Although the stirrup doesn’t seem like an exciting piece of equipment, it is actually the most pivotal contributions of the equestrian world. It was, in fact, one of the most basic tools used to create and spread modern civilization – perhaps even on par with the printing press. Beat that martingale!
Horses have been domesticated for human use since at least 10,000 BC, originally used to pull chariots & carts or ridden bareback. As civilization continued to evolve and war continued to happen the need for more stability while mounted was inevitable. This is a tool that literally helped to create the world we live in today.
Like many ingenious inventions, the stirrup was created strictly out of necessity. And that necessity arose strictly from power, greed & war.
There is some evidence that stirrups of some type have been used as far back as 850 BC in Assyria and were spread by the horsemen of the Central Asian steppes. There is also the story of poor Cambyses, the King of Persia in 522 BC who fatally stabbed himself with his own sword while leaping onto his horse. This story alone might have prompted someone to become a tad more inventive in their equestrian equipment.
The first stirrups actually on record are found in the sculptures of India during the 2nd century BC. They first records were of a type of saddle strap into which the feet were tucked. Later evidence was found of small stirrups used for the big toe. It’s clear why this horrible sounding trend didn’t last, it was all but impossible with appropriate footwear.
The first stirrup created to accomodate the entire foot were mounting stirrups in the 4th century BC…however, they were used specifically for mounting, and there was only one of them.
The Real Deal
The Chinese are credited with the invention of the stirrup we think of today. Not long after the mounting stirrup came on the scene, the double stirrup emerged. Some clever calvary officer’s life was probably saved because of his mounting stirrup and the rest, as they say, is history (my version of it anyway).
Good Ideas Spread Fast
It would only take one encounter with a calvary enhanced by the balance stirrups provide to convince any army to create their own. This is one invention that spread quickly – it allowed mankind a new form of power that hadn’t existed before. It’s been theorized that the entire development of Feudalism in medieval Europe comes from the invention of the stirrup.
To learn more about the stirrup and its contribution to civilization, follow the links below.
The Stirrup & It’s Effect on Chinese Military History
How The Stirrup Changed Our World
The Stirrup Controversy
Saddle, Lance & Stirrup
Extra, Extra! Read All About It! Stirrup Changes the World Forever!