And the Academy Award for Best Stirrups Goes To... May 15 2013, 1 Comment
Okay, okay, I admit it. Rachel got me to (finally) ride in a pair of Royal Riders, and after years of knee issues and just 12 weeks post-op from another knee reconstruction I finally was game. For years I've sworn by my cheap-o Compositi Reflex irons which are made from a composite with a spring in the footbed to reduce stress on the knees. For $35 - $45 I just didn't see the point in jumping on the RR bandwagon. But I'll admit it, after a test ride in the ring left me inconclusive, the 1h36m on the hunt course removed any doubt from my mind. The Royal Riders are absolutely worth it.
I've ridden in a lot of tack over the years, from the traditional to the new, to the cutting edge, and even the trendy oddball stuff that crops up from time to time. At 36 years old, with over three decades in the saddle and riding a variety of seats and disciplines, you get to know the ins and outs of things over time. Like anyone, I have my preferences. When it comes to saddles, I'll swear to you that hands down, Voltaire Design Palm Beach Second Skin saddle is the best thing out there. I love my CWD bridle and grippy rubber reins. My Myler combination bit (in varying levels for my different horses) has made a world of difference for my aggressive jumper mare to my strong-yet-sensitive field hunter/jumper gelding, and their comfort snaffle has helped a client's horse overcome years of abuse with improper bitting to learn to accept and even seek out contact. I love my SMB VentTech boots for the field, and Veredus for the show ring (but considering trying out the Premiere Equine open fronts next...). I guess you could say I'm pretty opinionated and know what I like.
But when it came to stirrups, while I liked my Compositi's, they were wearing out, and my knee still hurt after a hunt or a show. The Sprengers were too loosey-goosey and the over-flexability actually hurt the stability in my knee. The cheap knock-offs were a little less flexible, but still not enough support for what I needed. The contoured and curved stirrups just felt weird. And the plain lightweight ones didn't do anything to offer shock absorption and reduce stress on two rebuild knees. After months of Rachel (and multiple other friends) touting the wonders of Royal Riders, I decided it was about time I took them out for a spin.
Saturday was schooling in the ring in preparation for my hunter pace over very challenging terrain the next day. Three days of rain, high humidity, and some storms throughout the day already had my knee uncomfortable, so while the RR's didn't make things worse, I wasn't sure if they made them better. I stuck with them for the hunt, and the next morning headed out for a ride over slick ground and some rather large stone walls and brush jumps and the like. Thirty minutes in, my long time teammate realized I hadn't said anything about my knee - and I hadn't, because I forgot it was supposed to be aching by now. An hour in, and I was still good to go. And an hour and thirty-six minutes later, after crossing the finish (close enough to the ideal time for 5th, might I add), I was able to dismount... and STAY STANDING! You see, usually I have to dismount and immediately sit, with no weight bearing on the left knee for at least a few minutes. After a few, my horse will step closer to me and pull me up by my holding on to the stirrup (yes really - he's quite brilliant!). But for the first time in a long time, and definitely the first time post-op, I was able to get off after a hunt and, simply, stand.
Yup. Rachel was right. The Royal Rider Sport Flex stirrups won out by a landslide! What can I say, I'm a creature of habit and can be (a bit) stubborn about change... but what good equestrian isn't? Haha! Now... about a new breastplate...
Oh! And I almost forgot. Of course now that I just jumped onto the Royal Rider bandwagon (with good cause), I just got the news that we'll be carrying a new line of stirrups. I won't spill the beans (yet), but stay tuned as the announcement will be coming soon, just in time for Memorial Day! And in the meantime, I'd love to hear your favorite tack, especially irons, and why!
Happy Hunting...er, Riding!
CJ the Foxhunter and Royal Rider and Voltaire Design enthusiast ;)