What Do These Equitation Finals Stars Have in Common? MDC Stirrups On Their Saddles

Augusta Iwasaki. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

By Piper Klemm, Ph.D. 

As a group of the best junior riders in the country battled it out in the Big Equitation finals this fall, there was a common piece of equipment on many of their saddles. As the top placings were called, again and again, the riders had their feet in MDC Stirrups.

Founded by Californian Martin Cohen in 2003, MDC Stirrups have gained popularity and brand acceptance year over year. Cohen has been a professional for 50 years in the roles of FEI/USEF Judge, Course Designer and Chief Steward. He has shown and taught as a hunter/jumper trainer, clinician, show manager, and equine expert witness. His riding background has also included an interest in Western riding and cutting horses. 

Cohen noted that Western trainers always conformed their stirrups to face the front of the horse. It occurred to him that this common-sense thinking should be available to English saddles as well. Why would a stirrup, whose working position is 45 degrees or 90 degrees, depending on the riding discipline, be designed to inherently lay flat against the horse’s side? With that question, the idea for the MDC Stirrup was born, and ‘forward facing stirrups’ became Cohen’s passion. The idea that stirrups should naturally lay in their most useful 45-degree position and, in some models, be adjustable to 90 degrees, has taken his idea to the Champions of the Dressage World Cup Finals as well as being included in every Olympic Games in every riding discipline since their introduction.

Avery Glynn. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

In addition to their improved positioning, MDC’s patented designs allow for greater retrieval, the release of long held pain in the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back, and they are safer by design. Traditional stirrups that lay flat against the horse, including today’s safety stirrups, will tend to turn back to the horse when lost, thus greatly increasing the chance of catching a rider’s foot during a fall. In fact, ‘safety stirrups’ must catch the rider’s foot to enable their release. MDC’s forward-facing design intentionally reduces this dangerous tendency as they are better angled to not turn back to the horse, therefore creating a proactively safer stirrup.

This season’s equitation “seniors” had a special place in MDC’s history. With the development of his MDC Pony Stirrup, MDC envisioned this would be the time to create an entire generation of riders who would benefit from the paring of a classic hunter silhouette and the unparalleled ‘from the saddle’ design that would address the historical defects of past, accepted stirrup models. 

Skylar Wireman. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

From his base in California, Cohen presented his new designs to every riding discipline and every level of riding expertise. His judging eye discovered several pony riding talents that MDC sponsored including Augusta Iwasaki (committed to Southern Methodist University), Skylar Wireman and Avery Glynn (committed to Auburn University). These riders, among others, are the culmination of MDC’s vision and generational acceptance of MDC’s designs as evidenced by the 2022 Medal Finals. 

Today, MDC Stirrups are the industry standard not only of hunters and equitation riders, but are also the ‘go to’ stirrups for dressage and three-day eventers, as well as Arabian, Saddlebred and Polo competitors.

MDC Stirrups and Martin Cohen wish to thank everyone who has supported Cohen’s vision of ‘forward-facing’ stirrups, with special appreciation for our top placing, talented riders at all the 2022 medal finals. Our motto is ‘From our Saddle to Yours, Horseperson to Horseperson’ — MDC Solves Real Rider Issues. 

*This story was originally published in the December 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!