Choosing the best dressage stirrups involves knowing what you actually need from your stirrups. The best dressage stirrups will be comfortable, help you correct a rider issue you may have, and suit your budget too. Ultimately, “try before you buy” is a good approach.
Changing your stirrups could have such a huge impact not only on how you sit on your horse but also on your leg position, comfort, and general balance. That’s why dressage riders need to know what to look for when it comes time to buy new stirrups… And that’s exactly what I’m going to help you with in this article!
P.S. If you’ll be doing any dressage competitions with your horse and need to know what else to buy, this article will help you out!
A couple of the links below are affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase. As always, we only make recommendations that are genuine!
Buyer’s Guide for the Best Dressage Stirrups
Here are the most important things dressage riders should keep in mind when shopping for stirrups:
All of us are built differently. While you may quite comfortably be able to flex your ankle joint to achieve the horizontal position that is required of your foot in dressage, others may not. A good stirrup needs to be comfortable to ensure you can spend hours schooling, practicing, and performing dressage tests.
I also like to finish off my riding sessions with a short hack around my property to let my horse decompress. Having a comfortable stirrup that I can ride dressage with and hack is a huge benefit.
Quality & Materials
Not all stirrups are created the same. Some are nickel-plated, which means that over time, your stirrups will begin to rust and flake off. Other stirrups are made from quality alloys, while others still are designed from state-of-the-art composite materials.
The design, material, and manufacturing process can significantly influence the price of stirrups. Quality doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, but cheap stirrups have the potential of breaking or affecting your riding.
This applies to inferior quality stirrup treads too. Slippery treads or treads that are hard and unyielding under the riding boot can also severely compromise your foot position in the stirrup.
Quality stirrup treads are flexible and offer some resistance, but they don’t lock the foot in place.
Legal or Not For Dressage Riders
When buying any tack for your horse, you should always consider whether it is legal and acceptable to use it in local shows. While your ambitions of attending the Olympic Games may be quite some way off when you start out in dressage, you should train your horse as if you are riding in affiliate shows.
Being “dressage legal” means you need to use only the right stirrups that are allowed according to Federation Equestrian International (FEI). The stipulation is currently that stirrups should not have any attachments, and only an opening on the outside is permissible with safety stirrups.
Stirrups may not be covered with anything (except in some disabled rider classes). Twisted stirrups are permissible, but only regular stirrup treads are allowed—no slanted treads.
Level of Riding (Should You Get Safety Stirrups?)
When you are starting out, you may need to invest in a good set of safety stirrups to help you in case you lose your balance while riding and fall from your horse. It’s very easy to get your foot tangled in a regular stirrup if you don’t have the correct foot position when you are still learning. Safety stirrups essentially have a clasp that opens on the sides in order to prevent your foot from getting stuck.
Initially, if you struggle to keep your heels down, you may have to use a covered stirrup cage to help ensure your foot doesn’t slip through, though this will not be dressage legal when it comes to competing at shows.
All of us have a bottom line when it comes to how much we can afford to spend on stirrups. To be honest, stirrup prices can range a LOT—anywhere from $50 to $600.
You’ll want to opt for a good quality stirrup for dressage that is within your budget. Don’t spend all your money on stirrups that are priced according to brand and not bang for your buck. Depending on your current level of riding, competition schedule, and overall goals, you’ll probably end up spending somewhere in the middle range when it comes to price.
Here are some more things to consider when deciding how much to spend:
Why Spend So Much Time and Money on the Right Dressage Stirrup?
Beginner riders often wonder if there’s any point to buying a special stirrup for dressage as opposed to a good quality regular stirrup.
If you have great rider position and already keep your feet, knees, elbows, and hips in the classic position, you don’t need any special stirrups. However, when you are still learning or have some bad habits you’re still trying to break that are placing you out of balance (don’t we all?), then the right dressage stirrup can really help.
Investing in Training Stirrups for Dressage
So you realize you’ve developed a bad habit of raising your heels, turning your toes out, or even just stepping too far into your stirrup… Does this mean your dressage ambitions are over?
Nope. Rather, it means you need a little help to retrain your body to do what it needs to. This is where training or technical stirrups come in. By investing in a quality training stirrup that guides your legs and feet into the right position, you can begin to develop feel, coordination, and technique to ride better.
The different dressage stirrups available include stirrups that are specially designed to:
- slant your heels down with a stirrup bar that slopes backward at a 45° angle
- slant your toes to the inside or outside with a stirrup bar that slopes with a wedge on the inside or outside of the stirrup
- prevent bounce by weighting the stirrups
- alleviate ankle and leg pain by having flexible sides and a shock-absorbing core
- be flexible and light by being made from composite materials
In addition to these choices and types, you can also get stirrups that are twisted, where the two sidebars are offset and a-symmetrical. This helps to relieve pressure on the small toe of the rider. It is also a safety measure to prevent the stirrup from twisting and trapping the rider’s foot.
Sometimes, you choose a particular type of stirrup simply because of how it feels when you ride, how it combines with the shape of your saddle, and whether it’s comfortable for you or not.
