Choosing the right spurs for riding your horse – Our Guide

What are Spurs and why do people use them?

Here are The New British Showjumping Whips & Spurs Ruling effective from the 1st January 2020.

Shires Mens Prince of Wales Spurs~108529_1

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?

Long riding boot with spursSpurs are worn with the end of the shank pointing slightly downwards. They should sit on the spur rest on the back of the boot and the buckle of the spur strap should sit on the outside of the boot.

 

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:

Round End SpursShires Ball End Spurs~108533_1

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

Prince of Wales SpursShires Mens Prince of Wales Spurs~108529_1

A common spur which has a flat end making it slightly sharper

Rowelled Spurs

The end of the shank has a blunt toothed wheel attached that spins. The more teeth on the wheel the milder it is – most have 8 teeth on each wheelShires Roller Ball Spurs~108532_1

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

Common in Dressage – The shank of the spur goes upwards at an angle before levelling off.0025189

Waterford Spurs

The end of the shank has a large round ball

Le Spurcoronet-lespur-3-teeth-spur-3

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

Dressage

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.

Western

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.

 

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29 thoughts on “Choosing the right spurs for riding your horse – Our Guide”

  1. Hello
    I have a horse who is very stubborn so if she wants to stop she will and it’s very different to get her moving again. Will spurs help with this?
    Thanks Linda

    1. Hi Linda,

      Thank you for your comment. Spurs are used as a refining aid can not primarily to encourage a horse forward. We would advise before using spurs to speak to your instructor or trainer to discuss if they may be a good tool in refining your forward aids when riding your horse.

      If you would like any further help with this, please feel free to contact our customer service team on 01706 507555.

      I hope this is of help.

      Kind regards

      Nicci

  2. Hi…
    I have very weak legs (and getting weaker) , so it has been suggested that spurs would help to get my horse moving forward.
    She can be very stubborn when she wants to be and she gets it in her head that she doesn’t want to move . I ride western pleasure/trails. What kind of spurs would be best?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Lori,

      Apologies for the delay in replying to your comment, it appears to have slipped through the net. We hope you managed to find something to suit you and your horse. As we do not know you riding ability we would always recommend getting advice from an experienced instructor before trying spurs. We would recommend opting for some round end or roller ball spurs for anyone’s first pair of spurs as these are quite mild in their action and will allow you and your horse to get used to using spurs. As mentioned, we suggest that you have an instructor to offer advice. I hope that is of some help if you haven’t already found some ideal spurs already.

    2. Hi Lori
      I also have a weak leg due to nerve damage in my spine and I think that spurs my be good for you
      After you get your horse forward and forward thinking off light leg aids. I’m linking a video to hell you with some techniques and exercises to train your horse to light leg aids and the video the training involves giving corrections with a quick stronger bumping of the l gs as a corrections, but if you can’t use your legs stronger in a bump bump bump manner as a correction, you can use a tap tap tap right behind where your legs is as a correction and then follow the techniques in the video. I hope this helps. I know it has helped me. After you teach your horse to surge forward fromblight aids, then you can use spurs as they are intended for refining legs aids and backing up other aids but with almost invisible touches of the leg or with spur. Please reach out and l to me know if you tried it and if it helped. I have a whole collection of dvd’s And cd’s that have elevated my education and teaching do much. Feel free to email me for more videos. I love sharing great information. [email protected]

      Kathy M.

  3. Hello. I have 4 years old mare with complicated character. She is sensitive but she have bad impulse from leg when need to start trotting or galopping and she shows that she does not like being pushed forward, (because of her character) – when she want, she move, but when she is not in good mood, she dont listen on me and shows that she dont feel my legs. I have used some times soft 2 cm spurs and she dont like it either (she become aggressive). I wanted to ask – which is most softer spurs for young horses what you can suggest? And is this spurs super soft or no–> Shires Comb Spurs? Thanks

    1. First, if you are asking what kind of spurs are the softest and have a young horse…that tells me you don’t need spurs. Spurs have a place and purpose, and are for finesse, for cuing impulsion not a means to punish. They are to add emphasis to your own leg to move a horse from side to side, to help lift when your legs are not very strong or don’t touch in the right place. They have to fit you, be appropriate for the horse and for the style of riding you will be showing in. You need to be a very good rider with quiet seat, legs and hands. By this, I mean are your hands still, can you direct a horse with just a shift of your fingers and little to no wrist movement and no arm movement? Can you halt and turn a horse around your legs with little seeable movement? Can you stop and turn a horse just off shifting your weight or sitting down in the saddle? But used improperly, by a rider who doesn’t have excellent leg position and control – they can get you and the horse injured and at the least .. confuse the horse and make the matters worse. The problems your mare exhibits can be temperament, training, or medical based. First, get a vet to check her from head to toe to make sure she is not sick/lame, in any pain, etc. If the horse isn’t sick or lame and is behaving in an aggressive, moody way – throwing temper tantrums, then she will not improve unless she gets proper help. And you may need the same. If you are inexperienced – less than 10 years working with many horses on a consistent basis – this is not a job for you. And I don’t mean working 5 different horses over that time period – I mean working and training at least 30-40 horses over a 3-5 yr period of time. . Some of the best riders who have only worked a couple of horses for a period of time and may win many shows – but they will tell you they aren’t trainers because they know it takes working with lots and lots of horses to begin to understand how they think – they are all different. A decent rider who has excellent training and has bought a well trained horse can maintain that horse in proper form but that doesn’t mean they are trainers. Most decent riders can, with research and watching others, get a horse started as long as they go softly and slowly but a horse that already is showing serious issues is a different problems. Let me put it plainly – If you are the person who started or has been training this young horse and she has become moody, complicated, resentful, and overly sensitive in a negative way – without help, you will only make her worse. Don’t buy spurs for this horse – it may work on a short time basis to make her go forward but it will not make her a willing partner. A man with a whip can make anyone a slave, but they will never get their trust.

