What are Spurs and why do people use them?
Here are The New British Showjumping Whips & Spurs Ruling effective from the 1st January 2020.
Spurs are a metal tool that is attached to the heel of riding boots for the purpose of making a horse move forward. They are usually used to back up the rider’s natural aids (seat, hands, leg and voice) on horses that need more impulsion. They allow the rider to give subtle signals to the horse that can be almost invisible to the watching eye. In Dressage, spurs are not used to make the horse go faster but give precise aids throughout the movements. Spurs are used in some showing classes for etiquette.
Parts of a spur
The ‘Yoke’ – this wraps around the heel of the boot
The ‘Shank’ – this extends from the back of the yoke and is the part that touches the horse
The ‘Rowel’ – sometimes attached to the shank depending on the design. A revolving wheel or disc.
Spurs are usually held on with a band of leather called a spur strap. Some styles have no strap and simply stay on due to the yoke being very tight.
How should they be worn?
How do you use a spur?
It is important that the rider has the correct riding position before attempting to ride in spurs. An unstable leg will jab the spur into the horse’s side and could cause an irritated, distracted or annoyed horse. Improper use of the spur can be dangerous. Spurs are activated when the rider lifts their heel slightly, pushing the end of the shank or the Rowel against the horse’s side.
Types of spurs
Spurs are available for Men, Women and Children and the size is different to allow optimum fit to the boot. Spurs are then divided into categories depending on the size of the shank – 0.6cm | ¼” is relatively small and common for a child’s spur where as 5-7.5cm | 2-3” is a long shank. Alongside the differences in the size of the spurs, the shape can also be different. The different types of spurs are detailed below:
A milder spur which has a small ball at the end of the shank
Knob End Spurs
The end of the shank is squared off but has blunt edges
A common spur which has a flat end making it slightly sharper
Other variations are:
- Disc – the end has a small rolling disc that has no teeth – Popular in Dressage
- Roller – A very mild spur ideal for use on sensitive horses – the end of the shank has a plastic roller attached which moves along the horse’s side
Swan Neck Spurs
The end of the shank has a large round ball
A spur with small teeth inside the heel band – Offers a subtle aid – the rider does not have to turn they’re heel
Half Mounted Spurs
The spur is decorated on one side
Full Mounted Spurs
The spur is decorated on both sides
Choosing the right riding spurs based on discipline
Many dressage spurs tend to have a short shank length due to the close contact leg position. Dressage riders tend to prefer a Waterford style spur with a round ball at the end, the Disc spur with no teeth or the Swan Neck spur due to its design.
In British Dressage, spurs can be worn at all levels and are mandatory from Advanced level upwards. Dummy spurs are permitted. There is no restriction on the type of shank or Rowel as long as they are free to move. Only blunt spurs without rowels can be worn in Young Horse Classes.
Show Hunter/ Jumpers
May use a flatter style spur to encourage impulsion, such as the Prince of Wales spur.
In BSJA spurs with a shank in excess of 3cm long, with a rowel diameter in excess of 1cm or spurs with roughened edges are not permitted. In pony competitions only blunt or roller ball spurs may be worn. Sharp or Rowel end spurs are not permitted. The overall length must not exceed 2.5cms in length measured from the back of the rider’s boot.
For western is is common to have rowels that rotate and are decorated. The shank of a western spur is usually longer and wider in diameter due to the rider’s long leg position. A western saddle and stirrups tend to sit the riders leg further away from the horse’s side hence the longer shank.