stirrup, foot support for the rider of a horse in mounting and while riding. It is a ring with a horizontal bar to receive the foot and is attached by a strap to the saddle. To avoid the danger of having a foot caught in a stirrup if the rider is thrown, large stirrups are often used; one of the uses of the stirrup cover or stirrup hood is to prevent the foot from entering too far and getting caught; the same purpose is served by the high heels of the cowboy's boots. There is some evidence that stirrups were used in Assyria c.850 B.C. and in China as early as the Han dynasty, 202 B.C.–A.D. 220. Stirrups are not known to have been used in Europe before the raids of the Huns under Attila in the mid-5th cent.; probably they had their origin in central Asia.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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