Stirrups – Part One: Early Designs

Posted on February 11, 2021

Do you know your Flex-Ons from your Freejumps? The variety of stirrups available today is mind-blowing, but have you ever given thought to the humble origins of this item of tack?

Early Stirrups

Early versions of stirrups were used in India some time in the 2nd Century B.C. Originally made of fibre or leather, these first stirrups were just simple loops. Designed to fit around the rider’s big toe, these stirrups are thought to have attached to the lowest part of the saddle flap. They worked well in hot climates, where people rode barefoot.

, Stirrups – Part One: Early Designs, In The Saddle

Toe loops (image credit:

Subsequent improvements in design created support for the whole foot. As a result, riders developed more security and balance on horseback. This meant they could move faster and strike opponents with greater force. It became clear that mounted cavalries showed significant military advantage over infantry on foot – a discovery that revolutionised warfare.

, Stirrups – Part One: Early Designs, In The Saddle

Tombak stirrups from the Ottoman Empire (image via

Reaching mainland Europe in the 8th Century, stirrups allowed soldiers the security to ride into battle wearing armour carrying heavy weapons.

You could say that stirrups played a part in the creation and expansion of modern civilisation. Some might even argue that they are as important as the invention of the wheel and the printing press!

, Stirrups – Part One: Early Designs, In The Saddle

Stirrups from the 9th century (image via Pinterest)

We hope you have enjoyed this look at early stirrups. For a roundup of modern stirrup desgins from around the world, see Part Two of our stirrup blog.

If you’d like to know in advance about the kind of tack to expect on an In The Saddle holiday – from Spain to South Africa, India to Israel, Arizona to Argentina – then do get in touch. You can call us on +44 1299 272 997 or email




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *