Last week, with visions of rowel spurs in my head, I went to my "local" tack shop--a 60 mile round trip, and discovered they did not have what I was looking for. There was ONE set of smooth rowel spurs, with the extra long neck, made of zinc of all things but only $10 US so I got them anyway for future experiments if needed. I also found this weird looking set of slip-on spurs, with the "spur" interface being a series of rounded metal curves. This set looked interesting too, so I got them. After I got home I tried the odd looking slip-ons on my own rib cage, and noted the stability of the spur, my ribs just seemed to fit withing those little curves.
Wednesday morning I put both sets of spurs on, planning on letting Debbie make the choice of which pair I would ride in. She took one look at my long neck smooth rowel spurs and told me to take them off, they were "too pointy", but that my slip ons looked interesting, adding that she had tried slip on spurs but they often fell off and she would lose them. Since I rely on my spurs and the spur straps to remind my foot where it is, I was a little worried that I might irritate Mia with my new slip-ons which project around 1" to the inside and then decided that it would be a WONDERFUL TIME TO MAKE SURE MY FEET STAYED IN THE RIGHT PLACE in spite of the fact that I could not feel my feet very well. When I mounted I made sure to raise my right leg even further as I swung it over Mia's back so that my new spurs would not hit her.
On Mia, my worse fears were realized, since the slip-on spurs are put on just above the heel of the boot, my feet could not feel it when they touched Mia. With some help from Debbie I got my lower legs "located" so I had a rough idea where they were and I started experimenting with the spurs. All went well. When I apply regular spurs I turn my toes out and then touch the horse's side gently with the spur. These new spurs required a different strategy since the spur interface is mostly on the side of the spur, with the curves increasing in depth until the third projection which makes a rounded corner. Though, when I was not using the spurs, I had my heels well down, my toes out at around 30 degrees and the sole of my foot facing outward, when I applied the spurs I had to make my foot parallel to the horse's side (by putting a little more weight to the outside of the stirrup tread) and loosen my knees so that I could just bring the side of my spurred boot to the horse's ribs, doing all I could to avoid touching her with the rounded corner of the spur which would have happened if I used my normal method of applying the spur.
And in spite of all my mistakes and accidental touches with these spurs, Mia did not twitch her tail once, something she does readily whenever I irritate her. Mia reacted to the spurs fine once she realized they were spurs, and readily lenthened her stride whenever I asked her to. I asked Debbie if she saw ANY signs of irritation, but Mia never showed any. So far so good, but it was hard on me to have to keep such close attention on my feet.
When I got home I got on the Internet and finally found these spurs. They are a variety of Western spurs called Bumper spurs. I found some discussions on the net about them and found out that they are popular with barrel racers. The biggest problem seemed to be making sure that the rider DISENGAGES THE SPUR TOTALLY, otherwise the horse learns to ignore them and any cues given with them. When I rode Mia by myself on Friday I put on my "dummy spurs" (the spur shank is 1/4" long) so that my lower legs would know where they were, and worked with the bumper spurs again. Since my lower leg was much more stable and because I made sure to disengage the spurs totally, Mia responded even better to the spurs, again showing no signs of irritation.
So when using these spurs I will have to change the way I use my lower leg, while learning to keep my seat stable when I use my lower legs differently. Since I ride Forward Seat, with my weight in my stirrups, this will give me good practice in swithching my base of support from my stirrups to my crotch and seat bones and back again, all the time keeping my lower leg stable and my feet parallel to the horse's side when my weight is on my crotch and seat bones. When I finally get short shanked rowel spurs I will be able to go back to my normal seat and lower leg, but if Mia shows any irritation at the rowel spurs I have a feeling that I will be using my bumper spurs regularly in the future.
Have a great ride.