View Full Version : To spur or not to spur
26th May 2005, 06:54 PM
I'm interested in hearing opinions regarding spurs. I am a very small (5ft; and 7 and a half stone) mature experienced rider (in that I've raced horses and spent plenty of time rounding up sheep and cattle - southern hemisphere...) but dressage is relatively new to me. I now work at a British Forces Saddle Club and our Riding Manager hates spurs and badmouths them constantly. However I recently had a conversation with a forces master saddler and a forces riding instructor and they use spurs all the time. I said I was having trouble getting one of our horses working from behind - a large fizzy bargy ex race horse (probably far too big for me but I love him). The instructor said to try riding him with spurs when attempting to collect him.... but I know our Riding Manager would disagree.
But maybe this big animal just isn't feeling my 7 stone aids - I don't know... Can a tiny person get the right aids across to a big bolshie horse, do I need spurs? To be honest I'd rather not, but I'm willing to be advised.
26th May 2005, 07:08 PM
In the right hands, I totally support spurs. I'm like you, short and light and I ride a large horse. I don't have the strength in my legs to get her going, or to get her to preform lateral movements properly. I use very short, blunt spurs and they're an aid, no different from reins or a crop. They need to be in the right hands though. In the wrong hands, a bit could do serious damage. So can spurs. But if used properly, they're a wonderful aid. I actually think it makes me a better rider. The horse I ride hates having pressure on her mouth. So rather than use the reins to turn her, I apply my outside spur lightly, and she moves away from the pressure. She responds better to them.
26th May 2005, 07:21 PM
Thanks for replying, that's really interesting - I guess I'm worried that I'm opting for an easy answer. But hey who is to say what is right or wrong, I guess much about horseriding and training is a matter of opinion. My Riding Manager seems to be able to collect her horse with just the use of her legs, but I don't think I'll ever quite manage that (plus she's got lots of leg and I haven't). Interested in what other little people think.
26th May 2005, 07:41 PM
As Keket says, spurs aren't intrinsically evil anymore than a crop, or a bit, or a saddle is intrinsically evil - but if they're used incorrectly then they can cause as much pain and suffering as a crop used in anger, a bit used harshly or a badly fitting saddle.
I won't wear spurs at the moment because I don't think I have enough control over my lower legs to be sure I'll only use them as I intend :o. However, they are obligatory in the higher levels of dressage, so if I do decide I want to compete I'll have to learn. My understanding is that the main aim of spurs is to make your leg aids more precise - you reduce the contact area dramatically so you can be far more selective on exactly where and how you apply the aid :).
That said, there are a couple of horse's I know that can be complete dobins, and people do generally find them MUCH easier to ride in spurs. Whether it allows a signal that's harder for the horse to ignore or whether they decide that "spurs = competent rider = I'd better behave" I guess we'll never know :rolleyes:
I think the joy of horse riding is that there is no right or wrong answer - there's a solution that works for you and your horse, by allowing you to both enjoy the ride. If that means wearing spurs then go for it :)
26th May 2005, 07:53 PM
The way I understand the proper use of spurs in dressage is as a tool of refinement- making your aids less visible. I don't think they are supposed to be used as an accelerator for a pokey horse. There should be better ways to improve impulsion than to use spurs.
26th May 2005, 07:59 PM
Do you have the leg control to use them properly? They are an aid & at higher levels of dressage, mandatory. So if you trust your leg (and your trainer concurs) there is nothing wrong w/using them.
26th May 2005, 09:03 PM
when i used to ride my girl's dad, who was very highly trained (he's retired now), when i rode in trainers with the little flappy tag things on the back of the ankle i could use those as spurs. just brushing the hairs and he would go sideways, or extend, etc.
spurs are refinement. ideally, you use them to make the difference between using your leg a couple of centimetres further back or forward apparent, where your heel hasn't got that scope. on a highly trained horse, that's quite significant.
it's the difference between poking someone with the end of a finger, and pushing the palm of your hand against them. the smaller area means the pressure is concentrated - so if the person was ignoring your pushing palm, a poke with the finger would get their attention. so while you shouldn't kick with them, they are a different style of aid, and if the horse isn't listening to your palm pushing/inside of your calf or heel, then the spurs will work.
as i've said on another thread about little riders on big horses, sometimes they are used to stronger aids, being more physically held up rather than carrying themselves, and the rider needs some help. it's nto ideal, but we're not in an ideal world. the horse has to listen, and obey - we can't force that. like kids, some will obey willingly at the lightest suggestion, and others need more persuasion. hopefully, spurs are persuasion without pain or force, used sympathetically. of course, ideally, all kids and all horses would be attentive and responsive and raised well and all that.
26th May 2005, 09:05 PM
Personally, I would prefer to use spurs than a whip/crop, I find my horses relate them more to my leg aid than a whip.
I think that so long as you have good control of your leg there should be no issue with using them.
27th May 2005, 06:02 AM
What must also be remembered about spurs is that just because they are strapped to your boot it doesn't mean you have to use them. Changing the angle of the foot will change the contact of the spur from none at all to max pressure and anywhere in between.
Personally, I always ride in spurs. Even out hacking.
27th May 2005, 07:22 AM
I think it can be much more agreeable for the horse to be lightly touched with spurs than to have a rider sqeeze or kicking all the time and bounce about unbalancing himself when trying for even stronger leg aids.
28th May 2005, 07:11 PM
Thanks for all the very logical and carefully thought out replies I've found them very interesting and helpful.
Because I've been riding so long I'm a fairly instinctive (if not `dressage glamorous') rider so I think I have the leg and mind control to trust myself not to do any damage with spurs, so I think I'll try them at some point out if interest. Whether they are appropriate in this particular case I still haven't quite decided.
The horse is already very forward going, I'm just really struggling to collect him. I guess it doesn't help that he's a riding school horse and because he is so flighty most people have:
a. been a bit afraid of him and kind of frozen on his back when he's zipped around like a mad boy, or,
b. simply sat on top and enjoyed the ride, not bothering to really ride him because moving him along is so effortless.
In a way it's not imperative that he himself improves in terms of outline because it's unlikely that any improvement would be maintained anyway (he's ridden by lots of different people) but I'm interested in making progress for my own sake and because I enjoy a challenge.
29th May 2005, 11:41 PM
Firstly spurs are for lateral work, collection and refining the leg aids. the whip is for backing up the leg and getting the horse to go forward.
May be you should try using spurs and see what happens. You don't have to use them all the time, may be just for a tune up every now and then. And just because you are wearing them doesn't mean you have to use them.
There are also different types of spurs to consider.
The normal type has a sort of 'digging' action.
Then you can get ones with smooth, round rowels, these are the softest as they roll across the skin rather than digging. they are sort of the spur equivilant of of a loose ring snaffle.
And you can get ones with pointed rowels these have the same action as the smooth ones, but are much sharper.
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