Monday, September 12, 2011

Spurs that jingle jangle jingle

Swan Neck spurs
The spurs I have on loan are these -- they look amazingly harsh but I'm told that they are for tall people whose legs hang too far down to use spurs effectively (waves hand wildly, that's me!).

That said, they could quite possibly will give Riley a heart attack. One of Riley's "guest riders," the LVDA Adult team coach, rode him with big-ass, roweled spurs that she uses on her Friesian. Talk about a tuneup. Ri was totally yes, ma'am.

Really? For Riley?
At my level, and at Ri's level, I'm not really a fan of wearing spurs. I'm going to have to really focus on using them in an educated way. The thing is, he really needs to use that hind end to lighten the front feet and keep them in good shape.

Harvey resented spurs so much when you applied them he shut down like an engine seizing up. Riley reacts right now, but eventually, if they're not used right, he'll tune them out. I have done a little research on the Web (lazy me) and here are some tidbits of advice...

  • The spur is used to lift the horse up to give elevation to the steps, so it really shouldn't be used to make the horse go forward. 
  • Spurs are designed to be used in a smooth upward manner.
  • Bumping, poking, jabbing, or spurring down instead of up will cause the horse to wring or switch its tail. 
  • This Simply Strapping article gives a ton of detail on the fit of the spur and placement of the strap.
  • The Regarding horses blog has reviewed the Spursuaders.
My biggest challenge is based on the advice that the Adult Team coach gave me -- use'em, mean it, make your point, and leave it behind. Meaning, don't nag. I'm a nagger by nature, so this will test my mettle for sure. 


  1. Holy mackerel, I can just imagine what Ri thought when that lady hopped on him with the big-ass spurs! :-) Thank you for the explanation about them needing to be used "up" rather than "down," and the fact that they are supposed to help lighten/elevate the front end. I'd never heard that before.

    I have some normal-size (1/2", I guess) POW spurs and I put them on one - *1* - time to ride my friend's dressage-trained Giant Warmblood. Clearly I had absolutely no clue as to what I was doing because I could barely get him to do a thing. "Excuse me? What is that you want? Canter, maybe? Listen, lady, lose the prongs..." So that was a bust.

    On the other hand, when I wore them on the pokey green QH, he suddenly discovered another gear along with the fact that yes, I WAS going to make him keep trotting/cantering as long as *I* wanted to, and not until *he* felt like quitting. :-)

    Good luck learning the nuances of spur use!

  2. I tend to use my whip for forward once the calves aren't getting his attention. If he's being extremely disobedient about "getting off my leg" for bending or lateral work, then I use my spur. But only one. Because its too damn hard to switch the whip every time I want to check his suppleness.

    Every good clinician and instructor I've ridden with, especially the FEI ones, say the first part of EVERY warm up should be "do I have forward" - not softness, not round or his back, but do I have forward - ignore the frame, push my hands forward and ask him to go forward. Do nothing else until I reaffirm (with the whip if necessary) "when I ask, you better respond"

    Critical is that I let him GO forward - loose reins, let him move, and pet and reward him for doing what I asked.

    Only THEN can we start to work on the pyramid. If you have a whip, you don't need the spurs for this. And if you get this done right (and it works) you won't need the spurs or whip for forward.

    The other thing I do is I have shorter spurs (less of an impression") for showing - he's already keyed up, I'm already keyed up, so anything I can do to soften an aid that could be aggravating is important.

    I probably need to look into swan neck ones though. I'm 5'6" - he's a 15.1 arab.

  3. My mare has a tendancy to get a little hot and strung out, so I've never used spurs with her ("but, but, she'll run away with me... or something..."). I was taking a lesson and complaining about my swinging leg. My trainer said my leg wasn't swinging, I was having to drive my mare into the bit and off her hind (strung out) end. She put spurs on me and HOLY CRAP, totally different horse. Seriously, our riding has taken about 30 steps forward, as well as our overall relationship. I'm not nagging her all the time and getting frustrated.

    I use just little POW spurs, but I see the idea behind swan-neck spurs. Also, you wouldn't have to move your leg as much to use them, thus the draw in dressage vs. hunter/jumpers.

    Also, if you use them now, and use them effectively, you're likely to not have the shutdown that Harvey had (I would guess from his life before you got him).

    Good luck and keep us updated on how it goes! :)

  4. I used to have a pair of those spurs -- when I had my 15.3 hand QH cross and my legs hung down below his belly! They do work.

    Of course, Max Gahwyler explained to me that you shouldn't need to use your leg below your knee so it didn't matter if your feet were too low for spurs! Of course, his horses were all large enough that his leg fit them perfectly.


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