Trainer Tips from Double A Performance Horses
Series on Spurs and How to Use Them
Status symbols peeking beneath long jeans,
riders in town, easily recognized for who they truly are…
At the request of our friends, Ron & Jennifer Hurt, we will be putting together a regular column focused on one of the most obvious, yet easily over looked, pieces of equipment, regularly used by riders and horsemen at all levels; the spur.
Adam has a pair of Ron’s spurs and uses them regularly. Ron is the spur maker. Our little column will just be talking about the useof the spur. They do a lot more than keep our jeans out of the mud or prod a horse to run fast! There is an old saying among horse people — head up and heels down. There is a lot to this! A horse will feel where you are looking — and that is where they will naturally want to go. For instance, a reiner will LOOK around a circle to help guide the horse. It’s hard to run a pretty circle if you’re looking at the ground or watching the horse’s ears! And have you ever heard a cow horse man say WATCH YOUR COW! If you’re riding a cow horse that goes with the cow and you’re looking at something else, when the cow turns and the horse turns — you probably won’t — turn that is! And the ground is a hard place to be when you realize that you should have been watching your cow!
The ‘heels down’ part of that saying is equally important. When you are wearing spurs, ‘heels down’ means neutral. That is the position you drop your heels into when you’re not asking your horse for anything specific. That is the - pressure off- position that your horse is seeking. Now I am assuming if you’re reading this, that you ride well enough to realize that heels down also means boots parallel to the horse. When heels are dropped and boot toes are pointing basically forward, the spur is not making contact —your horse is not receiving a direct command from your leg. This is why it now and always has been critical that your legs are QUIET when you ride. If your legs want to swing and move with the motion of the horse — you are probably not ready to even buckle on a pair of spurs — much less use them tell your horse how to move. A good self check for leg position is to glance down over your knee… If you can just see your boot toe, your leg position is good. If you can’t see your boot toe, your legs are too far back. Likewise, if you can see the length of your leg and your entire boot, your legs are most likely stuck too far forward.
There is a simple rule of thumb when riding to begin using spurs correctly. ASK your horse first. Give them the opportunity to respond to a small amount of pressure. Something as simple as stepping your horse from a walk to a trot, can be accomplished with simple pressure from the lower leg. You can essentially ‘close your boot tops’ against your horse to increase forward motion. If your horse doesn’t respond to this slight pressure — then you command the move. Turn your toes out and lay the tip of your spur against your horse’s sides. Hold that pressure until you get the ‘forward’ that you’re asking for, then release that spur contact and just hold the boot tops closed against the horse. When using your spur to transition a gait — less is more and a little goes a LONG way!