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Would spurs be appropriate?

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  • Would spurs be appropriate?

    For a long time I've dealt with my gelding being dull to the leg, and I've started to wonder if we've reached a point that spurs would be an appropriate next step, or if I just need to work harder. We are a mismatched pair; He's 17.2hh and I'm 5'4 with short legs. With jumping stirrups my leg is only half way down his barrel. My legs aren't particularly strong and I often feel like I have no leg left to put on when I need to add more.

    I ride with a crop every ride and while forward can be an issue, I can get him going without too much trouble usually. Even when he's moving forward though, he's not pliable. If I try to put my leg on to spiral out, or support a half halt, or do lateral work, either he ignores it or falls behind my leg from the hand. I've asked my trainer and I've been told to do lots of w-t rapid transition. Those help forward, but I still have no lateral.

    I'm a long time hunter rider whereas he always did dressage and I attempted to ride dressage too. (Always had a second horse to jump with). Decided recently to stop failing at dressage and he's learning to jump. My trainer schools him twice a week and he used to do 2nd level. Trainer uses spurs every time and I've noticed times when my trainer really has to use the spurs to get him to respond.

    I used to ride with spurs all the time but stopped when I started with this trainer a few years ago. No particular reason, just never put them on. My leg isn't terrible, but I end up having to try so hard to get a response from my leg that my heel raises and leg becomes unstable. If he was more responsive, I think I would have a much quieter leg.

    My previous horse, I could do HI ti SI on a trot circle, the LY down the quarter line to a canter departure, despite being less schooled. This guy, I can get a SI at a walk out of a corner. Last weekend my trainer was away and I tried out my spurs again, little 1/4" pow with vet wrap over the ends. Rode twice with them. First ride I was able to school SI at the trot on a circle and 10m trot circles. Second ride we were doing W-C transitions down center line. Wasn't perfect, but he would actually yield to my leg. I think My leg was sitting in such a way that my spurs didn't touched him in neutral.


    If spurs would be appropriate, how should I approach my trainer with this? I know many of you are trainers and coaches. How would you like to approached by a student asking to wear spurs? I'm worried that since they only ever see me struggling with my leg, that they will say my leg is too unstable.

  • #2
    Since it's your horse, I would just put spurs on and say that you've given them a try at home and want to try them in a lesson. It sounds like he's dead enough to the leg that even if you aren't perfect 100% of the time, he's not going to be deeply offended or upset. I'd also carry (and use!) a dressage whip when schooling, rather than a crop.

    Comment


    • #3
      Spurs aren't a go button. Ride with a dressage whip and when you ask for something and he denies you get after him. He feels your leg just fine. He's ignoring you.

      Comment


      • #4
        Thoughts. When you use your leg, are you actively bumping within the stride? Not a Thelwell legs flying bump, but a subtle tap, tsp, tap. Many times instead of actually being used, the leg is stiffening. And lateral work does not involve the use of the hand.

        Forward is often a trained response for some horses. I suspect that is why he did not do well in dressage. No one took the time and trouble to school him on that basic principle.

        As mentioned before crops are OK, but a dressage whip can get to the base of the problem.
        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

        Comment


        • #5
          Spurs are always appropriate but must be used as an assist to the aids, not a go button. Taller riders may not realize the additional issues faced by shorter riders...you can have legs like iron but if they only reach halfway down the horses barrel? You can’t wrap around, sink down and squeeze like longer legged riders can. It is what it is. Spurs are fine BUT be sure you use them and get out of him, don’t nag with them. That’s what dulls their forward response, pick, pick, pick spurs or not. Tell him then make him, don’t nag.

          Also love the dressage whip, a subtle flick the wrist delivers a smart tap on the butt without having to change or hand position with the reins, swivel your shoulder or reach back. Horses feel you change, often react to the movement of the rider, not the stick. It can “open the gate” for a run out in front of a fence too.

          Horse can’t feel any changes with the Dressage whip, just be sure it’s a back up to your other aides and you give him someplace to go, in other words, ask, tell correct. Do right, you won’t need to do it often.
          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by Highflyer View Post
            Since it's your horse, I would just put spurs on and say that you've given them a try at home and want to try them in a lesson. It sounds like he's dead enough to the leg that even if you aren't perfect 100% of the time, he's not going to be deeply offended or upset. I'd also carry (and use!) a dressage whip when schooling, rather than a crop.
            I will use a dessage whip more when I school. Used to use it all the time then changed when we switched. It is pretty hard to upset him and I don't think he'd get offended by the spur. I get a little apprehensive about just showing up to a lesson and saying I want to ride in X. I experimented with schooling him in a different bit a while ago(just a different snaffle cheek, same mouth), and that was not OK apparently.

            Originally posted by triplethreat View Post
            Spurs aren't a go button. Ride with a dressage whip and when you ask for something and he denies you get after him. He feels your leg just fine. He's ignoring you.
            I realize they are not a go button. I can get him forward with the crop, but even when he's going forward, it's like he's still not paying attention to my leg so I can't push him around. If I reinforce an attempted lateral aid with the whip, then his reaction is to go forward, not yield laterally.

            I will school more with the dressage whip though. I used to use one, then stopped when we switched him to hunters.

            ​​​​​​​
            Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
            Thoughts. When you use your leg, are you actively bumping within the stride? Not a Thelwell legs flying bump, but a subtle tap, tsp, tap. Many times instead of actually being used, the leg is stiffening. And lateral work does not involve the use of the hand.

            Forward is often a trained response for some horses. I suspect that is why he did not do well in dressage. No one took the time and trouble to school him on that basic principle.

            As mentioned before crops are OK, but a dressage whip can get to the base of the problem.
            Not overly. They stay pretty still when we are going around with decent pace. I was subtly tapping him every stride with a dressage seat, but it's largely gone with the shorter stirrup.

