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Technique Dressage: Mastering the art of spurs

Technique Dressage: Mastering the art of spurs

Dive into the comprehensive guide on using spurs effectively. Learn how to teach, maintain, and enhance horse reactivity, ensuring a harmonious relationship between rider and horse. Discover the dos and don'ts of spur usage and the importance of understanding horse cues for optimal communication.

Understanding the proper use of spurs while riding


When should one use spurs? Is it a matter of the horse's age or the rider's skill level? When to use them, neither too much nor too little, and most importantly, how? Here are some tips that we hope will be useful to you...


Spurs, like the bridle, are tools that may seem intimidating at first glance. Indeed, when misused, spurs can dull or even worse, injure your horse. While the use of spurs requires a level of control and a certain comfort with aids to enhance precision and responsiveness, the absence of spurs can also be detrimental. In fact, a rider without spurs might "nag" their horse, fostering its lack of response and thus a lack of impulse. The refinement of a cue with the spur will allow you to subtly guide your horse. Instead of "pestering" your horse with only the heel, acting aggressively and constantly against its indifference, the spur allows you to address your horse with more finesse, less forcefully, less frequently but more effectively. There are some rules to follow, but the main condition is to relax the legs and NEVER smother your horse! Remember, if your horse struggles to move forward, use LESS leg but use it BETTER! Favor a clear and sharp leg action in the absence of the horse's reaction rather than a constant leg pressure which could tire and annoy your horse. By nature, there aren't inherently "cold" horses, but horses that become dull due to constant and oppressive leg action.



Reactivity can be taught, maintained, and improved...


- Do not use spurs during a horse's initial training.

- Ensure that you have good independence with your aids and a correct balance in the saddle before using spurs. You should maintain your position thanks to your seat and abdominal belt, and not by clinging with the lower part of your leg.

- When you encounter a horse for the first time, check with its regular rider if you should wear spurs.

- Respect the order of calf, heel, spur when asking for more activity.

- Under no circumstances should you continuously keep your legs in contact with the sides of your horse.

- With a trained horse, using spurs will improve its reaction, allowing you to limit your leg actions, making it more pleasant and relaxing for both you and the horse.

- Spurs improve the precision of cues. Your actions will be more discreet while being more effective.

- Spurs should not be added to correct a horse that no longer responds to continuous leg action. The rider must learn to relax their legs and use them more efficiently.

- You are more likely to hurt a horse on the sides with a continuous action because it's ineffective than with a punctual action that gets an immediate reaction.


This list of our recommendations is not exhaustive. Please leave your questions in the comments. We will strive to answer them clearly!


Also, read our articles on leg positioning and activity/reactivity. Thank you to Charlie Koechlin and his rider friends for asking us to cover this topic, we hope you will find it enjoyable.