The stirrup is also one of the most significant technological innovations to warfighting that our world has seen. Prior to the invention of the stirrup, while horses were useful for transport, they weren't useful for long rides or for fighting while mounted. Long rides were difficult due to the strain of the rider maintaining all their body weight on their thighs, and fighting while mounted was not possible due to the need to hang on to the horse, as well as because there was no way to brace against impact. When your fighting is being done with edged weapons or lances of some variety, being unable to take impact is a Bad Thing.

One reason Temuchin's Mongols did so well is that they were one of the first large-scale, organized forces equipped with the stirrup. Riders could travel long distances quickly, and arrive in condition to dismount and fight. Alternatively, they could remain on their horses and defend themselves against footmen, all while wielding the massive kinetic energy and height advantage given them by the horse's strength and motion.

Armored horsemen would have been impossible without the stirrup, as the weight of an armored rider is nearly impossible to balance properly unless the feet are used and the stirrup spreads the load across the saddle. The stirrup also moves the interface between rider and horse lower down, closer to or even beneath the pair's center of gravity. This makes it much more difficult to topple the rider.

This is one example of a small thing having an enormous effect on warfare. There have only been a few others of this significance in history; there simply have not been that many fundamental changes in the conduct of warfare. Projectile weapons already existed long before the advent of gunpowder, both as handweapons in the form of crossbows and as artillery in the form of ballistas, trebuchets, catapults and other large leverage engines. As such, it is possible to argue with compelling force that gunpowder did not so much change warfare qualitatively as quantitively - projectiles reached farther, could be fired faster, did more area damage, etc. This is opposed to the change engendered by the stirrup, which made mounted warfare a possibility - the potential of harnessing a mount's strength, speed, endurance, and size to the control of the warrior.

Stir"rup (?), n. [OE. stirop, AS. stigrap; stigan to mount, ascend + rap a rope; akin to G. stegreif a stirrup. 164. See Sty, v. i., and Rope.]


A kind of ring, or bent piece of metal, wood, leather, or the like, horizontal in one part for receiving the foot of a rider, and attached by a strap to the saddle, -- used to assist a person in mounting a horse, and to enable him to sit steadily in riding, as well as to relieve him by supporting a part of the weight of the body.

Our host upon his stirpoes stood anon. Chaucer.

2. Carp. & Mach.

Any piece resembling in shape the stirrup of a saddle, and used as a support, clamp, etc. See Bridle iron.

3. Naut.

A rope secured to a yard, with a thimble in its lower end for supporting a footrope.


Stirrup bone Anat., the stapes. -- Stirrup cup, a parting cup taken after mounting. -- Stirrup iron, an iron stirrup. -- Stirrup leather, ∨ Stirrup strap, the strap which attaches a stirrup to the saddle. See Stirrup, 1.


© Webster 1913.

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