When it comes to horse supplies and riding equipment, few items are as distinctive as riding spurs. How much do you know about them? Most people outside of the horse riding world would have a difficult time answering this question so here's a little history:
The use of riding spurs begins in ancient Rome where horse riders wore a basic form of what would become the western spur we know so well today. These items allowed soldiers to guide their horses in battle.
The spur quickly became an invaluable riding aid and was also used in the Middle Ages where knights were known to "earn their spurs" when achieving a Knighthood. For this reason, spurs are seen as a sign of rank and are often still given today as an honor. Did you know that even the Pope has handed out honorary spurs?
The design of the modern day western spur consists of three parts - the Yoke, Branch or Heel Band which wraps around the heel of the wearers boot and is fastened with a leather strap, and the Buckle, always worn on the outside of the boot. From this piece extends The Neck or Shank which protrudes out to allow the Rowels to be attached on the end. The neck should always point downwards and should be rested on the spur rest of the cowboy boot.
It is also not uncommon for the spur to be fastened to the boot of the wearer by the use of a button. This allows for easy fastening and removal and also for the spur to be taken off quickly if safety becomes an issue or the rider’s leg becomes trapped.
There have been varying styles of spurs throughout the ages and the western type has evolved into a stylized and decorative form of the original 11th century design which was just a crude, straight spike known as a Prick. It is not uncommon for the rider to have custom made spurs to their design and taste. If you like to think of yourself a real cowboy, the spur will be decorative, heavier, more flamboyant and have rowels that rotate rather than be a static piece of the design.
Cowboy spurs are as popular today as they have been throughout history! They are no longer just confined to the hard working cowboys still driving cattle across America. Collectors of Western American historic items buy them to preserve a piece of history and a piece of America for all. Some people enjoy wearing them as fashion accessories; the rise in line dancing popularity has made wearing a pair of custom made spurs as important as the rest of your outfit.
Hope you learned a little more about a long time favorite piece of riding equipment!