to this side of the pond as well, with a fast-growing legion of top eventers training and competing in the Freejump system. So what is Freejump, and is it worth the hype?
Let’s start with the stirrups — the foundation of the system, you might say. Stirrup technology has come a long way since the traditional heavy, clunky fillis irons of yesteryear. Modern stirrups are made of state-of-the-art materials in ergonomic designs, and it’s no wonder: stirrups are your base of support in the tack, literally.
In a sea of new stirrup designs, Freejump stirrups stand out for several reasons, all of which you can feel the moment you put your foot in the stirrup. For eventing you need stirrups that are sturdy yet shock-absorbent enough to endure marathon trot sets and gallop in for minutes at a stretch, with safety features at a premium.
FreeJump stirrups, with their nonskid wide elastomer floor, patented flexible outside branch, and high resistance spring steel single-branch construction, fit the bill. I went with the Soft-Up Pros, as they seem to be the most popular amongst the eventing set, but other models are available. This video demonstrates the difference between three different Soft’Up models. I like the Soft’Up Pro, which features a 45-degree angled eye for a perfect foot position.
All the technical features, which you can read up on here, add up to an experience of unmatched stability and grip. Where you put your foot in the stirrup is where it stays — unless, of course, you fall, in which case the flexible outer branch made of Elastollan® bends outward to easily release your foot.
For the delivery of maximum benefits, the stirrups are intended to be used with complimentary footwear; either Freejump tall boots or Freejump paddock boots and mini-chaps. I went with the Liberty XC Shoes and Liberty XC Chaps.
The Liberty XC Shoe is technical footwear at its smartest: from the bi-injected sole to the three spur positions, the Freejump Riding Control™ insole to the anti-slip soles. The Liberty Concept velcro system makes attaching the boots to Liberty Air Chaps a breeze and allows unprecedented freedom of movement for the ankle. Of note, the boots have no heel, so are only suitable for use with the quick release technology featured in Freejump stirrups.
The boots and minichaps function in concert as a “system,” as cohesively and seamlessly as any pair of tall boots I’ve ever worn. The system is actually designed for competition use, and I’ve worn them in several USEA-recognized events. According to USEF Rules for Eventing, EV114 Dress, permitted boots for jumping include “black, brown, field, jodhpur or a black or brown full grain smooth leather leg piece and matching leather boots. Chaps and/or half-chaps are not allowed.” The rule is a bit murky — to my interpretation, the Liberty Air Chaps qualify as a “full grain smooth leather leg piece,” but at a competition you might want to double check with your TD to be sure.
I can truly say that used altogether this system revolutionized my comfort and security in the saddle. When galloping and jumping I feel like my base of support is more stable, my feet are more “sticky” in the stirrups, and the shock absorption is second to none. I used to have an issue wherein I’d get a cramp down my shins and my foot would go numb toward the end of a cross country run or a few hours into a long day of fox hunting. I’d have to kick my feet home in the stirrups to compensate for the loss of feeling, which isn’t a great-feeling or terribly safe crutch. And my long-suffering knees … by the time I reached the finish flags, ouch! But since riding in the Freejump System, I haven’t experienced any of these discomforts.
A word of caution: It took a few rides to break my boots and mini-chaps in, but once they softened up they were butter soft in all the right places and perfectly moulded to my leg and foot. Also, don’t forget about that heel-less sole if you ride in multiple saddles and they aren’t all fitted in Freejump stirrups with their safety stirrup style outside branch.
The cost is a bit prohibitive (269.00€ for the stirrups, 255.00€ for the shoes + 195.00€ for the chaps). But, if spend a lot of time in the saddle, it’s kind of like investing in a good mattress considering we spend a third of our lives in bed — worth it.
The next bit of Freejump gear on my wishlist is a set of Single Strap Pro Grip Leathers, for an unmatched close contact feel. Freejump also has tall boots, spurs, a softgoods collection, and a few other odds and ends of gear like ear bonnets and saddle pads.
We’re glad to see that Freejump products are now available via a growing number of U.S. vendors — you can locate a reseller close to you with this map. For more information on Freejump, visit the website here.