When you are wearing spurs, where does the buckle of your spur strap fall? As the result of the concerned suggestion of James Wofford, Olympic veteran and articulate three-day coach, Foxhunting Life has changed its recommendation for the proper way to wear spurs.
Wofford writes: “I (and others, George Morris, for one) want the buckle exactly centered on the rider’s ankle, thus the least likely to catch the branch of the stirrup in the event of a fall. For your consideration, I enclose photos of what I refer to as THE Lower Leg Position, meaning, in my opinion, correct in absolutely every aspect.”
Wofford believes that this practice has its origins in the military. That’s the way it was taught to him in his days at Culver Military Academy, their teachings based on theU.S. Cavalry Manual of Horsemanship and Horsemastership by Gordon Wright. Wofford continues:
“Like many things in horses, verbal traditions are usually at the base of things. Probably some grizzled General remembered watching a "corporal of no consequence" get his spur hung in the stirrup and figured it out. In a cross country clinic, I once told a talented, but big-mouthed boy not to do something I considered potentially dangerous. ‘Oh, Jim,’ he popped off, ‘that’s a million-to-one shot.’
“‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘but I watch a million horses a year...quit it.’
“I'm the same way about people at a check, normally riding astride, lifting their leg over and sitting side-saddle...that's fine, rests your back or seatbones for a second, but take your other foot out of the stirrup, too! If you sit, for example, right leg over, with your left foot in the stirrup, and your horse spooks left, the best thing that can happen is that you did not forget to WD-40 the safety catch on your stirrup bars...otherwise you WILL get drug. You only have to ever see that once (Ballsbridge, 1960) to remember it forever.
“I finally figured out why [former USET Three-Day Coach] LeGoff was so picky about stuff...because he had already watched a million of them.”
Thank you, Jim. I have always inserted my own stirrup leathers into the spurs with the buckles arranged as far as I can get them to the outside stirrup slots. I couldn’t even tell you why. Just habit. I may never reach a million rides, but “a one in a million shot” doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t happen ’til the millionth! I will adjust my straps.
The updated recommendation for the proper wearing of spurs: Buckle should be centered on the ankle for safety, with free end of strap pointing to the outside.
WHY USE THEM?
Spurs are often a symbol fo horsemanship, but do you really need to ride with spurs? A very long time ago, I met a horse that had been on a team that went to the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. While I don't remember very much about the horse, I do recall the rash of short scars down either side of the horse's barrel. These scars were very clearly the result of the aggressive use of spurs. Perhaps that's where my aversion to using spurs began, and while I understand they may have uses in advanced riding, I feel most of us are better off without.
I have very rarely ever felt the need to wear spurs. When I was in my early teens I had a large pony, that in order to get it to do anything beyond a cow pony jog, needed the occasional nudge with a spur. The task of getting my current horse to trot along smartly would certainly be made easier if I wore spurs, but because I'm probably as belligerent as she can be, I choose not to, relying instead on a dressage whip to reinforce my leg and seat aids. Spurs are rarely necessary and it's all too easy to rely on these artificial aids before learning the proper natural aids.
Spurs should be a last resort for the beginner rider, although they can be used effectively by advanced riders to give refined cues to a well-trainedS horse. If you're still struggling with keeping your seat quiet or mastering the trot or canter/lope, spurs are rarely a good idea. It is very easy to inadvertently jab a horse if you don't have perfect control over your lower leg. Spurs aren't really intended to make a horse simply go faster, but to add precision to leg cues.
If you do choose to wear spurs on the advice of your instructor or coach, choose the shortest neck you can find. Spurs with rowels, disks, long, curved necks and points are not suitable for beginners. The most common type of spur is the English "Prince of Wales", and these are suitable for both beginner English and western riders. These can be found with either a round button or very short shank. Motivator spurs are also available, and these have no neck or shank, but a thicker bluntly serrated edge along the inside of the heel band. The downside of these spurs is that it's almost easier to bump the horse with them accidentally as you don't have to turn your heel in to apply them.
All spurs are worn with the neck or shank pointing downwards. They should sit at the junction of your heel and ankle, although some "motivators" will sit atop the heel seam of your boots. If there are small spur rests on your boots, the spur lays on top of these. The strap should buckle on the outside (not the 'horse side') of your riding boot, with the point of the strap pointing downwards
Like using a whip, the spur has to instantaneously back up any ignored demand. If your horse ignores your leg aid, you will use the spur, as a quick press, not a jab, within seconds of your ignored cue. The cues should be ask-slight leg aid, tell-a bump from the calf, demand pressure from the spur. You should not be lifting your leg away from the horse's side as this happens.
