My mare HATES spurs - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 07-16-2019, 01:20 PM Thread Starter
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My mare HATES spurs

So I'm starting my mare Bean in reining where spurs play a pretty big part and she absolutely hates them.

I am the one who trained her from the ground up and never put spurs on her because she never needed them but now that I'm asking for more I need the make my cues more refined. She has been ridden about 5 times in spurs. The first time was an accident and I didn't even think to mention to the person getting on that she had never been ridden in spurs before and when she went to ask her to canter she bucked. It was only a few hops but her hind end came well off the ground. For walk she is fine and responds pretty decently but pins her ears and at the trot she tends to get a bit more disagreeable and will either angrily listen or jump start then dead stop. While asking for the canter she starts to cow kick at the trot and chomp at the bit and either stop or continue kicking.

It's frustrating and I'm not quite sure how to fix this. Any suggestions or ideas would be welcome! Pic of the trouble maker attached
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post #2 of 21 Old 07-16-2019, 01:27 PM
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What kind of spurs are you using?
How big and how aggressive are the rowels?
How quiet is the leg that is teaching the horse about spurs and what that touch means for them to do as a response?

Now I'm taught English riding principle but was taught you "kiss" the side with kindness when wearing spurs...
They're a feathers touch not hard legs and you better not have your heel anywhere near that side when you "kiss" them or you may be airborne...face-plant in reaction.

So what kind of spur, how is it being used and how quietly are the riders aids presented to the horse?

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post #3 of 21 Old 07-16-2019, 01:45 PM Thread Starter
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She listens to leg amazingly and moves off pressure instantly I wanted to get her soft before introducing spurs because when I started her at 5 she was dead sided and dead mouthed so I had to correct all of that.

My spurs don't even have rowels, they are English spurs I got specifically to introduce her and can't be longer than a half inch. It barely brushes her side and she starts up. She gets super tense through her body and raises her head (it's usually level with her withers or a smidge higher when I collect her up).
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post #4 of 21 Old 07-16-2019, 02:14 PM
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So I could be wrong but I don't think there's a reining rule that states that you specifically NEED to wear spurs If she gets along fine without them and you feel there's no need for them outside the show pen I wouldn't bother with them. If she just needs a bit of a wake-up to get a little more refined, you can ride with a dressage whip in each hand and when you apply calf, if she doesn't respond, you can tap with the dressage whip to wake her up.

Now, me personally, I feel that every horse should accept spurs. It's kind of like a flank cinch - I might not ever need to ride in one, but if that situation occurs, I want to know my horse isn't going to freak out, so I train them to accept it. I also feel that a horse will never get as soft and supple through his body using dressage whips as he will with spurs. You can desensitize them to spurs from the ground by asking the horse to walk a small circle around you and holding the spur in your hand. As you walk, gently press the spur against the horse's side in the areas you normally do to ask the horse to yield his hindquarters, shoulder, and ribcage. Do one area a couple times then move to another. Be sure to do both sides.

For the crankiness under saddle, you fix the biggest problem first. I NEVER allow bucking when I put my leg on, so that's the one I'd fix first. I take a long quirt or the ends of my reins and if the horse bucks when I put my leg on, I over-under him hard, just once. Every time that hind end pops up, I over-under him. If it happens more than a few times in a row I'll gallop him hard around the arena a few times (for a lazy horse) or do rollbacks on the fence for a while (for a hot horse). KEEP YOUR SPURS OFF HIM when you are reprimanding him for bucking at your spurs, or you'll just create a rodeo. The horse has its own brain and I think he's allowed to show me he doesn't like things - but never in a way that will get me hurt. Head shaking is fine. Bucking is not.

-- Kai
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post #5 of 21 Old 07-16-2019, 02:35 PM Thread Starter
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@Kaifyre I didn't even think of trying it from the ground! The bucking isn't normal for her, she is usually a very laid back "yes ma'am" kind of horse which is why I'm kinda stumped with this one. Bean is not a small girl either but I think I didn't want to correct her because she is usually so good and I thought it was me, not her but you do bring a good point with the no tolerance to bucking. I just need to put my foot down and show she isn't gonna die if metal touches her side
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post #6 of 21 Old 07-16-2019, 03:19 PM
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Clinton Anderson isn't everyone's cup of tea, but one thing I think he got spot on was that darn near every problem can be fixed or at least worked on from the ground, and asking for things from the ground first increases your chances of success under saddle. From what you've described, OP, I think your horse is just being unwilling to give you 'A' effort. My Appaloosa Dreams was very much like this. I started him myself, and he was wonderful, but then I rode him like a colt for almost a year, never asking for any more than 'C' effort. So of course the very first time I demanded a 'B', he got his panties in a bunch and threw a hissy fit because *GASP* "How DARE you ask me to trot without getting all strung out behind? SACRILIEGE!" I had to get after him a few times to make him realize that no, you're not going to die just because I'm asking you to collect, and yes, if you kick up this ride just got a heck of a lot harder for you.

Once you show your horse that it's in her best interests to give you 'A' effort, the hissy fits will subside. You've just got to make that point, and demand that she not be a lazy lum. ; )

-- Kai
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Last edited by Kaifyre; 07-16-2019 at 03:27 PM.
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post #7 of 21 Old 07-16-2019, 03:32 PM
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I actually think the rowels are less "aggressive" than the english spurs... I know that you already are aware of this and it may not even be your issue but you don't actually "jab" or "apply pressure" with the spurs when you first start using them. The rowels you just kind of roll up the side. As the horse gets used to the pressure you can apply more and more. I have a feeling she is so used to the leg pressure that the added extra little pressure point from the spur is a little confusing.
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post #8 of 21 Old 07-16-2019, 03:35 PM Thread Starter
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I usually do everything from the ground first, its how I taught her to side pass but it didn't even cross my mind for spurs. I'm not Clinton's biggest fan but there is a method to his madness that does work for some horses.
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post #9 of 21 Old 07-16-2019, 08:25 PM
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As a surprising, sharp jab in the belly, out of the blue would be startling & the horse likely *reacted* automatically that first time, I would NOT have punished that. Unfortunately, if that was her first experience - and first impressions do tend to 'stick', that will have made her more likely to react in future. I'd absolutely introduce it from the ground first, ensure she is comfortable with the feel & understands how to *respond* to it correctly before using them when ridden.
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post #10 of 21 Old 07-17-2019, 07:51 AM
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Just as with legs, seat, feet, etc., spurs can be used in many ways. How spurs are used makes a big difference in how the horse responds.

People, often unconsciously, apply spurs in different ways under different conditions. Excitement of faster gaits or competition often influence riders to apply spurs more quickly and with more force.

Training riders and horses to work in harmony.
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