      My suggestion is to send this horse to a well recommended trainer with a good reputation, go watch the trainer work horses several times …several – at least 5-6 times and try to visit unannounced. You want to make sure a trainer handles horses in an easy gentle but firm manner. If they beat their horses up, scream, yell, etc or jerk their mouths around…find another trainer. Check to see how their other horses look, are they well cared for, adequate weight (not fat, not skinny, are they kept vaccinated and wormed appropriately,mandnare their facilities clean, well cared for, and there isn’t any equipment laying around that a horse could get hurt on – in paddocks, fields, barn aisleway, etc.

      Spurs are a tool to use once a rider is correct and a horse is well along in training. They allow you to make tiny cues without being noticed. It is like using a curb bit over a snaffle. If you can’t control your horse in a snaffle, you sure can’t do it in a curb. Spurs and curbs are not about power or control. They are about finesse. You have horse that needs to be restarted so she will learn to enjoy being ridden and look forward to being around you. She needs starting at A and going to Z. Many horses love to work and aren’t sullen or aggressive about it.

  4. Hi, i have a horse who can be quite dead on the leg and lacks a lot of impulsion when jumping and even riding in general. I currently use a whip but recently he has become almost immune to it.

    However my leg moves slightly whilst in trot and canter so I’m not sure if spurs would cause damage if my leg is moving constantly.
    What should i do/ use??

    1. Hi Grace,
      Thank you for your comment.
      As we do not know your riding ability we would suggest speaking to your instructor about it before making any decisions.
      Spurs are designed to be used to back up your leg aid to remind the horse to react to a light leg aid. If your leg moves backwards and forwards you will catch/press the spurs into your horses side every stride, which as I am sure you will agree is not the desired affect of spurs. If the spurs were used to this degree then you would have the same affect as you have had with the whip, ignorance.
      Perfect exercises to try to strengthen your legs to help keep them still are no stirrup work and standing up in your stirrups. Once you have mastered more control of the lower leg, spurs sound like the ideal option for your horse.
      We would advise you speak to your instructor before making any purchase. If any size information is needed please call Customer Services on 01706 507555.

    2. Hi grace
      I shared this video link with the women above asking about the spurs. The video show and explains really great techniques and exercises to help train and really teach the horse to go/ surge and think forward forward from a light leg aid. It is really a great video and the trainer is one of the top and most respected in the industry. Her methods are explained do well and broken down in detail and are for every and any rider. I have been using her methods and techniques for sometime now and my education and understanding is beyond what I have ever expected and now I have become an even better trainer and instructor. L to me know if you have any other topics you would like videos on because I have an entire collection of dvd’s That I’m happy to share info from. Let me know if you got a chance to try the methods from the video below. [email protected]
      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oqkeDHDXGaA

      Kathy M.

  5. Hello. I have a horse that can be rushy and forward moving but also quite dead to the leg in dressage. My trainer has advised me to get spurs but I am unsure what type to get, I want something fairly soft that just keeps him listening to my leg. I am thinking of getting roller spurs, would that be a good idea? Thank you!

    1. Dear Emma,
      Thank you for your comment.
      I would highly recommend the shires Ladies Roller Ball Spurs as they are designed to be more gentle than the standard shank spur due to the spur ball rolling. Ball End Spurs are less likely to jab the horse and will prevent marking the horses sides therefore I would suggest that they are very kind spurs.
      I hope this information helps and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.
      Kind Regard
      Robyn

  6. Hello, I do show jumping and dressage and I am thinking about getting a pair of roller ball spurs or rowelled disc spurs. Which one is softer and is more unlikely to leave marks? Thank you!

    1. Dear Isabella,
      Thank you for your comment.
      From the information provided I would highly recommend the shires Ladies Roller Ball Spurs as they are designed to be more gentle than the standard shank spur due to the spur ball rolling.
      I hope this information helps and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.
      Kind Regard
      Robyn

  7. Hello,
    I ride many different horses and do mainly showjumping and some dressage. I am looking for a pair of spurs that can generally be used on many different types of horses (sensitive or lazy) and is allowed to be used in competitions if that’s possible. What kind of spurs and what length do you recommend? Thank you!

