Are You Using Your Spurs Correctly

”Are you using your spurs correctly” is informational for me and for any of you that are new to horses and the proper way to ride them. I learned something with this post. This blogging thing is quite informative for so many.

There are so many misconceptions around and about any subject I suppose but horses seem to have more than their share.

So if you are curious, as I was, as to whether you are using your spurs correctly, read on and enjoy this article.

Photo from the Petticoats and Pistols blog, a very serious western blog. Give them a visit.

Spurs:  A Gentle Persuasion

A common misconception among non-horse and beginning horse people is that spurs are for punishing a lazy horse to make them go faster. I have seen this crude behavior enacted many times, but the truth is, spurs used correctly are more considerate and kind than no spurs. Our heels are too short and blunt for precise communication. Spurs become an extension of our heels so that we can touch the horse in a specific place for specific requests.

Here is my personal method of using spurs for engaging the horse’s dynamic. The following description proceeds like dominoes lined up and falling.

I make a kiss sound, the noise being almost imperceptible. I squeeze my legs together starting at my thighs and moving down. Almost always by the time my calves are in engaged in light pressure, the horse is moving from standing still or moving faster at whatever gait. But if the horse is not moving faster, I tilt my toes out a little and touch the horse with the spurs. Spurs are less intrusive and more effective, but especially more specific than my bare heals. The difference between kicking the horse to make him go and touching him with spurs is like the difference between screaming out, “MOVE”, or whispering, “move left a half a step”.

As the spurs touch the horse this may be described as a gentle correction, I want the horse to move out immediately before I engage the spurs, but if there is a discipline problem, for instance the horse does not move even after I touch him with the spurs, I do not thump with the spurs. Thumping with spurs or bare heels will eventually desensitize the horse to leg cues, crippling a major portion of my communication with the horse. If a heavier punishment is required, spurs, which certainly could be a heavy punishment, should not be used. There are other tools more effective and better than squeezing or thumping with spurs. We save our spurs for more subtle matters. The spur is too important a communication tool to squander by desensitizing the horse with harshness or over use.

Forward, backward, sideways and the movements of all four legs are communicated through our leg cues. The subtlety of touch required for the myriad of movements we ask for through our legs requires a subtle instrument. The bare heel is too blunt an instrument. A fully trained horse can sometimes receive instruction effectively by their human without spurs because they are familiar with his cues and are able to discern the other subtle movements of their rider, but before a horse is brought to this level the pin point accuracy of spurs communicates specifically to the movement asked for.

When a colt or filly is ridden the first times, leg cues don’t need to be subtle. The colt can’t take in all the new stimulus. Spurs won’t help. Rather they may possibly scare the colt, which is counterproductive. Spurs are used with a horse that understands the basics and is ready to receive a higher level of instruction.

Joel Lewis has spent much of his life either riding and training horses, or drawing and painting them.


I hope you enjoyed Are You Using Your Spurs Correctly and Spurs:  A Gentle Persuasion because there are few thing more important than communication with your horse. Happy Trails.

Please consider us if you have a dog ( where there’s a good horse there’s at least one good dog) that needs anything in the way of canine containment or transport. Lots of great items over at for sure.

About The Author

Bill Beavers, brings you pet products that provide improved Quality of Life for You, Your Family and Your Pets.

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