I haven’t used spurs for most of my riding career. That was until I got my slightly bull-headed and exceptionally green thoroughbred Ace. They became a necessary training tool in the beginning, and now their slightest use from time to time gets more refined control. I’ve since come to recognize the benefits of occasional, judicious spur use for higher quality performance. And for a horse like Ace who is bull-headed yet sensitive, the Spursuader has become a great tool.
Why I Wear Spurs
Ace was a totally green horse who didn’t understand “forward.” We had it just fine on the ground, but under saddle just wasn’t happening. Leg got no response, a whip got no response, and spurs became a necessary training tool for Ace to learn to go forward. And it didn’t take long for a little bit of spur use to do the trick and for Ace to learn to GO and I could start limiting their use.
I’ve since become a big fan of wearing spurs when I ride for the refined control they offer when absolutely needed. I keep them on my boots at all times, but only use them when absolutely necessary.
With lots of time and patience, I’ve gotten Ace in front of my aids and very responsive to the lightest of leg aids. I’d say 85 percent of the time the slight closing of my leg is all it takes to get forward, bend, straightness, etc. The other 15 percent of the time Ace decides to cop an attitude and “forget” what he’s supposed to do. And that’s when I need the spurs.
When Ace cops an attitude, he’s not stupid or dangerous or crazy, he’s just plain bull-headed. This often means planting his feet and refusing to budge and do what is asked of him. Fortunately, while this use to be a common occurrence during his early training days, now it’s pretty rare and not so extreme. While it used to be stopping in the middle of the ring and either growing roots or going backwards, these days his bull-headedness usually manifests in canter transitions.
And Ace has beautiful canter transitions. When he decides he’s being cooperative.
When he decides he doesn’t want to be cooperative, he ignores me asking nicely, and he ignores me asking a little more firmly. And then when I add the slightest touch of spur, he gets mad and does a lovely buck as part of the transition when he finally gives it.
It kind of makes me laugh to have such an expressive horse. But at the same time, bucking canter departs aren’t a great habit.
A Gentler Yet Effective Spur
God must have been watching our antics, because just a few weeks after Ace started kicking out when I used the spurs, I got an email from Linda Hauck offering to send me a pair of her “spursuaders” to try out.
They are a unique shape that is designed to be gentler yet just as effective as regular spurs. They are heavy, flat, with a round surface area bigger than a quarter.
The Spursuaders felt awfully weird at first, both just walking around and riding in them. It’s a completely different feel from regular spurs that is a little difficult to describe. But when I used them on Ace when he wasn’t listening to my aids so well, they did the trick.
Canter depart minus the buck accomplished.
I rode in the Spursuaders for about a month. Ace was a much happier horse, and stopped giving me little fits of attitude when spur use was necessary.
However, I would say that the Spursuaders aren’t quite as effective as regular spurs. We had one incident where Ace was being bull-headed and ran me into the wall as we were circling – and it was from enough distance that I had plenty of time to correct him – and the Spursuader just didn’t pack enough punch to get his attention. Any time Ace went into his really pig-headed mode, I wasn’t able to correct the behavior quickly enough.
I have gone back to my regular spurs, but after a month in the Spursuaders Ace no longer reacts so negatively to them. Or at least not as frequently.
I think my best bet with Ace will be to go back and forth; the Spursuaders work well for soothing his attitude when he gets annoyed, but I need the regular spurs for when he gets really resistant. He’s just a weird horse, sensitive thoroughbred most of the time and thuggish brute the rest.
I would highly recommend trying the Spursuaders if you have a super sensitive horse who could still use the more refined aids a spur can offer. They are definitely gentler than other spurs, and more effective than just your leg by itself.
Let me know what you think of this innovative spur design. Do you have a sensitive horse who you think might respond well to these?