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MDC Sport Classic Stirrups Review

Product Review: MDC Sport Classic Stirrup

Product Details

MDC Sport Classic Stirrup
Retail Price: $179.95
What I Paid: $170.95 at SmartPak
Purchased: August 2013

The Review

These stirrups are very traditional-looking, and only upon closer inspection would you notice they are not fillis irons, which I liked. The wide foot bed has a nearly cheese-grater pad that helps keep your foot from moving around, but isn’t as harsh as the full cheese-grater pads, plus they are ever so slightly angled down, to help with “heels down.” The rotating eyelet seems sturdy, and while not hard to move, it also doesn’t feel like it will ever move on its own. Finally, I love the wide foot bed – it really gave me a sense of extra stability, and the pad stops me from constantly readjusting where my foot is in the stirrup.  Read More

Miles Sept 2013

The Great Stirrup Search of 2013

Last winter during lessons I noticed that my feet were going numb by the end of my ride. At first, I thought nothing of it, figuring the extra layers under my breeches were the culprit. But throughout the spring and summer the numbness persisted, but I also added mild knee and lower back pain to the list of bodily complaints after riding. Naturally, I turned to Google to solve my problem. After perusing some random articles, I came across a thread on the Chronicle of the Horse Forums that suggested trying the next size up in stirrup irons.

I didn’t even know stirrups came in sizes! So I measured my tried and true Fillis irons. The came in at barely 4 ¼” long, making them the smallest size Fillis irons on the market. Doh!

I decided on the spot that I obviously needed new irons; but what to buy? I begged my friends to let me try their stirrups to see what I liked, because there are about a million options floating around nowadays. First, I tried a pair of Herm Sprengers, but the joint made my feet feel wiggly, like someone was pushing “up” while I pushed “down.” I also tried a friend’s pair of EquiWing Stirrups, as I’d read that a wide track foot bed might help alleviate knee and lower back pain. As soon as I started riding in them, I fell in love. I felt more secure, my knees and back didn’t hurt and I could feel all of my toes again!

This is where I’d like the story to end with the purchase of a pair of beautiful EquiWing stirrup irons, but naturally my life isn’t that easy.

Since I show hunters, my trainer was adamant that I buy silver or at least gray stirrups – no black. Just “in case you want to show in Equitation one day.” Okay, fine. Luckily EquiWing stirrups not only come in the black hypernylon my friend had, but aluminum as well. Brilliant! Except, as I would find out over the course of a few months, Aluminum EquiWing Stirrups are not currently available anywhere in the U.S. and are stuck in customs never-never-land, with no estimated arrival date. Fuck.

After three months of waiting, I finally gave up. I need stirrups! So I began my search again. Royal Riders came to mind immediately, but not only did I not want to spend $200+, I also wasn’t in love with the matte finish their gray stirrups had. So I continued searching and eventually stumbled across the MDC Sport Classic Stirrup. At $170 on SmartPak (with my trusty AQHA discount), it was more than I wanted to spend, plus I was skeptical of their “intelligent stirrup” marketing but with SmartPak’s easy return process and a bit of encouragement from my mother, I caved and clicked “purchase.”

And I am so glad I did.

I’m still not convinced that these stirrups are very smart, but the team at MDC who designed them have to be members of Mensa. These stirrups feature a rotatable “eyelet” for the stirrup leather to pass through. You can set this eyelet to 45 degrees, 90 degrees or leave it the way a normal stirrup would be. The eyelet isn’t hard to move, per say, but it doesn’t shift during your ride – it’s very stable. The point, you ask? It puts the stirrup at the correct angle to your foot, without YOU having to put it there, thus reducing the pressure across your shin and relieving pressure on your hips, knees and ankles as well. Supposedly it helps with leg position too. Whatever. The point is that they are magical, and I’m in love. Make sure to read my product review for full details, but the gist is, these stirrups rock!

horse shopping 101 by fly on over

Horse Shopping 101

I searched for four months before I finally found Miles, and my experience was nothing like I expected. Many equestrians approach buying a horse with careful consideration, like I did, but many also just happen into a horse; by which I mean they were not necessarily looking to purchase at all but ended up with one anyway (they’re like potato chips, right?! You can’t just have one!).
Throughout the process, I had a lot of ups and downs, but I learned a lot along the way. Here’s a list of what I did right, and what I did wrong.

Plan, Prepare, Budget

Set a budget from the get-go and stick to it.

My search was made easier by the simple fact that I knew what I wanted to spend. I didn’t stress about spending too much money because I had already allocated a certain amount and I promised myself that under no circumstances would I waiver from that.

Prepare a list of what you’re looking for. And then be prepared to compromise.

I prepared a list of what I wanted vs. what I needed, and told myself I would need to compromise. Unfortunately, I didn’t fully understand what that meant until I was in the middle of it all. But eventually it did sink in, and I thought long and hard about what I could (or could not) live with.

Set a plan and communicate it.

I knew I did not, under any circumstances, want to horse shop by myself; I always knew I wanted the help and expertise of a trainer. So I made sure I had a good relationship with a reputable professional that included my budget and my list of must-haves.
Where I fell short was communicating. At first, I only discussed what I saw as the important stuff. The problem of course was that I am a novice horse shopper who cannot be trusted to know what’s important. So don’t make my mistake and keep in touch every single step of the way, even if it’s just to say “I made that phone call and I’m still waiting to hear back.”
money tree

Trust Your Instincts

Listen to your gut.
As horse people, we are “in-tune” with horses; and most of us get a gut-feeling when things are wrong (or right!). So if you feel that twist in the pit of your stomach, don’t ignore it. By all means try to figure out why you’re feeling that way, but don’t gloss over it either.

