Monday, February 16, 2015

curious about: spurs

Much like the SprinklerBandit's Teach Me Tuesday series or Chasing the Dream's What Do Wednesdays, I have a question and figured what better forum than this lovely little blogging community to answer it?

Question: Why spurs?

I've collected a few pairs over the years, but have only ever worn them for lesson horses that 'always go' in spurs (as in, it's part of the notes - like, carry stick with this horse, stuff ears for that horse, etc etc). Never tried 'em with Isabel. 

long shanks with pointy ends (and adorable peanut charms)

So I want to know: when do you introduce spurs? And for what reasons? How do you choose what type of spur to use? 


tiny, blunt little nubs

Do you use them primarily in dressage, or over fences, or both? Different spurs for each phase, or do you use the same every time?


roller balls

My understanding is that spurs are for refining the aids and reinforcement, and I'm wondering whether they would help with my efforts to introduce more lateral work into our sessions. Or perhaps they'd be good to have on hand given the recent rash of refusals I've seen over fences? 

But really - enlighten me, do you use spurs? What kind and why?

-OR - 

Do you purposefully NOT use spurs? Why?

41 comments:

  1. Hahaha! I had a post I needed to write about this exact subject, so I took your question as a prompt and wrote away this morning ... http://guineaforaguinness.blogspot.com/2015/02/an-equipment-change-swan-neck-spurs.html

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    1. thanks!!! it's really helpful reading about other riders' experiences with spurs!

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  2. I avoid spurs. I want a horse to be sensitive to my leg. Some horses could care less about this. I tried to ride a 4th level dressage horse and he laughed at my lack of non-spurs.

    My horse also doesnt like whips, so I will use spurs over a whip if hes really not listening to my aids. I try to avoid it over fences if my leg isnt super secure. Dont want to actually poke someome! That being said, spurs over fences REALLY force me to be aware of my leg.

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    1. interesting! i've definitely heard about horses learning to tune out spurs just like they can tune out a rider's leg... and yea, the leg-awareness thing is kinda a big deal haha - my mare would probs lose her mind if i accidentally poked her all the time

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  3. My mare hates crops, so when she started acting out by avoiding work (AKA being a slug under saddle) I would use them to correct her. That said, as soon as she started responding the spurs came off. After that it was only as an occasional reminder.

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    1. makes sense - my mare does ok with crops (and i usually carry one when we run xc and am starting to think i should carry one for all of our jumping phases just as a backup haha).. but that's an interesting point about using the spurs as a temporary 'reminder'

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  4. As my trainer says, "If it makes things easier, faster, and more efficient, of course you should use them." And that's been my take on them since. With spurs I get a faster reaction from Molls, without having to disrupt the position of my leg. So spurs it is.

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  5. I use my spurs now and then on Bridget- like others have said, just as a temporary thing to get my point across if she's being sluggish or ignoring my leg. One good bump usually wakes her up, then I'm back to squeezing with my lower leg.

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    1. gotcha - that makes sense. i usually don't have a problem with Izzy 'ignoring' my leg (she's quite reactive), but she doesn't always give the right response. like, if i put on just my right leg, she's gonna do *something*, but it might not be to move left (the response i want haha)

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    2. This is my prob, aid refinement is something I need to learn!

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  6. I've never really ridden in spurs and am wary about starting to use them because I don't want to use them "wrong" and do more harm than help somehow. I think if I had a trainer suggest I use them though and help me with it at first then I would for sure give them ago. I had been toying with that same idea about using them for help with lateral work though, which is neither mine nor Maggie's forte - I get some small response when I ask with my leg, but when I try to ask for more I feel like I'm just pushing against a brick wall with my inside leg. Its hard lol

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    1. i'm sorta in the same boat as you - haven't felt confident enough to strike out on my own w spurs, but wonder all the same if they'd help make certain things easier...

