In most civilisations the horse was used more in chariots than for riding until about 800 BC. Before stirrups most equestrian cultures used no support for the feet at all. There are records of a loose surcingle being employed behind the girth, into which the feet could be tucked. Toe stirrups (loops of rope which held the big toe) were first recorded in Northern India in the 2nd century BC, their use was somewhat limited by climate and footwear.
The first stirrups designed to take the entire foot were probably single mounting stirrups recorded in China in the 4th Century AD. The mounting stirrup was easier than using a stool to mount and safer than vaulting on when fully armed (Cambyses, king of Persia stabbed himself while mounting when fully armed in 522 BC - A.D.H.Bivar, "The Stirrup and Its Origins." Oriental Arts, n.s. 1 (1955): 61-68. )
Paired stirrups were first recorded in the 4th Century AD on a Chinese pottery horse and a stirrup has been found in a 4th Century Chinese grave. Their use spread through Central Asia and into Europe by the 8th century AD.
The stirrup revolutionised riding and warfare. It allowed cavalry to ride further and faster, heavy cavalry and the use of lances developed, as did light cavalry and mounted archers.
There is a list of stirrups for sale and their prices HERE
Visit the International Museum of the Horse website for more information
or see Prof. Albert Dien's article "The Stirrup & Its Effect on Chinese Military History" at www.silkroad.com
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