During the last decade a revolution of sorts has occurred in the design of English stirrups. Riders are no longer restricted to the rigid stainless steel “fillis” style of irons. Many of today’s English riders, especially those who ride over jumps, prefer flexible irons. Flex stirrups provide a certain sense of freedom and mobility in the saddle. They’re crafted so that the branch of the stirrup iron bends in response to pressure or movement from the rider’s foot. Anecdotally, flexible stirrups seem to alleviate some of the stress exerted on a rider’s knees and ankles, a plus for equestrians with chronically stiff or painful joints. Though traditionally shaped, flex stirrups feature a rubberized covering over the top of the bendable areas, giving them a sort of New Age appearance.
Flexible stirrup irons are legal for hunter and jumper competition, however, check your specific breed or discipline rules to make sure they’re considered proper equipment.
The flexible nature of these stirrups may also be a safety feature: In case of a fall, they’ll twist with the rider’s foot, allowing the boot to come free of the stirrup.
Because these stirrups provide little support, they are not a good choice for beginner or novice riders, especially those just learning to jump. Only riders with a secure, solid leg position should consider switching to flexible stirrups.