    1. Dear Bella,

      Thank you for your comment.

      When wearing spurs it is always important to bear in mind that they are an additional aid and if it is the first time you will be wearing them we would agree and advise you to ensure that an experienced friend or professional is present to help.

      From what you have advised we would recommend the Shires Ladies Roller Ball Spurs to be a good starting point. The Roller Ball spurs are designed to be more gentle than the standard shank spur, as the ball rolls rather than jabs the horse but yet will still be effective for the lazier horses as you can use them as strong or weak as you like.

      If the roller spurs are not something that you are interested in we do have the Tech Stirrups Milan Spurs. These spurs come with interchangeable shanks so you can change them to which horse you are riding at the time. These spurs come in a variety of colours to so they do look very stylish.

      We are happy to measure any of the spurs we stock and if any further information is wanted please don’t hesitate to contact our customer service team on 01706 507555.

      Kind regards

      Customer Services

  8. Hi, my daughter is 10 and doesn’t have a very strong lower leg so sometimes struggles to get her pony working forward nicely off her leg and can’t get the impulsion she needs for jumping if pony is in a lazy mood. So am thinking of getting her some spurs (her instructor will teach her how to use them correctly) what would you recommend, I’ve been thinking about either the comb spur or the roller as don’t want her using anything too severe, but wanted some advice first.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Julie,

      Thank you for your message.

      When wearing spurs it is always important to bear in mind that they are an additional aid and if it is the first time your daughter will be wearing them we would agree and advise you to ensure that an experienced friend or professional is present to help.

      From what you have advised both the Comb Spurs or the roller ball spurs would be a good starting point. The Comb Spurs feature a comb detail which removes the need to turn the heel to action the spurs and do not have the shank to which may be easier to use and the Roller Ball spurs are designed to be more gentle than the standard shank spur, as the ball rolls rather than jabs the horse.

      We are happy to measure any of the spurs we stock and if any further information is wanted please don’t hesitate to contact our customer service team on 01706 507555.

      Kind regards

      Customer services

  9. Hi I am currently riding my horse with roller ball Spurs, we are doing prelim/novice dressage.
    Now I have got the hang of them which is the best to move on to? I chose them initially as I had never used Spurs before but my horse has been ridden in them by previous professional riders.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Vicki,

      Thank you for your message.

      I have had a look at our selection of spurs and from the information you have provided us with we would recommend either the Shires Ladies Ball End Spurs or the Sprenger Never Rust Short Ball End Spurs. Both of these spurs are a fixed shank with a rounded end. This will provide you with extra boost from your leg while lowering the risk of jabbing your horse from a longer shank which would be more likely to mark the horses sides.

      If you would like us to measure the length of any of the spur shanks we have available please don’t hesitate to contact our customer service team on 01706 507555.

      I hope this information helps and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

      Kind regards
      Customer Services

  10. Hello,
    I ride a horse that is very lazy. I’m looking for spurs that will help my aids. I already have spurs but they are very small. I do eventing and I am looking for spurs that I can use in lessons ( whether I’m jumping or riding dressage) If you have any suggestions. Thanks
    -Sarah

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Thank you for your message.

      We have a wide selection of spurs available but from the information you have given I would suggest that you may want to try the Shires Ladies Roller Ball Spurs which would give an extra boost to your leg without the use of an extra long shank. The Ball End Spurs are less likely to jab the horse and will prevent marking the horses sides.

      If you would like us to measure the length of any of the spur shanks we have available please don’t hesitate to contact our customer service team on 01706 507555.

      I hope this information helps and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.
      Kind regards
      Customer Services

    2. That’s what my mare is like as well. I use round head spurs and would definitely recommend it. She just needs a little more than just leg and it works fine with her. It depends on your horse and how you ride though so I would try some other options like roller head spurs, knob end spurs, or thumb spurs.

  11. I am looking for spurs which are very mild and blunt . Just want something as a back up when he’s dead to my leg . I tend to move my leg so don’t want anything which could hurt him and mark him . Please can you advise . Thanks

    1. Hi Claire,

      Thank you for your message.

      We have a wide selection of spurs available but from the information you have given I would suggest that you may want to try the Shires Comb Spurs which would give an extra boost to your leg without the use of a shank. If a shank is wanted in the spur the Sprenger Never Rust Short Ball End Spurs feature a rounded end which provides gentle encouragement to the horse. The Ball End Spurs are less likely to jab the horse and will prevent marking the horses sides. We also have the Roller Ball Spurs which are designed to be more gentle than the standard shank spur, as the plastic/ metal ball rolls rather than jabs the horse thus preventing marks on the horses’ sides.

      If you would like us to measure the length of any of the spur shanks we have available please don’t hesitate to contact our customer service team on 01706 507555.

      When wearing spurs it is always important to bear in mind that they are an additional aid and if it is the first time you or your horse has experienced riding in them we would advise you to ensure that an experienced friend or professional is present to help.

      I hope this information helps and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

      Kind regards

      Customer Services

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