The Best Dressage Stirrups: A Quick Overview
This overview is by no means exhaustive, as there are literally hundreds of different stirrup types for dressage. Each manufacturer of quality horse tack is constantly trying to redesign their equipment and create the “perfect” stirrup. This means new and strange stirrups often hit the market.
Here are some of the top dressage stirrups, technical stirrups, and just plain funky dressage stirrups I have had the opportunity to try out:
ProRider English Flex Fillis Stirrup Irons
I’ll start with a cheapy, but a goody. The ProRider flex fillis stirrups are great for two reasons:
- They flex, giving to pressure from your ankles and relieving pain and strain.
- They are also weighted at the bottom.
The extra weight, which sets a fillis apart from a standard stirrup, helps you find the stirrup if your foot slips out, and it is more comfortable to ride with.
Other great features of this stirrup type include:
- Double-jointed stirrup sides for comfort
- Rubber side covers to further increase comfort
- Toothy rubber stirrup treads for extra grip
- Mat finish for a classic look
- Better rider position due to flexibility, which helps lower heels
If you’re new to dressage, these are a great entry-level stirrup to invest in.
Herm Sprenger Bow Balance Stirrups
If your budget extends to a more expensive stirrup, then Sprengers (as they are commonly called) are a great option to consider.
Similar to the budget-friendly ProRiders, Sprengers are also flexible and offer shock-absorbing qualities. This helps with joint pain and discomfort when you are spending hours working in the school or arena.
The difference between Sprengers and ProRiders is that Sprengers are made from much higher grade materials and offer that wow factor for riding. Other features of Sprengers include:
- Solid stainless steel
- Shock absorbing side rubbers
- Four directional pivot of joints
- Bow balance for safety
- Stirrups are each designed for the shape of the right and left legs individually
- Stirrup sides or branches are cut away for extra comfort
Sprengers are world famous for a reason, so when you stop at the tack shop, be sure to give them a try.
LeMieux Vector Balance Stirrup
I’ve previously discussed the LeMieux stirrups in a review, and I am still a huge fan of my Control stirrups. The technology is simply incredible. The Balance stirrups offer superior quality and lightness while maintaining a perfect balance on the stirrup leather.
Other great features of the Balance stirrups include:
- Made from aviation-grade aluminum
- Lightweight (only 419 grams each)
- Ergonomic stirrup bar set at a five degree angle for comfort
- Safety arm
- Steel pins for extra quality tread
These stirrups are sure to last you for many years, and they offer world-class design features that may improve your foot and leg position.
Ophena Magnetic Stirrups
When I had the opportunity to try out Ophena magnetic stirrups, I was really excited. These stirrups are something quite different from your usual stirrup. For starters, they are magnetic! There is only one stirrup branch that is on the inside of the stirrup with slightly raised props on the outside edge where the outside stirrup branch should be.
The real difference between Ophena stirrups and other stirrups is that the Ophena system works with magnets. The rider wears magnetic insoles inside their boots, which lock onto the stirrup bars where there is a secondary magnet. This creates a great safety lock that keeps your feet exactly where they should be. If a fall should occur, the magnetic lock is quickly disrupted, freeing your feet.
Other great features of Ophena stirrups include:
- Available in 15 sizes (based on the rider’s boot size)
- Available in silver and onyx black
- Diamond grip for extra foot tread
- Smart Attach™ mechanism
- 60-day money-back guarantee
- Four-degree tilted tread
- Approved for FEI showjumping, but not for FEI dressage (so training only)
Lorenzini Classico Aluminum/Titanium Stirrups
Made in Italy, the Lorenzini stirrups are elegant and simple. These stirrups are designed with a cheesegrater-type stirrup bar, so no rubber tread is required. The unique angle of the stirrup branch attachment is designed to allow a more natural tilt to the stirrup when the rider’s foot goes into the heels down position.
Other features include:
- Made from aluminum and titanium
- Strong yet lightweight
- Corrosion resistant for longer lifetime
- Excellent grip
- Offers flexibility without the weakness of a stirrup joint
Dressage Stirrups FAQs
Why are the right dressage stirrups important?
Using the right dressage stirrups can change the position of your legs around the horse’s barrel, help alleviate pain, and improve the quality of your riding experience. Not only do the right stirrups improve your safety, but they also help you achieve better riding results.
What are the best dressage stirrups for me?
Each rider has unique needs, whether you need to correct a bad habit, learn a better position, or alleviate pain. The best stirrups for you will depend on what stirrup addresses your requirements the most accurately.
Are tech stirrups or magnetic stirrups dressage legal?
Tech stirrups or magnetic stirrups like Ophena stirrups are not legal for dressage. While you can jump with these stirrups, they are considered an artificial aid to a rider’s position when riding in a dressage show. Differently abled riders may ask the judge for permission to use technical stirrups.
The Final Dressage Stirrup
Whichever dressage stirrups you end up choosing, be sure they are comfortable for you, that they help you improve your riding skills, and that your stirrups ensure a more comfortable and correct ride.
If you want to learn more about different tack like stirrups, saddles, and bridles, then read my article on horse tack and equipment.