Welcome to EN’s Product Review series! Who doesn’t love shopping, especially when the object of your search is new gear for yourself or your horse? As an enthusiast of all products equine, I LOVE trying out new gear. Please join me as I narrate my personal journey of trying out all of the products featured. While I will make no recommendations, I hope you have fun reading about my many adventures of trying new products, and that hearing about my personal experiences helps you on your own quest for new gear. Go Shopping.
Here’s hoping that you haven’t gotten tired of hearing me talk about safety yet. What can I say, other than the fact that it is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. And it is a concept that I try to live every day when I’m around the barn or in the saddle.
Lord knows that I love spending as much time as I can in the saddle – but my first and foremost wish is that my rides are always SAFE and FUN. But let’s just face the fact that horses can be unpredictable. And be downright naughty little jerks at times. So I try to educate myself on practices and products that can maybe just hopefully prevent, or lessen the severity of an accident.
When I started out riding, my boots found themselves in the peacock fillis-type stirrups. You know the ones I’m talking about—they are the ones with the rubber bands on the outer sides of the irons, which are supposed to pop off in the instance of a fall. My personal understanding of them is that they *should* release your foot in the case of a fall.
Many folks have probably seen the peacock fillis-type stirrups in action—at some point, you’ve probably seen kids riding their ponies around using them. I personally rode in this type of irons until I hit my late teens, and then I felt like it was time to ‘cowgirl up’ and start using some big girl stirrups. Besides – the one time that I fell off in them, the rubber band didn’t even pop off.
So when I graduated myself to my very first set of big girl irons, I just chose your basic, run-of-the-mill fillis stirrups. Nothing exciting, to be sure, but they worked for me. Of course, I had my eye on some of the fancier stirrups that sported various colors or designs, but I chose to invest in other areas of my tack and gear collection, and kept with a regular old pair of stirrups.
Some of the red or blue colored stirrups were always something that I looked upon wistfully though. But earlier this year, I came across a concept that really just fascinated me. When I first became familiar with the concept of irons that are able to be adjusted, I couldn’t shake the idea from my mind.
I’m happy to say that I’ve spent this summer season riding in multiple pairs of MDC Intelligent Stirrups – which are the very first kind of irons that allow the rider to select the angle at which they want to ride. Riders can choose from 3 pre-set options of 0 degrees (acting as a traditional stirrup), 45 degrees, or 90 degrees.
I was drawn to the concept of the MDC irons with their adjustable tops, based on two things; 1) I like the idea of a stirrup that does NOT want to return to face flat against the saddle when dropped, and 2) my interest was also piqued when hearing about a stirrup that could relieve pressure on the body while riding.
When I pulled the pairs of irons out of their packaging, I was happy to observe that they appeared to have a slim and streamlined look without feeling overly heavy to me. The two pairs that I started out focusing on were the MDC Sport Classic and MDC Super Sport irons – and both pairs feature the MDC patented adjustable top.
As I started to look both pairs of irons over a little more closely, of course I started to twist the adjustable tops to get a feel for how they work. They twist when a good amount of pressure is applied, and then feel like they snap into place in the next pre-set angle very smoothly.
I also found the stirrup treads to be very interesting – they seemed to remind me of a ‘cheese grater’-esque style, but without feeling like there are any sharp edges. I’ve personally always ridden with rubber stirrup pads, yet the treads on the MDC Sport Irons felt as though they would offer me good traction when my boots are in the stirrups.
So the fun really began when I spent time riding in the MDC Sport Irons. And riding. And then riding some more. I started out riding in the MDC Sport Classics, set at a 90 degree angle. When mounting up, I found that it was easier to pick up my offside iron before starting forward.
The most immediate difference that I noticed when riding in the irons was the relief of the pressure on my leg, with the irons set at 90 degrees. The crazy thing is–I had absolutely no idea that my stirrup leathers were creating tension across my shins until it wasn’t there anymore. Even when I adjusted the irons to be set at a 45 degree angle, I still felt as though the pressure was greatly lessened from what I feel with traditional stirrups.
Another feature that I’ve become very attached to is the wide tread of the MDC Stirrups. Since I’ve only ever ridden in traditionally styled stirrups, I have never had the chance to try out a wider width tread. And what I’ve found, is that I feel as though the wider tread gives me a better base of support in the saddle. And I did not even find myself missing the rubber tread pads!
I personally very much like the wide tread for when I’m riding in a two-point position or am jumping. I also have practiced riding dressage in the wider tread, and wasn’t sure if I liked it at first – I switched back to riding in regular tread irons, because I felt like I could keep my heels down better. But after returning to the regular tread for a short time, I still found myself switching back to the wide tread for dressage, because I like the extra feeling of stability that they give me.
While the preferred setting will vary from rider to rider, I found that I really prefer setting both irons at 90 degrees to ride in. This feels most natural to me personally, and it also alleviates the tension across my shins entirely. However, I spent time riding with a 45 degree angle as well. While at first, I wasn’t a particular fan of this angle, I found that I sometimes use it for jumping, because I feel like it makes my leg naturally want to hug the saddle more. Which gives me a more secure grip with my legs, and a better seat.
To make things interesting, I also tried intentionally dropping my stirrups while riding, so that I could try to pick them back up. What I’ve found is that when the irons are adjusted to sit at an angle that is offset from the saddle, they are easier for me to get my toe back into place. Instead of having to place my toe inside the iron and ‘flip’ it outwards in order to pick it back up (as I would have to do with a traditional pair of stirrups), I simply just have to find the opening that is already there.
And while the offset angle helps me to pick up a dropped stirrup, I also find that the back of the stirrup aids in this endeavor as well. I can guess what you might be thinking right now–there is a back of the stirrup? The short answer is yes – with MDC Irons, there is a front and a back. The front of the Sport model irons I’ve been using has an MDC Sport logo, and the back side has what I like to call a ‘landing ramp’ – which is an area where the tread drops off at a 45 degree angle. I feel like this angle helps to 1) give my foot a little more stability in the stirrup, and 2) helps me when I go to pick up a dropped stirrup.
While I spent time riding in both the Sport Classic and Super Sport model irons, there is really only one main different between the two. And that is that the Super Sport model features the Multi-Pivot Point flexible sides. The sides do flex nicely, while still feeling sturdy to me. When I do ride in the Super Sport model of irons, I can actually feel that they help to absorb some of the shock as well.
At no time while riding in the stirrups did I feel like the adjustable top was going to move on me – the irons stayed in the exact setting in which I placed them. And once I was finished each ride, the irons easily adjusted back to a traditional setting so that they could be nicely slide up and have the leathers tucked through them to wait until the next ride.
The adjustable angle of MDC Stirrups is something that I really believe in – I have found that I (really) like the fact that the pressure is relieved from my shin when using an offset angle. And, I also like the wider tread, with the ‘landing ramp’ on the back. More than that though, I like the idea that an offset stirrup will hopefully keep my foot from being trapped in the case of a fall. As a rider with two young horses in training, a stirrup with safety in mind is something I’m definitely an advocate of.
The MDC Sport Stirrup Irons are available in three sizes – 4.5″, 4.75″, and 5″ – the Sport Classic model irons have a retail price of $179.95, and the Super Sport model irons retail for $199.95. And, MDC offers a Free Trial Ride and a 100% Product Satisfaction Guarantee on their irons – try one or more types of irons, and if you don’t love them, simply return them in a clean condition and receive a full refund (less shipping to and from MDC).
Go Adjustable Irons (that feel comfortable and SAFE). Go MDC Stirrups. Go Eventing.