Top showjumper falls after stirrup breaks during grand prix: Freejump investigates

  • Manufacturer Freejump has apologised after a leading showjumper’s stirrup snapped and caused him to fall during a five-star show.

    Sweden’s Henrik Von Eckermann was competing Mary Lou 194 in the CSI5* Grand Prix Hermès in Paris on 19 March when the accident happened.

    As the combination landed over an oxer on the 1.60m course, Henrick’s right Soft’Up Pro stirrup gave way.

    Despite his best efforts to stay in the saddle, the unbalancing jolt of the break unseated him.

    A Freejump spokesman said the company would like to say “how sorry they are” to Henrik, but is pleased to see both horse and rider were uninjured.

    “It is not the first broken stirrup, but it is obviously the first that has received so much media coverage,” the spokesman told H&H.

    “Beyond all the concerns that were expressed on social networks following a viral diffusion of the video of the fall and the many messages of support, only an [expert examination] of the stirrup could inform us about the nature of the event.

    “In collaboration with Henrik — who is deeply convinced of the benefits of Freejump stirrups but of course worried about the causes of breakage — we were able to examine the stirrups and understand the situation.”

    The company found the material gave way following the fatiguing of a “micro-crack” at the breakage site.

    The production serial number of this set of stirrups dates back to 2012 — the first series of the Soft’Up Pro.

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    The spokesman added that the bending or “breathing” of the stirrups, which the riders feel at each stride and which is the main advantage of the Freejump stirrups, is mechanically “extremely demanding”.

    “Dimensioned for an unlimited lifetime in normal operation, our stirrups can be weakened by a violent shock or a particularly intensive use,” he said.

    “Henrik was riding up to 10 horses a day at Ludger Beerbaum’s, besides riding in grands prix every weekend.

    “Henrik is tall and rides short on his stirrups, which accentuates even more the pressure.

    “Nowadays, our single-branch stirrups, which are bringing their share of technical evolutions, need to be monitored and replaced as part of an intensive use.”

    The company’s stirrups are “million times” tested on a specific machine and Freejump works “continuously” to improve them.

    The steel wires are 25% more resistant than those of the first series involved in the fall of Henrik, which were themselves twice more resistant than the first generation of Soft’Up stirrups,” the spokesman said.

    He added the company is there to help assess the possible risks if riders have any concerns.

    Henrik and Mary Lou 194 have now put the incident behind them and are looking ahead to the Longines FEI World Cup final in Omah this week.

    “It was disappointing, but sadly these accidents happen, things break,” Henrik told H&H. “If it is not the stirrup, it is a rein or a bit and so on.

    “Yann from Freejump has been at my yard to check the stirrup that I used, and it was from year 2012.

    “The amount of impact the stirrups get at this level of usage means we need to change them — the new model is made stronger and safer, but still we need to change them from time to time.

    “I have used Freejump for years, I feel comfortable with them and I will keep using them.”

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