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  7. Dino needs spurs every. Single. Ride. Because he's a pony, and he's always looking for ways to make his work easier, i.e. not lift his back and belly and actually carry himself. The spurs are an excellent tool to help me move his ribcage over, lift his belly, and remind him to round his back. That said, I'm not stabbing him every stride! They are also immensely helpful for lateral work.

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    1. haha it's like he's asking, 'are you reeeeeeally sure you want me to do that? bc, uh, it's kinda hard work' lol. but seriously, tho - those are some of the areas that i think we need help in, tho the 'help' might come in the form of me simply riding more correctly haha

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  8. Stampede doesn't do spurs, it's fairly amusing. Put a spur against his side and he goes slower and pins his ears. So I usually pull out a dressage whip with him if I'm having an issue.
    That said, if P is being a slacker and making me mess up my position to get him moving I put on a small spur and he's back to business.
    In your case, I think a crop is best for the jumping issue as you can give an immediate whack in response to a refusal. Lateral work spurs may be useful, but a dressage whip might do the trick as well. You can usually tap them behind your leg without having to take your hands off the reins.

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    1. interesting - and good points. perhaps starting with a stick or whip will better suit our needs (maybe even switching out when we move from flat work to over fences - fancy fancy haha)

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  9. I've used spurs all of once in my riding career. I've always been wary of using them incorrectly, or not having a good enough leg position to make them neutral when not in use. The one time I used them it was on a mare who apparently "needed spurs". Chhhyaaa, right. I was nearly dumped several times. Not sure if I was lacking in the leg position or if she was just a very hot mare. Either way, I've never used them again. I am curious though if it'd get Gavin a little perkier.

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    1. haha that's a funny story - and kinda what i worry about with ms isabel... she's already plenty perky (most of the time), but she doesn't really move 'off' the leg in the way i'd like...

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  10. I almost always use spurs. I have a whole bunch of them but tend to choose between two pairs of rowels. I really like the rowels. The only horse I have going right now that doesn't go in spurs is the young mare I just started with- she's incredibly hot so she'll be without spurs until she settles down a bit.

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    1. i've heard great things about the rowels - esp that they're subtler than what you'd expect.

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  11. I used spurs (the little stubby ones in your second picture) on Sunny for less that 10 rides at the end of last Summer just to give him a little hand in lifting his back and rounding out. Having the spur on allowed me to be more precise in where I used my leg pressure (long leg/short horse problems) and they've been sitting in my boot back unused since maybe September/October because he quickly realised what I was saying and has now figured out life is so much easier if he carries himself properly.

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    1. interesting - so it's like the spurs helped him figure out how to put himself into the 'next level' of connection?

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    2. Basically yes, there was a moment of realisation where I give him a little tweak with the spur while pushing him on with my calf and it's as if he suddenly thought 'Ooooohhhhhhh.......not just fast?' And I felt his back lift up under me. Obviously it still took more work building up the top line muscles to get consistently round work but after that he knew that more leg pressure didn't mean 'Go really fast' it meant 'push yourself more forward without speeding up' Obviously we're still fine tuning it but the basic concept is there now much better than it ever was before.

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    3. haha silly pony - he just wants to make sure you're 'serious'. but that's also a good point about building the muscles - as it's entirely possible that i'm not getting the 'responses' i want bc isabel is still building strength for that, and we just need to keep plugging away... all very good food for thought tho!

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  12. It's really my preference as a rider to always use a spur and a whip. I think they're useful aids and like to always have them for training purposes if I need them. However, I've owned mostly thoroughbreds who have not really been "into" that idea, so I've tended to save the whip and spurs for shows, especially XC ("never go to war without your weapons"). However, Henry really does need a tiny spur on the flat - he's a little resistant to the lateral aids sometimes, and rather than squeeze forever and just deaden him up, I'd rather squeeze once and then go the spur if I don't get a response. To me that's training a horse to be lighter and more responsive to your leg. The thing is, you have to be educated enough with a spur and whip to use them only when needed. As for which type - I personally prefer a small roller ball spur.

