Flexible, twisted, and jointed stirrup irons have become a “thing” in the riding world in the past ten years. Designed for ease on the rider’s joints, it is no wonder that these comfort irons have made their rounds—every rider can vouch for the aches and joint snapping when we get out of bed each morning. It was rare to see a rider in the plain fillis irons (until the new wide-tread irons emerged) and I just didn’t understand the hype. But having had painful ankle flexing issues for the past five-ish years and reading about the magic of jointed stirrups, I thought a pair might make my rides a little easier on my busted ankle so I decided to give into the fad—I was ready to flex.
My ankles issues had always been in my right and the pain and instability subsided after a couple years. I was left with limited flexion and the inability to truly sink into my heels, not ideal for a rider. The pain would come back after an extended amount of time in half-seat, long lessons over fences, or if I fought too hard to push my heel down (which was often), but for the most part the pain stayed away. Enter, the hopefully magical jointed stirrups.
A week into riding with the flexible irons I felt a burning in my left ankle that I knew all too well. I chocked it up to being sore and out of shape after a month of sporadic riding. A few weeks later the pain was only getting worse—I couldn’t canter more than once around the ring without my ankle giving out and wobbling like Harry Potter’s arm when Lockhart accidentally abracadabraed his bones away, I had to dismount onto one foot or the mounting block, and going into half-seat wasn’t even an option. Kinesiology tape helped a lot (that is for another post), but even that can only do so much after a while.
Being the oblivious person that I am, it took me over a month to realize that the pain began when I changed stirrups, DUH. The next day I swapped back to my trusty filis irons and voila! No more pain and no more jello-ankle. So the magic stirrups irons turned out to be not-so-magical after all and I learned my lessons the hard way: pay attention and don’t give into fads.
My final decision? Don’t flex.