            He did fine in Dressage when my trainer rode him. We quit because of my inadequacies. It was the same problems mostly, but exaggerated because my dressage leg and seat were so weak. His default is not forward(thanks to me), but he's been schooled enough to know how to go forward when asked.

            Originally posted by findeight View Post
            Spurs are always appropriate but must be used as an assist to the aids, not a go button. Taller riders may not realize the additional issues faced by shorter riders...you can have legs like iron but if they only reach halfway down the horses barrel? You can’t wrap around, sink down and squeeze like longer legged riders can. It is what it is. Spurs are fine BUT be sure you use them and get out of him, don’t nag with them. That’s what dulls their forward response, pick, pick, pick spurs or not. Tell him then make him, don’t nag.

            Also love the dressage whip, a subtle flick the wrist delivers a smart tap on the butt without having to change or hand position with the reins, swivel your shoulder or reach back. Horses feel you change, often react to the movement of the rider, not the stick. It can “open the gate” for a run out in front of a fence too.

            Horse can’t feel any changes with the Dressage whip, just be sure it’s a back up to your other aides and you give him someplace to go, in other words, ask, tell correct. Do right, you won’t need to do it often.
            My previous horse I mentioned was 15.2 and narrow, my leg could get around him much easier. My trainer says it's not about leg strength, but part of me thinks that's pretty easy to say when you have legs of steel and years of skill where a small effort to them is not a small effort to others.

            When I rode in them last week, I was very conscious of the spur and feel like it made my leg even more still and deliberate.

            Comment


            • #7
              If your trainer was that upset about you changing a bit even though the mouthpiece didn't change, then I'd hazard a guess that she doesn't trust or respect your judgement, or she's very controlling. If you don't want to upset your trainer then I would simply say "Hey, so I've noticed lately that I'm really struggling to get Dobbin to move off my leg. A dressage whip helps us move forward but I'd like to experiment with a small spur to see if it helps laterally." If she says no then ask for a very clear explanation as to why she feels that way, and other options. If she's riding him twice a week and you still can't get a leg yield then there's a problem somewhere.

              Comment


              • #8
                It sounds to me like you are using the spurs as a refinement of the leg aid.

                Which is what spurs are intended to do.

                And with some attention to your riding, you will likely find that your horse begins to respond to your lateral aid leg before you add the spur.

                Comment


                • #9
                  My trainer says it's not about leg strength, but part of me thinks that's pretty easy to say when you have legs of steel and years of skill where a small effort to them is not a small effort to others.
                  Your trainer is right.

                  The strenght is needed to stay balanced on top. Not to give leg aids.

                  Lot of riders think they are giving leg cues while in reality, they’re just tensing and crisping their leg muscles which compromise the cues.
                  They get all tired, their legs hurting while the horse keeps the same slow 4beaty canter.

                  A lot of riders also think they are asking for forward but in fact, don’t really want forward. They get what they want even if it’s not consciously.

                  Exercice off the horse: Tense your calves muscles, hold it for 5 sec then release. Do this 10 times.
                  When you give leg cues, you should do so when you leg is in a relaxed state.
                  ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                  Originally posted by LauraKY
                  I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                  HORSING mobile training app

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think spurs are fine. But then I tend to be in the GHM camp of wearing some kind of spur with just about everything, even if they aren’t used. Of course you have to have control to do that. It sounds like you are able to selectively use them. Just remember to selectively use them. I can dull anything down, so I have to think about this often.

                    When you use the dressage whip, be conscious of where you are using it. And sometimes you can just present the whip to the horse right at your leg without having to use it...if no response, then use it. Sometimes I just like to give the horse an opportunity to think about what I’m asking for. I usually look for that inside ear to come back. You can also work on responsiveness to the whip aid in hand by asking for forward and also lateral yielding. You can do quite a lot of basic movements in hand.

                    It it may also take more core strength and flexibility work on your part versus a longer legged counterpart, so doing some more fitness building off the horse could also help.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      I ended up talking to my trainer. We tried spurs for about four rides, decided they weren't giving any advantage and took them off.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        spurs are for refining lateral work, not forward. Glad you have a resolution to your question

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          How does this horse go for a better rider like your trainer? Does he have good lateral work or is this a hole in his training?

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                            How does this horse go for a better rider like your trainer? Does he have good lateral work or is this a hole in his training?
                            My trainer can get laterals fine. It's a hole in my training.

                            Since this thread was posted, I did 3 days in a row of lessons working on leg yielding and we have it better. At the walk I have the left ly pretty good, right is still inconsistent but getting there. At the trot the left is alright and the right is usually better than then walk but still isn't as good. I bend his neck too much that direction.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Bewildered View Post

                              My trainer can get laterals fine. It's a hole in my training.

                              Since this thread was posted, I did 3 days in a row of lessons working on leg yielding and we have it better. At the walk I have the left ly pretty good, right is still inconsistent but getting there. At the trot the left is alright and the right is usually better than then walk but still isn't as good. I bend his neck too much that direction.
                              Then you have some clear direction what to work on in your own riding, which is great.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                One thing I tend to do, and I find rather common, is that if you focus on how strong you want your leg to be, you may actually be making the horse more dull due to constant pressure. I get in this habit when I'm thinking about my eq, keeping a quiet lower leg. I can end up with constant contact on my horses side, which really translates to "white noise, tune out, I'm sorry did you just say something I couldn't hear over the background noise?" As one of the other posters mentioned, strong does not mean constantly on exactly. You need to keep your leg still, but also not nagging to the point where they tune you out. This is where the dressage whip comes in.
                                Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then ALWAYS be a unicorn.

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