Western Spurs - Spur Anatomy


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Welcome to Western Spurs - SPUR ANATOMY

Spurs are worn on a horseman's boots and used to help direct a horse's movements - particularly lateral movement left and right. The many parts of a spur each has a purpose.



Different spurs are used for different purposes. Which spurs are best for what purpose, why, and when?

Many spurs are worn for decoration and ceremony only. They have elaborate decorations, etching, and silver accents. They frequently exhibit exaggerated rowels and other decorative features. Some western spurs also have a small upturned appendage that keeps chaps from riding down over the heel of the boot and effectively rendering the spurs useless. Others have Jingle Bobs to add sound and decoration to the wearer's walk.

Others are actually working spurs. We'll deal with the working variety here.



The rowel of a western spur is the rotating disc at the back side of the spur. The configuration and rowels of different working spurs are different. Physics tells us that the more rowel teeth and the rounder they are, the milder the spur effect as pressure is spread more evenly across the teeth.

Western spurs generally have a more discernible rowel. (Some common English spurs have either a ball at the end (Waterford Spur) or a small disk with no teeth whatsoever.)

Most spurs with rotating rowels work by turning the boot toe down and out and turning the heel inward to press the spur into the animal's side. They also offer the possibility of just lightly rolling against the side of the horse - called "feathering". The "Bumper" Spur at the left is used for barrel racing. It has two rowels: one on the side for bumping the horse over and one on the back for advancing him through the turn.

Looking at the rowels alone, the spur pictured at the top of this page would be considered a severe spur, and it is for show and not work. The roper spur at the right is a fairly mild spur - very popular in western roping competition. The neck is angled down to prevent accidental contact during sharp turns, and the rowel is "soft" for rolling or "guiding", not kicking.



As mentioned above, the neck of the spur can be nearly negligible (as in the bumper spur worn by barrel racers) to a very long neck. The western rider sits with legs pushed forward and out and has considerable padding (saddle fenders and pads) between himself and the horse, making reaching a rear pressure point harder. A long neck is also advantageous when a spur is needed to cue a horse to bring his back up, necessitating the rider to reach below the middle of the rib down under the belly to encourage the back to come up. Necks can be up to 3" long.

Some have a "swan neck" where the neck is elevated and in a position that appears like a swan's neck. Gal Leg spurs have a neck and rowel attachment that looks like a woman's leg. Other creative designs have animal heads at the back where the rowel attaches



Spurs are sized according to the size boot they are made to fit. Men's spurs have a wider heel band to fit wider boots than women's or children's spurs. It is important that the heel of the band fit snugly against and around your boot heel. Nothing is more miserable than a spur that constantly rides up because it fits at the buttons and not on the heel. It is also important that you purchase boots with a "lip" above the rubber heel for the spur to sit on. (Some decorative or "dancing" boots lack this little lip)