Training Tools: Spurs


Spurs have been used by horsemen for many years as training aids. Like the definition, a thing that prompts or encourages someone or something, spurs are used as a mothod of delivering a clear signal to the horse.

Experienced horsemen understand the need to use leg controls and signals instead of just signals with the bit and reins. The spur is a way to communicate morenprecisely. For example, a cutter will control miniscule movements by the tap of a spur. A roper may use the spur to pick up the horse’s shoulder in the dally. Reiners will use the spur to get up and under the horse’s belly more than just the heel of a boot would allow. Spurs are an excellent way to communicate forward and sideways movement, as well as lead changes.



Spur bands, shanks and rowels come in several different shapes and sizes. It is important that the band of the spur fits perfectly around the heel of the boot. A band that is too long will be very uncomfortable and will hinder the ability of the spur’s function. Bands will often come in youth, ladies, men’s and large men’s sizes, so be sure to find the one that fits the heel of your boot the same way a horse shoe would fit the foot of the horse.

Shanks are fitted according to size of the rider (length of the rider’s leg) and the experience of the rider. A normal rule of thumb is the longer the person’s leg, the longer the shank they need. However, some tall riders will still opt for a shorter shank to be sure they don’t accidentally spur their horse. If this is the case the bread and butter of shank sizes are typically the 1-1/2˝ and 2˝.

If you travel in the horse world long enough, you will see many different types of rowels. Rowels are the main focal part of the spur, and can indicate the severity of the spur. A clover leaf rowel will typically be considered one of the least severe and is great for starting a horse to become accustomed to responding to spurs. The narrower and more points a rowel has, the more severe it is considered.



“Severe does not necessarily mean it is bad or shouldn’t be used. Just like hands on a bit, ultimately it is the rider who decides how severe a spur is going to be.” Dennis Moreland, tack maker and owner of Dennis Moreland Tack, explains. Moreland also explains that different strengths will be more common in different disciplines. Show rings will have more riders using 12-point rowels and longer shanks, while the roping pen will have mostly shorter shanks and clover leaf or six-point rowels.

When discussing horse training, bit and spur maker, Kerry Kelley, explains, “Some trainers prefer a sharper rowel so less movement is required. A sharper rowel will utilize just a small amount of pressure.” Advanced riders will appreciate the ability to communicate to their horse with minimal effort.

For riders who are wanting to introduce their horse to spurs, Dennis Moreland recommends pushing against their sides with your thumb to introduce them to that pressure. Allow them to move away from that pressure. Rolling the spurs against their sides during ground work will accustom the horse to the sound and feel of the spur.

It is crucial for calf ropers to understand the importance of button covers on their spurs. Button covers cover the top of the botton to give the hook a smooth finish. This will prevent the button from catching on jeans when dismounting and causing the rider to fall.

Spurs can be a wonderful tool for the rider who is wanting to communicate more clearly with their horse. If you have questions about which spur is the best choice for you, or how to use your spurs more effectively, NRS will be more than happy to assist.

January 23, 2015 |

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