Spurs

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11 April 2018
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Hi Everyone, I'm new to H&H Forums :)

Please don't let this debate escalate into an argument! Though I'm currently injured so cannot work at the moment (injury and work are horse-related!) and have been finding ways to keep myself occupied - aside from writing books :)

Something I've always wondered is the reason for spurs being required in many high-level equestrian disciplines?

I've personally never used spurs - and am unlikely to become an amazing enough rider to ever have to wear them in high-level competition. The reasons I have never, and probably will never, use them are...

a.) I've seen them misused cruelly - and that was through sheer ignorance as opposed to intentional cruelty, which was horrible enough!
b.) I've never had cause to use them on any of my own horses, as they've (thankfully!) always been very responsive.
c.) I'd be absolutely terrified of using them - for fear of unintentionally causing harm to any horse through my lack of experience of using spurs.
d.) I've ridden others' horses in the past who I've been told categorically must be ridden in spurs, even when hacking - I refused to wear spurs and said horses worked perfectly nicely for me anyway.

I do understand there are many differing types of spur, and that the most widely used would be 'dummy' spurs that are highly unlikely to cause serious damage to a horse. However, given the rising interest in items such as 'Belly Bands', in your honest opinion do you truly believe there's still place for spurs in modern riding?

Thank you in advance for your replies - I'm sure they'll be fascinating :)
 

Cowpony

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17 May 2013
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I have some rollerball spurs, which I think are unlikely to do any damage to the horse. As I understand it, elite riders use spurs to make the aid more precise, and I only wear mine because my instructor told me to do so for this very reason. I don't like wearing them as I don't think my legs are under control enough to make the aid precise, but it does make me very conscious of my leg position and keeping my legs still unless I am applying an aid, so in that respect they are probably good for me. When I am riding outside of a lesson I "forget" to put them on. And 95% of the time I'm not using the spurs when applying the aids anyway.

I see a lot of children wearing them, which I don't like because most (not all) don't have the control over their legs that they need to. When you see a kid wearing spurs kicking their pony around a showjumping course it's enough to put you off for life. Having said that, I've never seen a pony marked by them. I also see people wearing them to make their horse faster/more forward, and I don't like to see that either. My personal view is that if you are a good rider you probably don't need them and if you aren't a good rider you shouldn't be using them! They have a place for very good riders who do need that level of precision, but personally I would ban them for all children and all competitors below Elementary dressage. *Ducks fast and retreats to hide under rock*
 

milliepops

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IMO it's just another bit of kit that can be used to good effect or bad, same as anything. I don't really have black and white opinions on many items of tack or equipment because they all depend on the person using them. You could say the same about whips, or bits, or basically any bit of kit.

As for people using them to teach the horse to be more forward - I don't consider correct use of the spur for this purpose as any "worse" than thumping away on the horse's side with the leg, which appears to be the alternative for many people. Teaching the horse to be more responsive to a smaller aid *is* teaching it a more precise aid IMO, so that's not by definition an incorrect use.

I ride one of mine in spurs daily, I have swan neck blunt ended spurs because my legs are too long on her really and it's hard to give a precise aid without contorting myself in the saddle. I will introduce spurs to the baby horse later this year as she starts more lateral work and work towards collection.
 

Cowpony

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I think the reason I don't like them being worn by people who can't use them properly is because it's so easy to catch the horse with them by mistake (maybe not if you are gifted with long legs, but I have short legs!). Yes you can catch the horse with a schooling whip if your hand is in the wrong position, but most people have more control and are more aware of their hands than they are of their legs and feet.

I agree that it's just as bad to kick and kick to get the horse going, but from what I've seen people who do that will do it whether they are wearing spurs or not. In an ideal world they would school their horse to be more reactive, but in these days of quick fixes sadly that often doesn't happen. So for people who don't ride as well as you clearly do MP, I would consign spurs to the same bin as draw reins, gags, standing martingales and all the other gadgets too many people use when what they really need is a good instructor and the discipline to do some practice. Oh gosh, I do sound like a grumpy old woman! I'm getting back to work......
 

Cortez

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Spurs are very useful, not to say essential, IF you know how to use them, which is why they are required, along with a full bridle at the higher levels of dressage competition. The thing about spurs is that if you don't need them, you don't have to use them, although of course you should have the requisite level of control and awareness before you even put them on. I sort of agree with Cowpony there, that's a very good idea (not allowed for kids or anyone below Elementary).

My most sensitive horse is the one who prefers his instructions delivered with refinement, so he is ridden with spurs: he gets upset if aids are imprecise. My lazy old git of a schoolmaster is usually ridden without as there is a danger of nagging him, so he gets plain requests backed up with a tap if he chooses to ignore. Spurs are for advanced work, not for lazy horses.
 

hopscotch bandit

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On watching some show jumping on Sky during the winter from some location in France I noticed that some of the horses had their coats left unclipped where the riders leg went. I assumed that this was to alleviate spur marks on 'softer skinned' types. To me who has never SJ it looked rather odd.
 

milliepops

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Some kids ride better than many adults, just to complicate the matter - some lovely young riders at the BD winter champs last week :wink3:
 

Batgirl

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I use them as a refinement, I have had instructors ask me to use them for 'impulsion' which I disagree with when it measn 'kick it with spurs'.
I was taught 'buttons' which are a few inches apart - central button for 'forward' aid, fore button for moving or controlling the shoulders and, hind button to control/move hind quarters. I can precisely push a button with a spur end instead of my horse interpreting the whole of the inside of my foot. these are obviously combined with bodyweight, rein aids etc.
 

JFTDWS

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When I've been schooling mine seriously, I always wore spurs for proper work. I didn't routinely wear them to hack or do non-schooling work, although I have done for various reasons at different times. The clarity and precision of the aid makes them more responsive in all directions (the lateral and forward buttons are all clearly separated!).

I don't use them on my 5 year old as she's not ready for them, and they're of no benefit to her at present. In time, I may. And the highlands are having an easy ride at the moment, mostly hacking out, so they're also a spur-free zone. But they're a useful tool to have in your kit...
 
Joined
11 April 2018
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Thank you all for such interesting and well-explained responses! I feel I have learned a lot from all everyone has said - I'm very grateful you all took the time to reply, thanks again 😊
 

Equi

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Im not by any means a great rider, and my horse is responsive in the forward aids with a mere squeeze, but my instructor said (after i asked) some roller spurs might help me get a better lateral reaction, as currently i can dig my heel in as far as my weak leg will let me but he still doesn't go as i would want. He CAN do it, hes just not getting the absolute correct pressure from me. Ive yet to actually get any, but i just havent got around to it. I will only ever use them with my instructor there until i can use them confidently alone.
 

JDH01

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24 January 2013
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I rode in spurs for a long time then when I had very reactive TBs and a very hot off the leg cob didn't. I have had to downsize as a result of injury and now have a very nice cob who wasn't well schooled when I got him and needed to learn a definite aid, I am now back in ball / roller spurs and very happy with the results
 
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