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September 02, 2021
Specifying the aids – when and why to use spurs
Spurs are not meant to drive a horse permanently, but to refine and support the rider's aids. While the leg aid affects a fairly large area, spurs enable the rider to better refine the aids and to set more targeted impulses. The aim should always be to use the spurs as little as possible to achieve the desired effect and prevent the horse from becoming dull.
Most importantly, the choice of the right spurs is always to be based on the well-being of the horse, which you do not want to hurt. Especially riders that begin to use spurs should therefore use rounded and not too long spurs until they are experienced enough to use the spurs appropriately.
Things to consider for choosing a suitable type of riding spurs:
Age and level of training of horse and rider
Only those who already have a balanced seat and a calm position of leg are able to use spurs correctly and sensibly. But not only with untrained riders, also with young horses the use of spurs should be avoided in the beginning. Horses must first get used to the rider's calf, get to know and understand the forward driving leg aids and learn to trust the rider and his aids.
In the further course of the training you should use spurs with soft impact and only if necessary switch to stronger models. In different phases of training, the short-term use of more effective spurs can also be helpful in order to then switch back to a softer one.
Character of the horse
Character always plays an important role in the choice of equipment, including the right spurs. Phlegmatic horses can logically tolerate stronger spurs than nervous or very keen and sensitive horses.
Distance between horse and heel
Riders with shorter legs and less distance between horse and heel get along with shorter spurs. Riders with long legs should use longer spurs so that the leg can lie more still. For extreme cases there are so-called "swan neck spurs" that are additionally bent upwards and shorten the distance to the horse's belly even further.
Sensitivity of the horse/pony, coat change
With very sensitive and delicate (coat and skin) horses or during coat change, rather soft spurs or spurs with a thick wheel should be used. In such cases, so-called Comfort Roller spurs are often ideal, as the thick wheel rolls when touched and does not rub on the sensitive coat.
Discipline, guidelines, rules
Of course the choice of spurs also depends on the disciplines ridden and the respective rules and regulations. In Western riding different spurs are used than in the English disciplines. In eventing, the use of rowel spurs is only permitted to a limited extent and in the individual disciplines and age groups there are restrictions regarding the length of the permitted spurs.
Basically, the spurs should be chosen rather blunt and rounded in order to make the impact as soft as possible. However, if the rider cannot keep a quiet position of leg due to a too short or too blunt spur, it may be advisable to use longer or stronger ones. In any case, the rider should not need to permanently use the spurs. It is important that the driving leg is not replaced by the use of spurs. An improper use of spurs can blunt a horse or in the worst case injure it.
Riders being spoilt for choice
There are numerous spur models on the market. This does not necessarily make it easier to find the right ones. Spurs are available in different materials, qualities and price ranges. It is important with all materials that the structure of the surface cannot lead to injuries. With plastic spurs, for example, scratches can quickly appear on the surface, which can pose a risk of injury to the horse.
High-quality spurs are made of rustproof and shatterproof materials such as stainless steel or German Silver. They should have a comfortable fit and be free of sharp edges that could injure a horse or damage the leather of the boot/boot.
Sprenger's Ultra fit and Ultra fit Extra Grip spurs, for example, can be adapted to the rider's foot by bending them. The material (stainless steel) is break-proof and stable. The spur strap loop is shaped in a way that the spur strap cannot exert pressure on the instep or the lateral foot. This also protects the boot and ensures a secure and perfect fit. Using spurs that are coated with rubber, you should always make sure that the rubber cover is made of robust and not too soft rubber.
The all-rounders among the spurs
The most successful models from Sprenger have a neck size between 2 and 3.5 cm and are slightly rounded at the end. Both stainless steel spurs and rubber-coated spurs are particularly popular with customers.
With or without rowel?
Whether a spur with rowel is sharper than without cannot be answered in general. This varies from horse to horse and also depends on the nature of the rowel or spur. Some horses react more strongly to spurs with a flat neck, others to spurs with a wheel.
The following applies to spurs without a rowel: The more angular and narrow the spine / neck end, the stronger the effect.
The following applies to spurs with rowel: The thicker the rowel, the softer the effect. Rowels with spikes are sharper than circular ones. The rowel must never be tight, but should always be able to turn freely to avoid injury. Especially during coat change, hair and dirt can get stuck in between. Rowel spurs should therefore be cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis.
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