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This is a discussion on Spurs? within the Horse Riding forums, part of the Riding Horses category

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    03-29-2010, 03:16 PM

Several years ago, before I got my horse, I was given a pair of spurs (mainly to decorate my bookshelf). Now that I have a horse, I'm wondering what are the pros and cons of using spurs when riding? Should I or shouldn't I?
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    03-29-2010, 03:42 PM
Why do you think you need them?

I've been riding for 32 years and have never worn spurs.

Unless your horse is dead-sided and you need spurs to keep him going, or you're planning on showing in the upper levels that require spurs as part of your turnout, I can't see any good reason for you to use them.

Unless you've been trained to use them properly, they can be turned into instruments of torture for the horse.

They're rarely necessary, and can be cruel if not used correctly.
    03-29-2010, 03:58 PM
He has problems getting-up. There's nothing I can do (besides pulling his head to the side) to get him to move when I'm on him.

Could you define "dead-sided" please? Thanks. =)
    03-29-2010, 04:17 PM
Dead-sided means he doesn't respond to your leg cues to move forward.

How long have you been riding, and do you have an instructor?

You should NEVER wear spurs unless you've been properly trained in their use.

Slashing at him with spurs to make him go is a very bad and cruel idea, especially if you have no clue how to use them.

Like whips and crops, spurs are supposed to be aids, not torture devices that get a horse going in order to get away from the pain.
    03-29-2010, 04:18 PM
Leave them on your bookshelf. Spurs are for advanced riders needing to give specific cues to horses. I've never had to use them as I don't do any advanced reining or the like.....I have four pairs of spurs that sit on my bookshelf for decoration right now. Never have used them. Spurs are not for most riders to get a reluctant horse to move, nor are they for making a horse go faster. A reluctant-to-move horse must be retrained using natural aids and training techniques. I have a gelding who's buddy-bound, and I never considered using spurs to get him to go away from his mare, nor a crop/quirt, because then he will rely on those aids being there and won't even consider moving if they're not there. Spurs, crops, quirts, martingales, tie-downs, harsh bits, they're all mechanical aids that impede upon the process of the trust- and compliance- system with you and your horse.
    03-29-2010, 04:23 PM
Okay. He's dead-sided. What should I do to train him to step-up without using the spurs or a crop?
    03-29-2010, 04:28 PM
Equiniphile, I don't agree with you that a horse will get to 'rely' on an aid.

I carried a whip for years, not because I needed it every time, but occasionally my Arabian decided he was a mule and knew better than I did.

Eventually, I didn't need to use it even occasionally on him and quit carrying it all together. He hardly 'relied' on the whip, and certainly didn't miss it when it was gone.

Anything used correctly is neither cruel nor inhumane. However, if you haven't been trained to properly use a particular piece of equipment, it's best to leave it home.

Tyler, you didn't answer my questions. How long have you been riding, and do you have an instructor? If you've never been trained to ride correctly, that could be a major issue in why you can't get your horse to go forward. He simply may not understand the cues you're giving him.
    03-29-2010, 04:37 PM
Used conservatively, spurs are good for iron-sided or lazy horses. But if you use them excessively, the horse will become dead to your leg and then you'll be up a crick. I use plain old Prince of Wales spurs sometimes on my mom's horse because he can be super lazy. It depends on the kind of spur and the knowledge of the rider.
    03-29-2010, 04:38 PM
Sorry. I realized that a couple minutes after I posted...

I've been riding off and on for nine years. I had an instructor my first year of riding (with an angel of a horse – not at all like mine), but my family moved north a year later and I haven't had an instructor since.

The former owner of my horse has the same problems I do, and he had him since he was green broke (which could also be part of the problem – that he was broke and not trained).

Originally Posted by Speed Racer    
You should NEVER wear spurs unless you've been properly trained in their use.
Originally Posted by Jessabel    
It depends on the kind of spur and the knowledge of the rider.
I've never had any training with spurs. I'm thinking I'll steer clear of them.
    03-29-2010, 04:47 PM
Spurs are for the 'subtleties' of 'advanced' work. They are NOT to make a horse go forward or sideways. I repeat, spurs are NOT for dead-sided horses.

Since your horse is dead-sided, you're going to have to use 'something' to reinforce the leg aid and retrain him. This 'something' should be a dressage whip...yes, dressage whip even if you ride western...because of it's length.

Personally, I would reteach the horse 'forward' on the ground first, but for all those who frown upon such a practice and just want to get on and ride:

Make sure you know prior what the leg aid/s are for what you're asking. Apply the leg aid in a normal fashion...release. If the horse does not respond, you will apply the leg aid again, in a 'firmer' fashion...release.

Note here: It is the RELEASE that tells the horse to move, NOT the application of the aid. It was by the very fashion of constantly pressing and never releasing that got the horse into this situation in the first place.

If the horse does not respond, then you will apply the leg aid a third time, in the 'firmest' fashion and give a good tap of the whip directly behind your leg. I say 'tap', but it might be a 'smack'. That's on you to decide how much reinforcement you need.

And then off you go. Every time the horse starts to suck back behind the leg, you will reapply the correct leg aid and back it up with the needed amount of whip aid, until such time as the horse responds consistently to the leg.

The horse MUST be ridden forward during this retraining. Pulling or hanging on the reins is going to be counter productive. Bumping the horse constantly with an unsteady leg is going to be counter productive. Any sort of inconsistency with the aids is going to be counter productive.

It should take about 5 minutes to fix the horse for that first ride, and then only a few more rides after that to see significant improvement. Within a few weeks you should find yourself only needing to reinforce the leg on the rare occasion and you should also find the horse is more and more responsive to less and less leg aid.

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