Monday, February 16, 2015

An Equipment Change: Swan Neck Spurs

I've been using spurs on Pig for a couple of years now. I started with a tiny 1/4" knob spur back when we were starting First Level, to help keep Pig from leaning on my leg during lateral work.

At the start, I think these spurs were perfect for me. They are impossible to apply inadvertently, and therefore were friendly additions for my loose and unrefined leg. Pig was very sensitive to them (and still is!), and they worked for the purpose.

As time went on, I'd experimented with longer spurs, up to the 1" straight variety. Those were big no's from Guinness. He was over reactive and very tense from them, and I think I was banging him with them inadvertently. So, we stuck with our wee little nubs and called it good.

Then, while in Florida, I had this conversation with my trainer:

"You lift your leg up so much to put it on. Do you feel like you can't get your spur on without picking up your leg to help your heel make contact?"

"Omg. Yes."

"Huh. You might try swan neck spurs. They might help you keep your leg down."

So, when I got back from Florida, that's what I did. I snapped up this pair of spurs from VTO Saddlery (the cheapest pair I could find...), and started reading up about their use.

My VTO shipment also included another pair of Royal Highness breeches from the clearance section. These are my favorite breeches ever.
Apparently swan neck spurs are the only spur variety sanctioned for USEF competition to be worn pointing upwards. All other varieties must be worn pointing down. (I hope you all knew that, but if not ... spurs point down! Don't get eliminated!) There is no length stipulation for dressage, but there is one in eventing, where your spur must be under 2". The longer length of the swan neck spur can make them difficult to find for eventing, as many are over 2" in length.

The swan neck spur is most often seen at the Spanish Riding School, where the rider's legs are much longer than their little stallion's barrels. The spurs are devised so the riders can apply the spur without shortening their leg. In my reading, I also found that riders with exceptionally long legs, or more wasp waisted horses, also found the spur to be helpful.

Pig isn't especially wasp waisted, nor are my legs abnormally long. However, combined together our conformation can make applying my leg difficult.

When the spurs arrived, I compared them to my normal spurs with some eye opening horror...

Both spurs shown upside down here, but let's just take a look at that length discrepancy!
With these spurs so much longer, I had visions of my horse launching me into outer space the moment my heel came on. But then something funny happened...
Where the spur sits. My toe is turned out here, so they look much closer than they really are.
I didn't get launched. In fact, except for a little more sensitivity to less of a leg aid, Pig didn't care one bit about the change. In fact, our rides were marked by his resistance to my weight aids, which I was able to properly apply because of the ability to put my leg on without picking up my lower leg.

Overall, I'm pleased with this change. Pig has been funky in his canter departs, and this is helping to solve our problem. Namely, he's slow and behind the leg in the transition, and I tend to pick up my inside leg to jam my heel on when he bulges into my inside leg as an evasion. Now I can hold my position strongly upright, keep my inside leg long and deep, and use my spur without moving my leg to keep him from leaning on me during the depart.

Cheers to the swan neck spur, and to longer and more secure legs everywhere!

15 comments:

  1. very cool - glad these are working out for you and Guinness!

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    1. Me too! Really impressed with how nicely the change has gone!

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  2. Excellent! I used to use rolly ball spurs on Courage, but then he got the mother of all spur rubs (yeah from rolly balls) and then he got another rub from the leather on my boot.

    Sigh.

    I'm holding out on adding spurs back in until we need them again because I'd rather have less rubs than more.

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    1. From rolly balls?! Holy crap, son. Pig has had spur rubs once, when he was shedding out and I shedded him with my heel before the rest of his belly went. Honestly pretty amazing for a horse who gets girth rubs from a fleece girth, and who's developed marks from sheepskin padding on his bridle. Perhaps it's time for one of these suckers ...

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  3. I am going to have to get a pair of these. I tend to have the same issue you do. And my big roller spurs are fine but seem like overkill.

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    1. I like these. They're Centaur brand, and heavy as hell. But, they're sturdy and not $200! Honestly, Iike the weight. It reminds me to keep my leg long and not throw it around!

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  4. Ooo fun! I've never used them, though would probably like them because my leg is super long. Luckily Rico is quite big bodied so I always stuck with 1-1.5 inch rowels.

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    1. This change has been so helpful for my own position, it's nuts. I rode without them the other day and caught myself picking my leg up to put on my heel. Argh! :)

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    1. Agreed! I'd never have thought of it without help!

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  6. Hmm I am lethal at lifting my heel for leg aids. Trainer mentioned yesterday that spurs could be helpful for me, i hope to catch her again someday this week for recommendation of what type to go for (cos I mean...hello minefield of unknown for me) & to schedule lessons to get me started in them.

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    1. Oooh good idea to ask! I bet she has some great ideas. I like using spurs, even if only because they keep me honest about what my leg is doing and whether or not it's banging around or staying quiet.

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  7. Very interesting! I've never heard of those!

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    1. They're pretty much only seen in the dressage world, I think. In most other sports your stirrups are so much shorter, getting your heel to connect isn't much of a problem.

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  8. Interesting! I've never heard of a swan-neck spur before, but it makes sense!

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