Copes safety stirrup in action

This image attracted me to the Project Gutenberg Ebook of Alice M. Hayes’ “The Horsewoman, A Practical Guide to Sidesaddle Riding” (The whole text can be read here )

The front page of the book tells us that it is the 2nd edition, published in 1903, it was edited by Capt M. HORACE HAYES, F.R.C.V.S. (Late Captain “The Buffs”, Author of “Points of the Horse,” “Veterinary Notes for Horse-Owners,” “Riding and Hunting,” etc.) and that Mrs Hayes was also the author of the intriguingly titled “My Leper Friends”.

The chapter starts:

SAFETY STIRRUPS,
both for men and ladies, have been in existence for hundreds of years.

slipper stirrups
Fig 18 & Fig 19 Capped and Slipper stirrups

Apparently the first variety of this contrivance was the capped stirrup-iron, either simple (Fig. 18) or in the form of a slipper (Fig. 19), which was provided with an arrangement on its sole that prevented the toe of the slipper from yielding to downward pressure, but allowed it to revolve upwards, and thus to facilitate the release of the foot, in the event of a fall. The simple capped stirrup was used by ancient Spanish Cavaliers, and is still employed by many of their descendants in America.”

(The author does not show us these stirrups but I assume she means the Iberian “box” stirrup :

Portuguese Box stirrup
Estribo de caixa – more details here

or Latin American stirrups, sometimes called “Conquistador stirrups”

Brass conquistador pattern stirrups
“Conquistador” pattern stirrups – more details here

or tapaderos :

Monkey nosed tapaderos
Monkey nosed tapaderos – more details here

Back to Mrs Hayes:

“In apparent oblivion of these facts, the Christie stirrup (Fig. 20), made on the same principle, was patented about four years ago.
Christie stirrup
Fig 20 Christie stirrup

Besides its undue weight (1¼ lb. as compared to the ½ lb. of the slipper stirrup), it has the further disadvantage of allowing the possibility of the toe being caught between its bars (Fig. 21).

foot caught in stirrup
Fig 21. A foot caught in a Christies’ stirrup

Latchford safety stirrup
Fig 22. Latchford safety stirrup

Want of neatness appears to have been the only cause of the abandonment of the capped stirrup, which is certainly safer than any of its successors, the first English one of which appears to have been the Latchford safety stirrup (Fig. 22). It consists of two irons; the small one, which is placed within the large one, being made to come out the moment the foot gets dragged in it, in which case it parts company with its fellow, and is then liable to get lost.

Latchford safety stirrup
Parts of Latchford Safety Stirrup – see more about this stirrup here

Scott Safety stirrup
Fig 23. Scott safety stirrup – see an example here

The Scott safety stirrup (Figs. 23 and 24) has not this fault, for its inner iron always retains its connection with the outer one, and can be replaced without delay, if the lady after her tumble desires to remount.

Scott safety stirrup showing release mechanism
Fig 24. Scott safety stirrup open

The Latchford, Scott ordinary, and Cope safety stirrup (Figs. 25 and 26) open only one way, so that the foot, when correctly placed in any of them, may not be liable, as in the event of a fall, to be forced through the outer iron, in which case the lady would almost to a certainty get hung up if her saddle was not provided with a safety bar. In these stirrups, the side of the “tread,” which ought to be to the rear, is generally indicated by the fact of its being straight, while the other side is curved (Fig. 24). This is done in the Scott stirrup, by the word “heel” being stamped on the rear part.

Copes safety stirrup
Fig 25. Cope Safety Stirrup – see another example
here

Copes safety stirrup in action
Cope Safety Stirrup releasing the rider’s foot

The chief faults of so-called safety stirrups are as follows:—

  1. They may catch on the foot, on account of getting crushed by coming in violent contact with a tree, wall or other hard object, or by the horse falling on his near side. When I was living in India, I had a Scott safety stirrup jammed on my foot in this manner, by a horse which I was riding, making a sudden shy and dashing against a wall. The iron was so firmly fixed to my foot by this accident, that it could not be taken off until, after much pain and trouble, my foot was freed from both boot and stirrup. Had I been unseated, I would probably have been killed, because my saddle had not a safety bar.

     

  2. Those which open only when the foot is put into them in one way, are apt to cause a fatal accident if put in the wrong way, which may easily happen from carelessness or ignorance. The methods (straight edge of “tread,” or word “heel”) used with these stirrups, to indicate the proper side on which to put the foot into the iron, may convey no meaning to persons who are not well acquainted with the details of side-saddle gear, and in moments of hurry and excitement may be easily overlooked.

     

  3. Any ordinary safety stirrup which is used without a safety bar may cause a lady to get “hung up,” if she is thrown to the off side and her heel gets jammed against the saddle in the manner shown in Fig. 28.

     

  4. A fall to the offside
    Fig 28. A fall to the offside

  5. If the outer iron is small in comparison to the size of the foot, the rider may easily get dragged.

     

  6. If the outer iron of a Scott’s reversible safety stirrup is large in comparison to the size of the foot (as in the case of a young girl), the rider may get dragged in the event of a fall, by the foot going through the stirrup. Accidents caused by a foot going through a stirrup have often occurred to men from falls when hunting and steeplechasing.

     

Some ladies think it “smart” to ride with a man’s ordinary stirrup iron, or (madder still) with a small racing stirrup, attached to a leather which does not come out. I once saw a lady who adopted this senseless plan fall and get dragged. By an extraordinary piece of good luck she was saved from a horrible death by her boot coming off.

 

All that can be said in favour of safety stirrups, is that they are less liable to cause accidents than ordinary stirrups. The fact remains, that the danger of being dragged by the stirrup can be entirely obviated only by the use of an efficient safety bar.”


 

And so ends the chapter.

Alice M. Hayes sounds like a remarkable woman, and I really want to believe that she posed for those photographs of falls herself…

Divider

Military dress stirrups

I bought these stirrups in London, they fascinate me. They are made of brass, which was once gilded. Only a little gilding remains, most has been enthusiastically polished away, there are residues of brass polish in just about every crevice of the stirrups. I really should clean them, but there are a lot of crevices.

Military dress stirrups

I’m assuming that they are military and British because their decoration is very similar to that on a few pairs of officer’s dress spurs that I have had. I think that the casting shows oak leaves, acorns and olive branches. Or maybe laurel. Oak is supposed to symbolise strength and olive peace. Other military traditions also used oak and olive, so the stirrups may not be British – there are many people who know infinitely more than I do about these things, so I am open to correction.

 

 

 

 

Military dress stirrups

They are very heavy, more than 2 pounds / 950g each – I think they could only have been for ceremonial or parade use, they would have been quite impractical in the field. I believe they would have been used by a high ranking officer, but have not been able to find out what rank

The most remarkable thing about them is that they have a release mechanism, much like a Wheeler’s safety stirrup. Somehow I never associated armies on parade with safety stirrups…. I suppose no one’s above getting dragged.
There are a few more images at www.sportingcollection.com/stirrups/stirrup168/stirrup168.html

Divider