Spurs are a great tool to aid in directing your horse with leg cues. They have been used by horsemen for centuries and the varieties come in many forms. So how do you choose which set of spurs is right for you?
Before getting down to business, let’s look at the anatomy of the equipment to guide us in the right direction. There are three main parts to a spur:
Yoke: The part of the hardware that is attached to the heel of the rider’s boot
Shank: Attached to the yoke and extends towards the horse
Rowel: Attached at the end of the shank and is the piece that comes into direct contact with the horse.
The most important pieces of anatomy for you to remember is shank and rowel.
Do you ride English or Western?
It is common for all disciplines to use spurs. However, they all tend to use a specific type. Dressage riders typically prefer the Waterford style with a round ball as the rowel and shorter shank, while western riders use spurs with longer shanks rowels that rotate and have teeth. The reasoning behind using the different styles of spurs in different disciplines is that in an English seat, the rider’s stirrups are usually shorter, giving closer contact to their horse’s barrel. In Western riding, the rider’s stirrups are usually longer, and their feet are more forward, leaving less room between their heels and the horse’s barrel. Thus, English riders will want a spur with a shorter shank and more of a knob on the end instead of the wheel rowel and longer shanks used in Western riding.
The best way to decide the length of your spur shank is to climb into the saddle in the seat in which you normally ride. From there, see how far your heel is from your horse’s barrel. If you ride with shorter stirrups, typically the shank length you will need is shorter.
Choosing a rowel should be based on your discipline and your horse’s sensitivity to leg pressure. With western spurs, don’t just look at how big the rowel is, up also how the teeth on the wheels are set up. Some have more teeth and are closer together and some have less and are farther apart. The rowels with the lesser amount of teether are used for situations where a quick response is required and could be used with horses are a bit more stubborn. Rowels with more teeth that are closer together are much gentler.
The yoke of your spur should fit snug around the heel of your boot. Be sure to wear the boots your ride in to try the spurs on for a more accurate fitting. The need for spur straps is dependent on how well the yoke fits your boot.
Remember, spurs are used as a tool to direct your horse and to fill in the space between your heels and the horse’s barrel. The great thing about spurs, if you do decide to wear them, is that you don't always have to use them.
About the Author
Dani Buckley is a small-town resident in Montana. She is a veterinary technician manager and mom of eight four-legged kids – 5 dogs, 1 cat, and 2 horses. When she moved back home to Montana, her horses and her dogs moved with her (Carbon and Milo). The pack grew by three when she moved in with her boyfriend, Cody. Altogether there is a German Shepard (Lupay), a Border Collie (Missy), a Blue Heeler (Taz) and her two adorable mutts.
Her horses are her free time passion – Squaw and Tulsa. Dani has owned Squaw for 17 years and this mare has made 2 trips across the country with Dani! Squaw is a retired rodeo and cow horse. Her other mare, Tulsa, is an upcoming ranch horse. The girls have an unmatched personality and bond with Dani. She has been around horses her entire life and rodeoed throughout highschool and beyond. Now, she enjoys riding on the ranch, working cattle and trail riding.