"No, you don’t understand. I need you to put your foot all the way through the stirrup, not just in it, then the horse falls."
A scary thought? Certainly to most of us but it was words similar to these that former PRCA Rodeo cowboy Mike McCoy said to veteran Hollywood stunt rider, R.L. Tolbert not too long ago. They had been practicing falls for the purpose of an advertising video. Finally, Tolbert put his foot through the stirrup and, well the rest is history. McCoy was paying several thousand dollars an hour to have his Safety Breakaway Stirrup tested in a "real" emergency situation. And it did work. McCoy’s request for a repeat from a different camera angle was met with an icy glare. Of course he was kidding.
Invented by McCoy, these patented stirrups are precision engineered and fit with any normal stirrups. The torsion mechanism is available in two sides to accommodate individual saddles. They have been tested by rodeo cowboys and ranchers, and pleasure riders. The numbers of testimonials is continuously mounting. Most of the accidents involved gentle horses that for some reason or other spooked and had the rider off and hung in the stirrup. In the rankest of falls where the rider’s foot goes through the off-side stirrup and then the rider goes off the near side, the stirrup releases on cue. The stirrups work by being held in place with a torsion mechanism which releases when the stirrup is turned to a certain angle
We were at first skeptical that the stirrup would only encourage people to ride in sneakers or not to get training but in conversation with McCoy we had to admit that there had been times that the toe alone hung in the stirrup without the foot going through.
The Safety Breakaway stirrup is endorsed by several cattle raising associations and has been purchased and endorsed in several feed lots. It is used by the U.S. Forest Service in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.
The stirrup has been used by rodeo cowboys with complete success. To date there has only been one incident in which the stirrup has released accidentally
These stirrups are expensive, between $275 and $300, but for several kinds of riding they are well worth the money. Most importantly, in those dude rides where riders are permitted to ride with sneakers these stirrups might prove invaluable. This could include guest ranches ;and summer camps. They have already saved many lives in Montana where the cow work can be among the most dangerous in the world. Many mountain cowboys assume that they will experience several falls and near falls a year due mostly to icy and slick conditions.
At present the stirrups only exist in Western style but they are working on one for English Riders. The stirrups come in three styles including an Oxbow, Visalia, and Roping, and although they cannot be said to replace proper footwear or training they will at least prevent certain types of falls from becoming a dragging accident. The stirrups can also be special ordered in both the Moran and Bell styles.
These stirrups are currently in use by and recommended for ranchers and riders on ranches, feedlot and pen riders, PRCA competitors, field employees of the U.S. Forest Service, and recreational and trail riders, hunters, and packers.
McCoy is quoted in the January 1995 Quarter Horse Journal saying, "It’s too bad that accidents have to happen to convince people to part with some money. A kid can hang up for one jump or buck, get kicked in he head, and he’s gone. When people who have kids who ride horses refuse to buy these stirrups, it makes me want to go out and grab them by the hair and shake the daylight out of them. These stirrups save lives and I believe in them with all my heart."
The stirrups can be ordered from the STI Corporation, Box 1781, Billings, MT 59103 or by phone at (406) 248-7331. The company will be happy to connect callers with people who use the stirrups and some who have been saved by them.
Contributed By: Jan Dawson (President, AAHS)