Proper Use of Western Spurs

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Welcome to Western Spurs - PROPER USE

Spurs are worn on a horseman's boots and used to help direct a horse's movements - particularly lateral movement left and right. Western spurs usually have a fairly long neck because the western saddle has relatively wide fenders (the leather that protects the rider's legs from the sweat of the horse), and they must reach back behind that leather without too much awkward movement of the rider's leg.

 

PROPER USE OF WESTERN SPURS

Western working spurs are worn with the tip of the neck pointed down and the spur strap buckle worn on the outside of the foot. The proper foot position when applying the spur is with the toe down and the heel in.

Nearly every equestrian rider uses seat, leg, hand and voice cues to control and direct their horse's movement in one way or another. Contrary to popular belief (and many cowboy movies) the spur is not used to make a horse just go faster. Rather, spurs are used to refine the riding aids - that is to be more precise about touching a horse in an exact spot on his body with less effort on the part of the rider. This gives the horse a much clearer signal as to what the rider is asking and saves the rider twisting his leg into contortions to reach the pressure point he desires. In other words, using spurs at the end of the leg reduces the movement of the leg needed to give the cue, as the spur speaks more precisely than the heel with less effort.

Spurs are used specifically to initiate lateral movement left and right. The direct touch of a spur to a particular part of a horse's anatomy will move specific parts of his body: his shoulder, his rear, his rib cage. A spur can also be used to reinforce a leg cue that a horse may be ignoring. They can back up a leg request with more pressure. That is, the spur is also louder than the heel when response is lagging.

Horses should be started with just leg, and spurs should only be used on a trained horse who understands leg cues. If, after hours of riding, the horse is just not responding to the leg sufficiently, a spur might be employed, but only AFTER given a chance to develop a willing attitude without it. As with bits, any horse who is a little dull and requires the use of a spur to give him a little motivation should have the spur discontinued as soon as he is respecting your leg. It is not a weapon or a punishment. It is a reminder only, and timing must be precise.

Use of a spur should be very subtle and nearly invisible to an observer. Spur action should never be jabbing or gouging. A light touch should suffice. If it takes more than that, a feather-light rolling of the spur on the horse's skin should do the trick (called "feathering").

With proper timing, many speed events are perfected with the proper use of a spur to give the horse a little extra push through a turn or guide him into the right space around a barrel (called "advancing" a movement). In dressage events, the spur pinpoints the exact pressure point to initiate that perfect move.

A novice rider who does not have proper seat and leg aids is not a good candidate for spurs. A swinging, gripping or unstable leg (particularly below the knee) can inadvertently jab a horse. Horses that are irritated or frightened by spur use can exhibit very undesirable behaviours such as running or bucking. Poor riding skills that lead to accidental jabbing usually end up with more stabbing as the rider tries to grip to keep his seat and jerking on the mouth as the rider tries to ride the runaway. It's a disaster any way you look at it.

Additionally, too-liberal use or chronic misuse can deaden a horse to leg aids altogether.