Recent advances in stirrup design are creating a safer riding experience for professional and amateur equestrians alike. The Safe-on safety stirrup, a French product designed by Flex-on and manufactured by Acaplast, has an outer brace or arm that automatically releases during falls when pressure is applied. It can be likened to an Alpine (downhill) ski binding, which comes open when a skier takes a spill.
According to the magazine The Horse, “research by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI, the governing body of international horse sport) shows that the risk of a fall resulting in an injury ranges from 1 in every 250 starts for low-impact falls to 1 in every 520 starts for serious injuries. The Landsafe team estimates the risk of a serious injury is 1 in every 55 falls.”*
The Safe-on release mechanism greatly reduces the risk of serious injury to the rider, by enabling the release of his or her leg from the stirrup during a fall. The lightweight Safe-on design incorporates a flexible, but sturdy plastic arm on one side and a more rigid spring steel brace on the other, creating a winning combination of style and safety. Equestrians can individualize their stirrups, choosing between various models, colors and decorative inserts to demonstrate their distinctive personality.
The Safe-on stirrup was created out of a need identified by the wife of the stirrup designer, Flex-on President Laurent Bordes. Flex-on first developed stirrups with shock absorbers to reduce impact on rider joints and alleviate muscle fatigue, and more recently created the Safe-on model with the safety release mechanism. The safety arm can be reattached using a simple screw mechanism that fits the part back into place.
Flex-on is based in Pau, in the Southwest of France, but has an international client base that includes famous equestrians, including Olympic athletes and world-renowned riders, such as Astier Nicolas, Georgina Bloomberg, Devin Ryan, Carl Hester, Harry Charles, Rodrigo Pessoa, Sam Walker and others. The stirrups can be adapted for several different sports, such as showjumping, dressage and cross-country and can be customized with stickers of country flags or decorative patterns.
While Flex-on’s products are sold in 40 countries worldwide, the company is very proud of its “Made in France” label. Flex-on has teamed up with the French industrial group, Acaplast, to manufacture the Safe-on stirrups in its Lourdes facility, just 50 km from Pau, keeping production local and reducing its carbon footprint. Acaplast, a plastic and rubber specialist, produces the stirrup braces and shock absorbers using organically-sourced composite material, making it lighter and more environmentally friendly than many stirrups currently on the market. Acaplast sales representative, Christophe Zentar, says, “This is evidence that we can produce aesthetic and technical parts right here in France. We worked with the R&D team of Flex-on to address their needs and to create a product that we’re very proud of.”
A junior version of the Safe-on stirrup is currently in development and will be on the market in 2020, providing a stylish solution to young rider safety. *