There are a lot of styles of spurs and I rushed out and bought a cheap pair for about $20. Seem okay but I have issues. The studs to which you attached the spur leathers/straps are on a hinge. Years ago the stud was solid and on the side of the spur fitting over the heel of your boot. What I bought also has no way to attach chains that go under the boot to help hold the spurs in place. Another issue is if your boot heels have a “shelf” that the spurs rest upon. It any event, I’d like folks to give ne some advise on why spurs have these different options? Thanks

Different people like different options for their spur needs.

The wide band, swinging buttons started as rodeo spurs if I remember right. They were not worn for long periods of time, so chains were not needed. They rested on the little “shelf” created where boot sole and heel leather of boot came together. With need to lift feet during bucking for points, no one worried about heel band rising up. These days you will see these type spurs with something under the foot. The heel tied down to prevent band coming up off the boot. Rodeo folks are there for the money, spurs MUST stay in their proper position to be used as needed.

Daily riding created different needs, chains under the boot, thinner bands with decorations. Spanish, then Vaquero styles were common in certain locales, part of being a “horseman” by wearing the correct items. Big sharp rowels, came down from Midieval (sp?) knights, thru Spain and onto the western Vaqueros. Knights horses HAD to go forward when asked, spurs were the back up plan to prevent resistance. When a guy was knighted, he got a pair of spurs, sign of being a man now. There was not a lot of “gentle” training of horses way back then. It was truly “life or death” when you needed horse to move during a battle! Spurs were not an option in those days!

Vaqueros developed the “Spade bit horse” on the west coast before the Gold Rush days. 5 years of training for the best horses, from braided hackamores up thru various bits to the finished Spade bit animal that could be ridden with silk thread reins. Rider still wore flashy, big roweled spurs, but horse was not marked or scarred by them. There were and ARE a lot of people wearing big rowel spurs that have no clue about horsemanship, how to use spurs as a training aid. Look at the horse sides. Any marks? Does horse quiver in fear as rider jingles up to him? If not, horse is not used to being abused by a spur wearing rider, does not expect this ride to be hurtful.

Vaquero styles were made with solid buttons, nothing moving to break in daily use. Ranches were isolated, no fixit shops close. You should only need one pair of spurs in your lifetime! Spur straps went on the buttons, replaced as leather wore out. Some folks would replace rowels with coins for various reasons. Show off, they had lots of money, they could waste it as rowels! Maybe they lost a rowel, replaced it with a coin because nothing else was close to the right, round size. Metal craftsmen have a hard time resisting decoration on plain surfaces! Decorations were inevitable, brands, initials, engraving, silver to sparkle in sunshine.

More modern spurs tend to have smaller rowels with LOTS of rounded points that will not penetrate the skin. Rowels turn freely, lessening pressure on skin even more. Ball end spurs have gained popularity for use with “spur trained” horses and riders with no foot control. Not so likely to hurt horse with floppy feet, though not impossible.

Westerners wear spurs daily as aids to the leg and in case you NEED THEM. When you need them it is needed RIGHT NOW! Same reason the Military and Mounted Police always wear spurs, a required tool in their attire. Horse is not allowed to make choices in many situations, has to go where aimed. My drill team required spurs at any venue we performed at, no horses refusing to go as asked, too dangerous!

You might go looking at catalogs to see the array of styles sold. Many are regional designs, others have migrated with riders working at different ranches. Western Horseman magazine has many spur makers advertising, saddle shops carry spurs. At times the name of spur will tell you where it comes from. I like Garcias, lovely workmanship, stay put on my boots, look good with the shaped spur straps I prefer. Not cheap! Other places will make them, customize with your choice of style, decorations.


Thanks for the great reply. One of my issues is about the designs and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information. If you look at historical photos of the spurs worn in the 1880’s-1900. It seems that the stud to which the leather straps were affixed, that stud was solid on the front of the band. With the swinging stud, it is positioned higher and that can change things. Any idea why it got started? Easier to fit on a variety of boots??
Next, you’ll see spurs where the band’s front has a slot. Sometimes there is a downward tab with this slot. To this spur chains were attached however, if the heel of the boot is oversized- so as to create a shelf, it would seem that the downward tab would not fit correctly. Without this downward tab how would chains be attached?
Then there is the design of the back arm holding the rowel. Some are longer, what needs to be considered there? Some have upward curls- I’ve read it is to keep the cuff of your jeans away from the spur but others say it is for digging into a bucking horse. On the rowel, I thought a blunt star would not hurt a horse, what rowel is best?
Okay- I admit that a lot of this is vanity. I think spurs look good and I want an upgrade strap with a big concho, etc. etc. Floral carved leather. All the bells and whistles. That said, there are some function issues involved and unless you can pal around with some actual working cowboys, etc. there really aren’t many folks with whom to discuss these nuances. As it said, the devil is in the details.

I think you’re over thinking the buttons. I have both styles swinging and fixed, I have no preference.

You shouldn’t need heel chains if your bands fit your foot/boots properly. Also the weight of quality spurs keep them sitting on the spur shelf.
When I was a kiddo wearing the cheap feed store spurs, I used to cut little thin piece of inner tube and make spur tie downs out of them because the bands were always too wide and never enough weight to keep them where they needed to be.

The shank and rowel I use is dependent on the horse I’m riding. I use a straight, short shanked Chihuahua spur with a blunt 10 point rowel for everyday work and on my colts. It’s forgiving.

My show spurs (reined cow horse) are Garcia goosenecks with a big heavy band and a bigger sharper rowel. I don’t want want to move my foot much to get the response I’m asking for.
Plus the gooseneck helps with my long legs on smaller cutter/cowbred horses that don’t take up my leg.

Even though I grew up in the Great Basin and work there, not a fan of the buckaroo drop shanks. (I don’t wear a flat hat either) Plus they work better for a short legged person on a bigger horse to help keep their spur out of their horses side.

I’d consider what horses your riding and what your doing when picking your spurs.


Thanks- really appreciate the help.

Aces_N_Eights is correct. The weight of a quality spurs will allow your spurs to sit correctly on the edge of the heel of your boot. When you jiggle your foot the spurs should bounce ever so slightly on your heel. If they don’t and appear “fixed” to your boot then the band is too tight and should be widened. If the spurs are bouncing with every step you take, the band needs to be closed a bit.
Check out Tom Balding Spurs or Ray Maheu. They are great examples of quality spurs. Great balance and weight.
As far as the buttons the straps attach to, mind are all loose and I think they allow a better fit to the foot that way.

1 Like