Know and trust your trainer.

If you are working with a professional, trust them too. Sometimes the person just outside of the bubble gets the most accurate overall picture of the situation. But beware: knowing how your trainer operates and being aware of this is crucial. My trainer doesn’t want to make a big decision for any of her clients. She will tell you her opinion, but in a way that leaves you to give the final say-so. Unfortunately, her actions always give her away. The day she gave Miles some hay from her own private stash, I knew she was completely smitten, without her having to utter a word.
schooling ring with trainer

Don’t Sweat the Logistics

I was very thorough in my search, requiring not only a trial period at my farm, but also a clean bill of health. Up front this caused a lot of work: getting the sellers to agree to a trial, agreeing to the terms of the trial, setting up short-term insurance, finding time to transport the horse, making vet appointments and negotiating additional follow-ups. While it was stressful at the time, I’m so glad I stuck to my guns and made 100 percent sure I was comfortable with everything I agreed to because it ensured that I made the best decision and was happy with it.

All in all, horse shopping at age 16 was much more fun and a lot less stressful than it was this time around. But just like back then, I knew what I wanted, went after it guns blazing and came out on the other size with a partner who will take me to new heights of success.

hunter princess blog hop logo

Blog Hop: Dream Horse Show

This week’s Hunter Princess Blog Hop question is my favorite so far:

If you had a nice enough horse, all the vacation time you needed and a big budget, what shows would you most want to attend?

I really don’t even know where to begin, there are so many! I mean, how can I choose between Devon, WIHS, Pennsylvania National and Capital Challenge? And then of course, there are the ones closer to home, like County Heir, Ledges and Traders Point. 
But  there are, of course, those that are closer to my heart. Here’s my Top Three:

#1 WEF

A totally non-original answer, I know. But how awesome would it be to take weeks off work in the middle of the winter and go horse show in Florida? It sounds like heaven to me! 
The Winter Equestrian Festival is unique in that its prestige is not because of a qualifying system, anyone can go show at WEF, but because during that time of year, it is the mecca of the hunter/jumper world. The most talented riders and most famous trainers bring their clients and horses to Wellington each winter, for weeks upon weeks of showing. With a ton of divisions, including classics and derbys, the spectating would be almost as great as showing there myself… almost. 
Plus the layout of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, and the surrounding areas, is unlike anything we have here in the midwest. I mean, people literally ride their horses from their barn to the showgrounds. How cool?! 

#2 Chagrin Valley Hunter/Jumper Classic

This particular show has a special meaning for me. It’s the pinnacle of where I came from, and while I certainly have mixed feelings about where I came from, part of me wants to go back someday. 

I’ve shown during the unrated local weekend portion of CVHJC before, but that was ages ago. I’d love to go back and show during the rated portion, mostly to show off how much I’ve improved as a rider, and how awesome my new horse is. Obviously I’m not ready for that yet, but I do hope in the coming years I get the chance to.It would be great to see some of my (old) friends, but it would also mean running into acquaintances I don’t miss. Nevertheless, it’s a goal of mine to one day get back there and show again.

#3 All American Quarter Horse Congress

Quarter Horse Congress is another show I have strong connection with. This one is right in my backyard, and there are a lot of equestrians in my area that respect that show a whole lot. Seriously, if you mention it, it’s like instant street cred. It would be pretty cool to show there, in the Celeste under the lights. They have a Hunter Classic that usually draws a decent crowd, and it would be fun to be part of it.

Plus, with my background in 4-H, I’m not sure I’m ever going to get over the resulting infatuation with high-level AQHA shows. While this might not be a goal I always actively pursue (because, you know, you have to own a Quarter Horse to even be in the running) it will always be a distant dream of mine to show at Quarter Horse Congress.

hunter princess blog hop logo

Blog Hop: A Princess Stereotype You Break

In the latest edition of She Moved To Texas’ Hunter Princess Blog Hop, Lauren asks Is there a way that you “break the mold” of the stereotypical hunter princess?” 
While there are many physical aspects to being a hunter princess that I don’t possess, I break the mold from the inside out. When I think “hunter princess,” I not only see expensive clothes and tack aboard a six-figure warmblood, I picture her gossiping and putting down those around her. And I am none of those things, or at least, I try very hard not to be.

I can respect someone who is more fortunate than I, and can afford more expensive things. Sometimes that’s just the luck of the draw… unfortunately I was not born Jessica Springsteen. And you never know about that warmblood, maybe the rider found it in a field and worked hard to get to where they are today. But what I can’t get over is mean-spirited gossip and rude comments about others just because they don’t have what you have.

So I don’t do those things. I try very hard not to be judgmental about those around me; just because someone isn’t as good of a rider as I am or does things differently than I do doesn’t give me the right to put them down. Instead of excluding them from this sport, this passion, I want to encourage them to learn more and become more involved. No matter how incorrect or poorly ridden a round in the ring was, I always try to say something positive — whether it’s someone from my barn I ride with all the time, or it’s someone I’ve never seen before in my life.
And just because that girl isn’t wearing Tailored Sportsmen’s or a GPA doesn’t mean she’s not going to kick my ass at the show.