Overuse of the spur can cause a horse to become frightened or provoked. Bucking or bolting can result if the rider uses spurs improperly. Some horses may learn to ignore the spur and become deadened to the cues the rider gives. So the spur, which is applied to the horse by slightly lifting the heel and turning the heel inwards, needs to be applied very judiciously. Spurring should never, never be a form of punishment. If you're turning your toes out so that you are jabbing your horse with the spur shank, you are overusing the spur and need to learn how to apply proper leg aids. Spurs should never leave a mark in the skin or hair coat. This indicates the spurs are being used improperly.
Choosing the right type of spur
Choosing the right riding spurs based on disciplineDressage
Dressage spurs tend to have a short shank length due to the close contact leg position. Dressage riders tend to prefer a Waterford style spur with a round ball at the end, the Disc spur with no teeth or the Swan Neck spur due to its design.In British Dressage, spurs can be worn at all levels and are mandatory from Advanced level upwards. Dummy spurs are permitted. There is no restriction on the type of shank or Rowel as long as they are free to move. Only blunt spurs without rowels can be worn in Young Horse Classes.
Show Hunter/ Jumpers
May use a flatter style spur to encourage impulsion, such as the Prince of Wales spur. In BSJA spurs with a shank in excess of 3cm long, with a rowel diameter in excess of 1cm or spurs with roughened edges are not permitted. In pony competitions only blunt or roller ball spurs may be worn. Sharp or Rowel end spurs are not permitted. The overall length must not exceed 2.5cms in length measured from the back of the rider’s boot.
Before I go into explaining the history of Foxhunting, keep in mind that Foxhunting takes place in many countries but often with slightly different traditions than those of the English hunt. In Canada(and USA), for example, the goal of hound-led hunts is not to kill the quarry; the emphasis is on the chase. The hunts are pre-arranged on a set route ahead of time on private property. The typical hunt rules apply otherwise(no hounds are involved).
Foxhunting, the chase of a fox by horsemen with a pack of hounds. In England, the home of the sport, foxhunting dates from at least the 15th century. In its inception, it was probably an adjunct to stag and hare hunting, with the same hounds used to chase each quarry.
Modern foxhunting took shape in the 19th century shortly after Hugo Meynell, the father of the modern English chase, started hunting, and it soon developed into a national upper-class pastime; a character in Oscar Wilde’s play A Woman of No Importance calls it “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.” The sport often followed wherever the British Empire took root. Traditional procedure is still observed and the proper kit (clothing) worn. A fox hunt is conducted by the master, and, in theory, all who take part in it do so at the master’s invitation, even when they pay for the privilege. The hounds, generally 20 to 30 couples (matched pairs), are controlled by the huntsman, who may be the master but is generally the senior paid servant of the hunt. Two or three whippers-in assist in reconnaissance and in keeping the hounds together as a pack. Master, huntsman, and whippers-in take precedence over all other riders to hounds. The huntsman controls hounds by voice, his or her calls being known as cheers, and by a horn—a copper tube about 8 inches (20 cm) long that produces two notes of great carrying and penetrating quality.
Before World War I, foxhunting reached a zenith of popularity as an English field sport. Horse and hound breeding had arrived at a highly developed state, and hunting itself was well organized and regulated by the Master of Foxhounds Association. The sport of foxhunting survived a number of difficulties in the 20th century, notably changes in patterns of rural landownership and land use as great landowners were replaced by numerous smallholders, proliferation of barbed-wire fences, hardships caused by World Wars I and II, and some popular opposition to the sport on anticruelty and other grounds. Hunting continued, however, in the second half of the 20th century in England, Wales, Ireland, and parts of Scotland from November, when the harvest was gathered, until April, when new crops began to grow. The sport was also practiced in similar season in some parts of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
In the early 21st century, however, efforts to end the sport intensified, and in 2002 Scotland banned foxhunting. Two years later the British House of Commons outlawed the killing of wild mammals in hound-led hunts in England and Wales, although the ban provided for certain exceptions. Despite a number of legal challenges, the law went into effect in early 2005. Hunts have continued to be held throughout England and Wales, sometimes with the hunters and hounds following a previously laid scent trail rather than a live fox (drag hunting). When a live fox is hunted, the law requires the animal, if it is killed, to be shot by the hunters rather than killed by the hounds.
