Are Spurs Cruel to Horses? (Quick & Important Facts)

By Zunnun Ahmed •  Updated: 08/07/22 •  6 min read

I’m sure you have seen cowboys wear spurs on their cowboy boots. Whether they are riding horses for work or recreational purposes, many horse riders use spurs. But are spurs cruelly to horses? Are they inhumane to use on horses?

Spurs can be good or bad on horses depending on how you use them. If you use them correctly, they will help you pass commands to your horse. On the other hand, if you are inexperienced and use them wrongly, they can hurt your horse. 

Different types of spurs come in different shapes and sizes. Not everyone can use spurs because you need a sturdy and strong lower leg position when riding. In this guide, I will take you through essential facts you should know about spurs and whether they are cruel to horses.

Why do horse riders wear spurs?

If you are new to horse riding, spurs are the metallic pieces that riders wear on their boots. The main purpose of wearing spurs is to communicate different commands with horses when riding. These commands include:

Using spurs enhances voice, hand, seat, and leg gestures when controlling horses. They are used to motivate the horse to follow the above commands.

When are spurs cruel to horses

When do spurs hurt horses?

Many people who don’t know much about spurs think it is inhumane to use them on horses. If you use spurs correctly, they are essential riding tools for horses. Since it doesn’t require much pressure, you hardly touch the thighs when guiding the horse on movement.

Spurs are only cruel to the horse if used by an inexperienced horse rider. According to professional horse trainers and equestrian experts, beginners are discouraged from using horse spurs.

You need to fine-tune your riding skills to use spurs correctly and avoid hurting your horse. However, you can also be a good rider without using spurs.

Spurs are also cruel to horses when they have a bad design. For instance, if the spurs are pointy or sharp at the edges, they can injure your horse. Using such spurs that can injure the horse is regarded as animal abuse.

Using old spurs can also make them pointy or sharp with time leading to accidents. Therefore, you should check the spurs regularly to ensure it is in good condition. 

Spurs are also cruel if you use them as negative reinforcement. For instance, if you use them to punish your horse for not doing what you do directly, this is cruel and unethical. Spurs should help you in communication not punish the horse.

What would you do if your horse is hurt?

Using spurs doesn’t hurt horses. However, using spurs improperly can hurt your horse. The problems can range from minor injuries to serious behavioral issues. Using spurs incorrectly can lead to the following problems:

If your horse has spur injuries, you can treat them when they are almost dry. Rub them carefully with hand softener or leather cream to allow the creases to become less rigid.

You can also apply a coat of petroleum jelly lightly on the area before you ride to allow the spur to slide easily on that part.

Related: Need to know the legality of using horses for transportation? Read this page to find out the important facts and make sure you are following the law.

How to use spurs effectively?

If you decide to use spurs when riding horses, the first thing you should do is learn how to use them correctly. Using spurs wrongly can end up hurting the horse even if that was not your intention. Below are some helpful tips that will help you use spurs effectively.

Get the right spurs

The first thing to using spurs correctly is getting the right spurs. It is good to choose the right design that doesn’t hurt your horse. Many manufacturers provide high-quality and ethical spurs that are gentle on your horse.

Consider the use, fit, straps, riding style, and shank length when choosing spurs.

Proper leg control

Developing proper leg control is the key to using spurs correctly. That is why beginners are not recommended to use spurs because they haven’t developed the required leg control to use spurs. It is good to work with a professional horse trainer to help you develop leg strength and proper position. 

Comfort is key

You need to be comfortable on the horse for you to use spurs effectively. So, if you are new to horse riding, wait for some time before you start using spurs. If you use spurs when you are not comfortable on the horse, you will end up causing pain or injuries to the horse.

Observe your horse’s reaction

If you plan on using spurs, observe how the horse responds. Typically, your horse will let you know if you are using the spur harshly. The horse can kick out, buck, or look tense and agitated anytime you apply leg pressure. Such signs should alert you to reconsider the type of spurs you have.

Not every horse requires spurs

Not every horse requires spurs especially if they have high energy and they are sensitive. Such horses respond well to commands if you just put some pressure using your foot. So, if the horse responds to your commands, there is no need to use spurs. 

Let the horse respond to subtle ques first

When using sours, it is good to give your horse the chance to respond to various signs first. For instance, you can use your calf or press with your heel.

In most cases, your horse will respond to other signs if you give proper training. If the horse ignores these signs, then you can use spurs.

Keep your feet moving in control

You should always keep your feet’ movements in control to avoid hitting the horse accidentally. Accidental hits can be dangerous because the horse can ride faster or turn side without you knowing.  You also give them mixed signals because they don’t understand if you are hitting them on purpose or accidentally.


Using spurs is not regarded as inhumane or hurt to horses if they are of the right design and you know how to use them correctly. In reality, spurs are allowed in many competitions and organizations because they aid in helping riders direct their horses better.

It is important to choose the right spurs to avoid hurting your horse. So, should you use spurs? Depending on your personal preference and advice from your horse trainer, you can choose to use spurs or not. Only use spurs if you are well-trained.

Zunnun Ahmed

We are a group of horse enthusiasts. We want to provide information and tips to help others learn more about horses, how to care for them, and how to enjoy them.

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