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    1. thanks - that's really helpful info. to date, i've carried a crop with iz when we run xc (and actually those are the ONLY times i've ever carried a crop with her), and i feel pretty 'educated' as you say about crop use - like my timing and comfort with the tool are up to par.

      spurs - that's a different story bc i'm just less experienced with them. tho the times i've worn them i have absolutely felt an increased awareness of my lower legs... whatever the case, i've been told that i 'nag' isabel with my heels and that's something i'd like to change haha

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  13. I use little rounded nubby ones occasionally on Murray, and a slightly longer straight spur in the past on a lease horse. I used to use them for both getting forward and emphasizing the lateral work, but now I try to only use them for lateral work. If I need more forward, I add the whip after leg. I based this off an article by Carl Hester, I think, saying that when you keep jabbing a horse with your spurs to get forward you end up just having to goose them more and more and it can make them dull to your leg aids. But for the most part, I ride without spurs for jumping and dressage.

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    1. i've read similar things about avoiding using spurs for 'forward' as it deadens the horses to the aids - plus my mare already has plenty of forward haha. (tho sometimes i think carrying a stick or whip would help as reinforcements). interesting tho - thanks for sharing!!!!

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  14. I've been riding with spurs on Lucky because she has been a behind my leg. However, I haven't really need them except maybe once. Here's what I've been learning with Laura: the horse should increase his/her speed with a gentle squeeze of the calf. If they don't respond to that, give a kick. I only used spurs if that didn't work, and not right away either. Obviously the object is for you not to need them. It will make the horse dull. Laura just has them on in case she needs them. For example maybe you are in a situation where you or the horse could get hurt if they don't move forward right away. They are there just in case. I'm not really sure which ones I used. They have flat, rotating disks on the end.

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    1. thanks Paola - that matches a lot of what i've heard. i think the type of spur you're describing is called a rowel spur, like Megan described above. a very cool choice (and not a type i have in my existing arsenal, tho the roller balls are similar, i think)

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  15. obviously everyone is different, but here's a fun perspective on spurs. I split my time qh circuit and a circuit, with my horses spurs are actually necessary to get them to do stuff, typically our horses are taught to frame up and suspend their motion when spurs are applied, some are even taught to stop with more pressure. It allows us to keep a freer movement and more fancy look by a slightly related rein.

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    1. interesting! i think isabel would catch on to that type of training really quickly too (provided she didn't take offense) bc she's already figuring out that the inside leg is asking for more roundness...

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  16. Trainer i rode with yesterday pointed out that Nancy would react better if I had spurs on...guess I am going to have to find a pair now as the pair i had went walkies when I accidentally forgot to put them away last year.
    I have no idea what kind of spur to start with, I'll ask the trainer and then use them.for the first time in a lesson because like you I am wary of not being completely aware of what my legs are doing and I'm terrified of doing more harm than good. But like you mentioned in a comment above, I feel like I nag my girls with my heels. Particularly Kika *blush*

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    1. i hate it when things 'walk' away - so frustrating!! i'm not sure isabel and nancy are very similar in the 'reactive' department, as it's very easy to get a response from izzy already haha, tho the response isn't always what i wanted... but i'll be curious all the same to hear how adding spurs to your routine works out!

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  17. I always carry a crop with Miles because he goes better when I carry one -- he can be very lazy and grumpy when he wants to! I also occasionally use spurs to help reinforce prompt upward transitions -- and I use metal rollers because those are the ones Miles tolerates best.

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    1. nice - i've heard that the metal rollers are pretty mild (and my brother in law actually thought they'd make a good massage tool haha)

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  18. Thank you for posting this question! Reading the comments has been super informative...

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    1. yay glad you think so! i definitely have a much better idea of how to approach the idea now lol

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