Why will my mare go with spurs but not without them?

Hey Stacy. My name is Maryah C. and I am 13 years old. I have a mare that I ride with spurs and she is great with them and I don’t even have to touch her, but when I don’t ride with spurs she totally ignores my leg and sometimes doesn’t even go forward. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix this? -Thank you, Maryah


Thanks for writing to me. Have you ever ignored your parents before? Why do you listen to them sometimes (like when you want to go somewhere so you are on your ‘best behavhior’) and other times you test the limits?

It sounds like when you don’t have the spurs on your horse tests you. You could ride with a riding crop instead. Or you can learn to kick harder at times. Or you can use the end of the rein sometimes. These all accomplish the same thing as the spurs though.

Your horse is likely saying that she naturally on the lazy side. I would suggest asking your parents or riding instructor for their opinion too as answering this by email is tough. Also check out the previous post on lazy horses.


  1. Rebecca on July 25, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    And maybe some horses were trained with spurs early enough or long enough that it’s the only cue they really know? I imagine spurs feel different and touch a little further back than a heel does, right? So maybe keep riding with spurs, but concentrate on asking with the heel or leg pressure you want to use first, then follow with the spur cue until she gets it.

  2. Jean on February 12, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Why don’t you want to use spurs? If the horse does better with spurs, use them. They aren’t abusive unless you make them abusive. Horses are sensitive, but in different ways. Just like people. I can feel a wrinkle in my clothes, but my husband can’t. The horse can feel a fly land on them, but it’s a different kind of sensitivity. It isn’t whole skin, it’s just a hair. And the fly isn’t making them work. If it is a personal challenge to get your horse to move without using them, start by using them. Then start by taking them off but keep them with you so your horse can hear them. You know, take them off while you are on. I have a horse that just needs to know you have them in order for him to respond better. I don’t even have to use them, just have them with me. When he hears the jingle, he reacts differently. And not in a bad or scared way for those of you who are anti-spurs. If it’s a matter of concern about hurting the horse, get spurs with short, flat spikes on the rowels, or solid rowels. Also, make sure your spurs are loose on your heels and can move some up and down, but not so loose they fall over the back of the heel.

    • vicki on July 24, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      thank you Jean, your post was very helpful. I have been wondering about using spurs on my gelding as he often refuses to go forward. Having never used spurs before, I would not have known to leave them a bit loose. Thanks

  3. Tabitha on February 5, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    i have a lazy horse and i have to kick harder and he might move lol very lazy love it

  4. Australian Quarter Horse Association DNA Testing? on February 1, 2012 at 11:59 am

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  5. rita on January 29, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I dont use spurs on any of my horses and have never had a problem with my horses not going forward. I believe horses are more sensitive than people think they are they can feel a little bug they can feel your leg on them without spurs. I ride with my seat and legs and not much heel. I feel if a horse is started right you wont feel the need to use any harsh equipmement such as spurs big bits and draw reins. I will give them a spank if they need it dont get me wrong but that usually does the trick. To me horses mean more than a blue ribbon at a show I try my best to get one but haveing fun is more important to me.

  6. stacey mehrgan on January 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    My daughters horse was the same. I don’t personally believe kids should ride with spurs and she never had till we bought her a new horse. We got him home and walk jog was ok but getting him into the canter was getting harder and he was getting crankier till eventually he started kicking out. the old owners came out as they’d never had any problem and rode him with spurs on and it was like you could see him smiling with relief at getting ridden with spurs. So we just kept him happy and rode with spurs after that and never had a problem again. lol

  7. Robert Nelson on January 27, 2012 at 8:20 am

    My horse, a Morgan, also seems to prefer spurs; I suspect because they are a clearer signal. I don’t have to kick with them, just touch. Perhaps my legs are confusing and inconsistent to him without spurs.

  8. Drucilla on January 25, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I am a beginner rider myself and not a trainer or riding insturctor or anyting special but with a backgground in pschology and many experiences with horses/dogs that do things for others and not me 🙂 I find that when I am %100 percent to my core postiive I want the horse animal to do something they do. I have not proven it even to myself yet but I believe so far until proven wrong that the aids we use are for our own confidence that we can get the horse to do what we want. Sounds like stacy is right she is testing and when you have spurs you BELIEVE you can make her go so she does. Try visualizing her listening when you ask without spurs over and over until you believe she will listen without them. Love to hear if it works or not!

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