I wear spurs to compete, and at home when I am working on laterals.
Spurs are not a torture device, it is the leg they are attached to that is the problem.
The spur holes on your gelding was from a rider with either terrible control of their lower leg, or an aggressive rider intentionally digging into him with spurs. You don't have to wear sharp rowels to cause a problem, blunt dummy spurs can cause awful injuries if used by a poor rider. The sharp spurs can cut more easily if misused, but blunts can cause extensive bruising over the ribs. I prefer to wear rowels than a blunt ended, fixed spur. The rowel spins along the horses side, rather than the jabbing, bruising motion of a dummy spur.
If you have a solid lower leg that does not swing at all, a d you do not have any issues with your toes sticking out, then you won't put holes or bruises in your horse. However, make sure that you always work seat, to leg (calf only) to spur (as a last resort). If you start to engage the spur constantly then yes you will dull the reaction. Hence I only train in spurs for lateral work, and even then will often ride without to ensure that I am getting the reaction from my leg without spur reliance.
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Kayty! Hey you have a photo of my spurs, post it here for me, because I am too hopeless to figure it out!
Oxer, I use these roweled spurs everyday, they may or may not touch my horses sides, he is clipped, so any misuse would show up pretty quickly.....I use them just as Kayty does, mainly for lateral work.
However, there are two little girls at our barn who ride in blunt English spurs, on their fat wooly ponies, in two point......their sides tell the tale......
A rowel is rolled....not stabbed....if its stabbed the rider has no place wearing them......
Hopefully Kayty will post a pic of my torture devices!