One frequently asked question that people always ask me is if they should use spurs or not. My advice to them is that I would rather have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.
In saying that, I feel that spurs are not for every rider. If you cannot ride your horse at a trot or gallop without squeezing your legs, you probably should not wear spurs. If you were to squeeze your legs tight in this instance while wearing spurs, it may make your horse run off or possibly buck. If you are a confident or advanced rider, spurs are a great tool for better communication with your horse.
I use my legs a lot to tell my horse where to go and how fast to get there. My horse should respond to my legs first. My hands are for directional guidance only. I first ask with my legs and if there is no response then I will lightly use my spur, always remembering to release the pressure at the slightest thought of the right thing from my horse. The spurs should be used only to reinforce my thoughts and actions and to make it easy for my horse. If I didn’t have spurs then I might have to kick really hard and a lot. This might cause my horse to become dead sided and very aggravated with all the kicking. Spurs are a great tool for being used under a horse’s belly to lift his belly, round his back and drive from behind. These are all desirable traits for achieving a nice, collected horse.
The types of spurs you use are also very important. If you have shorter legs, you may want to use a spur with a shorter shank and dull rowels, so that you are not always poking your horse. If you have long legs, you might want to consider a longer shanked spur, so that you can reach up to your horses’ belly easier, depending on the size of your horse. There are many different types of spurs, so keep this in mind when choosing a pair.
There are many types of rowels as well. I would recommend dull rowels with no points if you’re inexperienced. Never pick the “rock grinder” type of rowels. These types are for the very experienced only, and should only be used on a horse that is very unresponsive to your feet and legs. Only use spurs with the mindset of “How can I help my horse achieve what I want?” Spurs are to help your horse do what he can naturally do without having to do as much of the work yourself.
Spurs are not inherently evil. They can help a skilled rider communicate more clearly, but when used incorrectly, they can cause great pain and stress to the horse. If you choose to wear spurs, please make sure that they enhance your riding experience, not ruin it for you or the horse. Remember, always do what’s right for the horse.
Understanding and training horses is in Shamus Haws’ blood, but his passion is helping horses with human problems. Shamus Haws Horsemanship offers private training, clinics and colt starting services. Visit shamushaws. com to learn more.