Spurs For A Happier Horse & More Effective Rider

May 07, 2010 6 Comments by

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?

Featured, Riding and showing, Training

6 Responses to “Spurs For A Happier Horse & More Effective Rider”

  1. Michelle says:

    These are interesting. I’ve never seen these before! I have had quite a few horses over the years that I think would have benefitted from using them.

  2. jme says:

    those look very interesting. i always look for something with a very blunt end, and that certainly has some surface area. and i agree – i rode in a very traditional program in europe an their mantra was that spurs and a crop/whip are an essential part of a horseman’s toolkit and, though used sparingly, should be worn/carried at all times on all but the greenest horses, even if you never have to use them. i admit i don’t always stick to it these days, but there have certainly been times when i could have used that little extra emphasis on an aid an didn’t have it at the ready 😐 but i wouldn’t feel guilty about a spur like that even if i accidentally goosed my horse with it 😉

  3. A Bay Horse says:

    Those are interesting. I use spurs with Armani sometimes. Armani can be really opinionated too. I have very short, very blunt “wussy spurs”, as I call them. Like you, I use them judiciously when appropriate as a reinforcing aid.

  4. eventer79 says:

    I am intruiged by the design. My horse would probably like them, he can be sensitive about spurs, although not much of a bucker. My problem is that I have an insanely long leg. Even though my horse is a big barrelled (Appendix QH) 16 hands, I still have to ride with short dressage stirrups to be able to put my leg on and I have to use longer spurs to reach his sides. I wonder if I would have the same problem here given the shorter neck?

  5. christine says:

    I use equitation spurs with a ball instead of a rowel. They come in 2 designs, I use the ones with a longer shank, but it is personal preference. They are very humane. Used lightly on my own leg, they felt like a massage tool. I ride arabs, who are very sensitive, the vast majority of them are very forward without more than a bare heel. But, there a couple who are lazy and need a bit more encouragement. For those, I roll the spur on them lightly and let them know its there. Typically that is all they need. (Or just carrying a crop, letting them see it)

    They can make cues more clear when a horse is trying hard to figure out how to please you, but not sure what you’re asking for.

  6. Unhappy Horse Owner says:

    I own a quarter horse mare, and I don’t know what to do with her. She will go when she wants to, but if she decides not to she will completely plant her feet. Kicking doesn’t work, crops don’t work, nothing is working, please help!!!

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