With spurs, as an experienced rider, you can achieve almost invisible aids. This is advantageous primarily in dressage, but also in jumping and other disciplines. Spurs assist you in exerting the least possible effort and providing quick, pulsating, and light signals for optimal communication and a harmonious ride.
What are Spurs and What Are They Used For?
Spurs are a fantastic tool for experienced riders and are used to influence the horse with the lightest aids possible, especially in dressage but also in jumping and other disciplines. The spur is attached with straps around the riding boot or riding shoe and should be used to refine communication between the rider and the horse. Instead of working hard and intensively with the leg aids, for a horse that may be a bit unresponsive, the spur should enable the rider to use only a gentle touch, which is preferred for both the horse and the rider. The spur should slide from bottom to top, not from the inside out, as many may think. This means that when using spurs, the rider needs to lift the heel slightly and then lower it immediately to use them correctly. When the horse is in motion, the spur should move in harmony with the horse, just as the leg always does, so that it merely enhances the horse's natural movement and then catches up with gentle rein contact. When the leg is in its normal position, the spur should not be in contact with the horse. Many horses are responsive, sensitive, and receptive to the leg aids without spurs, and in these cases, spurs are unnecessary. Some horses may even become stressed by spurs, and on such horses, they should not be used at all. Spurs should only be used on horses that receive and accept the signals in a relaxed manner.
When Is One Ready to Ride with Spurs?
It is crucial that as a rider, you can ride with good balance and use subtle, light aids before starting to use spurs. Spurs are only for experienced riders and should be used to provide the horse with the smallest and most refined signals possible. The horse perceives the spur with just a light touch, so it must not be used in a way that causes discomfort or harm to the horse or as a tool to push or punish the horse.
What Type of Spurs Should You Use?
There are many different types of spurs to suit various purposes. The choice of spurs depends on the impact you want to have on the horse and how easily you want to access the horse with the spur. The direction of your riding discipline can also play a role. Spurs are most common in dressage and western riding but are also seen in jumping, eventing, working equitation, and other disciplines.
The length and design of the spur, or more precisely the spur neck, determine how easily you can influence the horse with it. A long spur is not sharper than a short spur, as one might think, but it is the design of the spur tip that determines its sharpness. The length you choose depends on factors such as how still you want to be with your leg. The longer the spur, the fewer movements you need to make to influence the horse. If you have a sensitive horse, too close contact can be a disadvantage. The choice of spur length is also influenced by the horse's body shape and the rider's height. If the horse is rounder, you may need slightly longer spurs than if it is of normal build or slim. If a short rider is on a large horse with their feet placed in the middle of the horse's ribcage, short spurs should be used, just as a tall rider may need long spurs when their feet are under the horse's belly. In other words, you do not choose long spurs to achieve a sharper effect.
There are primarily three types of spurs that determine how easily the rider can influence the horse: curved spurs, straight spurs, and Swan neck spurs. The first type mentioned are gentle spurs of the mildest kind. These spurs are placed downward on the foot and leave ample space between the horse and the spur, requiring the rider to make more effort to reach the horse with the spur. When it does come into contact with the horse, a larger part of the spur neck also touches the horse's side, distributing the pressure over a larger area. The straight spur is slightly sharper than the previous type because it distributes pressure only on the small area that the tip touches. Swan neck spurs, unlike the first type, are upward-bent. Therefore, they are ideal for riders with very long legs, as they do not need to lift their legs excessively during leg aids.
As mentioned earlier, the sharpness of the spur depends on its tip. The most common models are ball spurs, roller spurs, and square spurs. Ball spurs are gentle and mild, roller spurs have a movable disc behind that glides along the horse's side. These may appear sharper than they actually are. Square spurs are the sharpest type. The angular surface means that only a small part of the tip touches the horse, unlike a rounded variant. Therefore, the pressure is distributed over a small area, making square spurs sharp.
Spurs in Competition
There are different regulations regarding which spurs may be used in competition and how they should be positioned. In Sweden, the rules state that spurs must be made of metal and must not be constructed in a way that can injure or harm the horse. Most spurs, at least of the curved type, have an "up" and "down" side and must be worn in the correct direction. There are also rules regarding how the spur should be designed. Stay updated on the specific regulations for your discipline in the latest competition rules (TR).
How Long Can Spurs Be in Dressage?
For large horses, there are no restrictions on the length of spurs in dressage. However, the spurs must have smooth shanks that are slightly rounded and not angled upward. The spur neck must be rounded or blunt, and if the material differs from metal, such as having a plastic ball, it is acceptable. The spur neck must also be straight or downward-bent. Upward-bent swan necks are not allowed. The most common lengths are between 15-35 millimeters.
How Long Can Spurs Be for Pony Riders in Dressage?
Pony riders may wear spurs with a maximum length of 15 millimeters in dressage competitions. Spurs with rollers are not allowed.
What Spurs Are Allowed in Show Jumping?
In show jumping, you can use any spurs you want, except for spurs with serrated rollers. Spurs with smooth edges are allowed. However, the spurs must be worn in the correct direction on the foot.
Do the Same Rules Apply to Pony Riders? And How Long Can Spurs Be for Pony Riders in Jumping?
In addition to the above rules, pony riders must also ensure that the spurs are either rounded or of a blunt type, and the neck should be a maximum of 15 millimeters long, just like in dressage.
What Are the Rules for Eventing Regarding Spurs in the Cross-Country Phase?
For all three phases in eventing, spurs are optional, including the cross-country phase. However, the spurs must be of the blunt type, have a neck length of a maximum of 40 mm (20mm for pony riders), and only point straight backward or downward. Impulse- and dummy-spurs are allowed, as are spurs with smooth rollers. Spurs with serrated rollers are prohibited.
How Should Spurs Be Positioned?
The spurs should be placed against the heel cap so that their angle points straight backward. Some riding boots and riding shoes have an integrated spur support that minimizes the risk of the spur being positioned incorrectly. Do not forget to complement your spurs with spur straps that keep them in place. We have a carefully selected range of quality spurs and straps, developed for modern equestrian sports, to ensure you can find a pair that suits you with confidence. Explore our selection from well-known brands such as Jin Stirrup, Stübben, and Parlanti, and do not hesitate to contact our knowledgeable team if you need assistance finding the right pair.