Choosing the best spurs for horse riders can be a controversial topic, so riders should understand how and why they might use spurs before deciding on the ideal pair for their needs. Spurs typically attach to the heel of riding boots to allow the rider to give subtle and precise signals to the horse, without adding more pressure from the leg.
It is important that you have an established and balanced riding position and are able to use all your aids independently before attempting to ride in spurs. An unstable leg will cause the rider to jab the shank into the horse’s side and could cause an irritated, distracted or annoyed horse – improper use of spurs can be dangerous. It’s best to use spurs for the first time under supervision of an instructor.
The correct way to use the spur is for the rider to intentionally adjust the position of their leg to momentarily bring the end of the shank or the rowel against the horse’s side. As soon as the horse responds, the leg should return to the normal position, giving a release of the pressure. Spurs should not be jabbed against the horse’s skin and the pressure shouldn’t be maintained. Some horses respond better to a clear and light aid from a spur than ongoing pressure from the rider’s leg.
Parts of a spur
The yoke wraps around the heel of the boot.
The shank or neck extends from the back of the yoke and is the part that touches the horse.
The rowel is sometimes attached to the shank, depending on the design – it could be a revolving wheel or disc. The thicker the wheel, the softer the effect. Rowels with spikes are sharper than circular ones, while rowels with more teeth are milder than those with less.
Spurs are usually held on to the boots with a band of leather or nylon called a spur strap. Some styles have no strap and remain secure due to the yoke being very tight. Spurs are worn with the end of the shank pointing slightly downwards. They sit on the spur rest on the back of the boot and the buckle of the spur strap should sit on the outside of the boot.
Do spurs hurt horses?
When used correctly, spurs do not hurt horses. International dressage rider Hannah Biggs explains that spurs can “help to maintain a calm conversation with the horse, so you’re not ‘shouting’ at the horse with your legs”.
How to choose the right spurs
Design and discipline are important factors to consider when choosing which spurs to wear for a particular horse. Some disciplines will have rules regarding which spurs you can wear and at what level. Indeed, British Dressage requires all competitors to wear spurs (or dummy spurs, with a yoke but no neck) from advanced level upwards.
The general rule is that you should use as little as possible, but as much as you need. It’s best to start with small spurs and progress to longer ones if needed – the smaller and softer the spurs are, the gentler they are. Dull spurs are often the best choice for sensitive horses, whereas longer and sharper ones tend to be better for a horse that requires both quickness to the leg and precision.
Some horses are very sensitive and have a delicate coat and skin, especially during coat change. In these circumstances, opt for soft spurs or spurs with a thick wheel.
Best spurs for horse riders
Sprenger Blunt Rounded Spurs
Sizes: Ladies, 15mm or 30mm | RRP: £22 |
These traditional looking spurs are chrome plated and feature rounded blunt ends. Available with a 15mm or 30mm blunt shank.
Sprenger Fair Rider Spurs
Types: Round flattened, thin rounded or thick rounded | Colours: Black/black, black/silver, black/blue, silver/black, silver/silver, silver/blue, blue/blue, blue/black or blue/silver | RRP: £70 |
These gentle spurs are ideal for getting your horse used to being ridden in spurs. They have an enlarged and smooth contact surface that is gentle on the skin, good for horses that do not react well to regular spurs. These spurs are lightweight and are made from an aluminium carrier with arched plastic neck. The thick rounded version are designed for an especially soft impact; the thin rounded for a soft but precise effect, and the round flattened for a punctual effect.
In the UK? View round flattened now at equus.co.uk or amazon.co.uk
In the UK? View thin rounded now at equus.co.uk or amazon.co.uk
In the UK? View thick rounded flattened now at equus.co.uk or amazon.co.uk
Shires Roller Ball Spurs
Types: Steel or plastic | Sizes: Ladies or gents | RRP: From £23.99 |
These spurs feature either a stainless steel or plastic ball that rolls along the horse’s side for gentle encouragement. The rolling prevents jabbing, pulling and marking.
In the UK? View the steel roller spurs now at amazon.co.uk, viovet.co.uk, equus.co.uk, rideawaystore.com or gsequestrian.co.uk
In the UK? View the plastic roller spurs now at amazon.co.uk, viovet.co.uk, equus.co.uk or gsequestrian.co.uk
In the US? View the steel roller spurs now at amazon.com
In the US? View the plastic roller spurs now at amazon.com
Whitaker Nylon Spurs
Sizes: One size | Colours: Black/grey or red/blue | RRP: £10 |
These softer spurs are designed for the more sensitive horse and have an inner heel grip for stability.
Sprenger Ultra Fit Extra Grip Spurs
Types: Flat neck or round neck | Sizes: 25mm or 35mm | RRP: From £44.95 |
These spurs are covered in rubber for a better fit, smart look and to protect the leather. They are made of a break-proof stainless steel that can be can be adjusted to the foot by bending. The strap loops are angled for a comfortable fit.
In the UK? View the round neck spurs now at rideawaystore.com, amazon.co.uk or viovet.co.uk
In the UK? View the flat neck spurs now at rideawaystore.com or amazon.co.uk
In the US? View now at amazon.com
Kincade Plastic And Rubber Spurs
Colours: Black or black/grey | Sizes: One size | RRP: £5 |
These lightweight spurs have a 20mm rounded tip that provides gentle encouragement. They have a plastic outer for durability and a rubber inner to provide a stabilising grip on most boot sizes.
Korsteel Aluminium Interchangable Spurs
Colours: Black, silver, rose gold or rainbow | Sizes: Ladies | RRP: £29.99 |
These lightweight aluminium spurs are available in a range of colours and come with three interchangeable necks.
Shires Prince Of Wales Spurs
Sizes: Ladies or mens, ¾in or 1in | RRP: £16.99 |
Prince of Wales spurs a short spur that are ideal for sensitive-skinned horses or when jumping as they are less likely to contact the horse by accident. They are slightly flatter than other designs, which encourages a greater response. The angled oval spur strap eyelets offer reduced pressure on the ankle.
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