By Patty Wilber
My boots have wear marks from my spur straps.
I like the weight of the spurs and how they jingle when I walk and how cool I feel when I saunter into a store with my Spurs, On (you must say “Spurs, On” slow and with a drawl to get the full coolness).
Yeah, I wear spurs, and I know how to use them.
Except it turns out that I really don’t.
I have never “marked up” a horse (maybe my rowels need sharpening?) but I have used spurs as a punishment rather than a cue.
Ineffective punishment, I might add. More like nagging that they learn to ignore or flip their tail at, in annoyance.
It turns out my spur use (while not ideal) was ok so long as I was training for events that did not require a split second response from the horse. When I started training for reining and especially working cow horse, the hole in my spurrin’ reared on up.
“But you have such nice long legs!” I have been told. As if that makes spur use simpler.
If I ride a dinky little horse (have a bunch of those around here), I have to lift my leg way up to get my rowels anywhere near the horse.
I say those short-legged riders have it made. Their spurs are already in place. They just have to rotate their legs.
So, I have choices: build up my leg strength, fight harder to win with my horses, sharper spurs (rock grinders!) (I think I have all the other rowel types shown below).
…But I don’t want to fight with my horses like that!
I don’t want to have closed hours at my place so no one sees how I train “behind the barn”.
If I never quite get my horses snappy enough and I stay in the “semi-pro” ranks (as another trainer labelled me), so be it.
I want to have fun and I want the horses to have fun, too (while performing at a high level of course).
Easier said than done.
Fortunately, I am in a good spot right now to attempt this.
I train horses because I love it not because I have to make my living at it. (I earned all those letters I can put after my name so my college students can call me “Doctor”.)
And I have three awesome prospects, all of whom I own. Therefore, no rush to produce a winner and no reason to speed up training or ramp up the pressure.
LT (Paranormal Activity), 2, Buckshot’s (Reserve National Camp, Jr. Working Cow) daughter.
Toots (Power Steering), 3, own daughter of multiple World Champion MA Power Sign.
Lacey (JJM Spurs Zan Lace), 2, own daughter of Zan Son Tivio and out of a Bar Sunny Money mare.
What makes me think I can manage without my spurs?
Well, I have learned more about how much lighter I need the horses to be “off my leg” (that is, how quickly they need to move away from my leg pressure). I can watch for it and reward that.
I have gathered some new ideas on how I want my horses to feel and respond and have integrated those with some of my older techniques.
I am trying to learn to use body position, balance and breathing more creatively to enhance or inhibit the freedom of movement of the horse.
So, with a better idea of where I want to go, I have a better chance of mapping out how to get there in a manner that is satisfying and effective!
Of course, this means I have to shelve my ego, and learn to say NO to myself and to others when I know I am pushing the horses beyond where we are ready to go!
Do I want my spurs back? Yep! But I want to be able to use them as a tool to increase communication, not a crutch that helps disguise my training holes!
Wish me luck!