It is commonly said that if you ask ten riders a question, you will get ten different answers. But there is one thing we should all agree on - you should never ride a horse without a helmet. Horses are inherently dangerous due to their natural flight instinct. Even the quietest lesson horse is capable of spooking at an unusual object, and even the most experienced riders have falls.
There are many excuses for not wearing a helmet – perhaps it is not traditional for your riding discipline, you are just hopping on the horse for a minute, or maybe you just don’t want to ruin your hairstyle. Whatever the justification, it just doesn’t hold up when compared to the risk of a traumatic brain injury. When it comes to your brain, why take a chance?
Still not convinced? Studies have shown that…
Riding Helmet Safety Helmet Facts - Here's Why You Need Your ASTM/SEI Approved Helmet for Every Ride...
An injured brain does not heal like a broken bone. Even seemingly insignificant head injuries can have serious long-term effects.
The ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) is an organization comprised of thousands of skilled volunteers including doctors, engineers and physicists. It is the job of the ASTM to set standards for many types of safety equipment. The ASTM has created criteria for horseback riding helmets to adhere to. These standards are summarized in ASTM F 1163. The SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) is an independent laboratory that tests helmets to be sure they meet the ASTM standard.
Why Do We Need a Standard?
In 1980 the United States Pony Club began tracking accidents reported among its members. Three years later, the Pony Club developed its own standard for riding helmets and required that all members wear their USPC standard helmets which had been tested at independent laboratories. In 1986 the USPC asked ASTM, an organization that had developed helmets for other sports to develop one for horseback riding helmets as well. ASTM F 1163 was first published in 1990 and is reviewed every five years.
The study the Pony Club began in 1980 continued for 12 years and provided arresting evidence in favor of the standard. The USPC found a 26% decrease in head injuries with the onset of the USPC standard helmet in 1983. Although there have been no official studies completed for the ASTM standard, the American Medical Equestrian Association estimates that ASTM/SEI approved helmets have decreased riding-related head injuries by 50%.
How to Distinguish Between Approved and Unapproved Helmets
The easiest thing to look for is the ASTM/SEI seal inside the helmet. If you are skeptical however, approved helmets have a thicker shell. Look at the helmets from below and you should be able to see the difference in thickness. Approved helmets cannot have a simple snap to secure the harness. Snaps are not used because they are prone to popping open upon impact. You can also look at the harness. There is no such thing as an approved helmet with a completely clear harness.
Companies Manufacturing Approved Helmets
Bicycle helmets may seem sufficient for protecting your head and you may find them lighter, cooler and more comfortable. However, bike crashes and falls from horses are not at all similar and therefore the helmet design is drastically different. The results? Bike helmets are not designed to protect your head when you're horseback riding! The height of a fall from a horse is far greater than the height of a fall from a bicycle. Bicycle helmets are not designed to withstand impact from the height of a horse. Also, bike helmets are designed to Protect the top of the head since most falls from bicycles are forward. Falls from horses occur in all directions and therefore the back and sides of the head are just as vulnerable. These parts of the head are not protected by a bike helmet.
Think bike helmets are more comfortable? Helmet companies are now coming out with all kinds of new styles to meet the demand for cooler, lighter, more comfortable helmets for horseback riding, similar to bike helmets, while still offering the same protection of a horseback riding helmet.Breed Association Helmet RegulationsAmerican Quarter Horse Association
Helmets are mandatory for all youth under 18 in fence classes and when schooling over fences. The AQHA does not require they be ASTM/SEI approved. Helmets are optional in all other classes at AQHA approved shows.
Requires ASTM/SEI approved helmets at all times.
American Morgan Horse Association
Follows rules set by USA Equestrian. All juniors riding in hunter, jumper, and hunterseat equitation cannot ride anywhere on show grounds without wearing an ASTM/SEI approved helmet. The harness must be secured. If headgear has a brim, it must be flexible or semi-flexible. Any rider found in violation of this rule at any time will be prohibited from further riding until proper headgear is in place.
United States Pony Club
ASTM/SEI helmets are required for all riders at all USPC functions.
American Paint Horse Association
A helmet with a harness properly fastened under the chin is required for all youth in warm up, schooling or classes over fences. ASTM/SEI certification is not required.