Gear Riding

7 Best Spurs for Cowboy Boots and Educated Riders

spurs rest on a wooden fence plank
Written by Holly N.

Never Spur a Willing Horse

Every horse is different. Some may benefit from the use of spurs, others will never need them. Spurs often get a bad reputation, but when used correctly they can enable the rider to stop “shouting” with their legs and, in the words of international dressage rider Hannah Biggs, “maintain a calm conversation with the horse.”

Spurs are used in many riding disciplines, from barrel racing to showjumping, and have been around since the 5th century. Some spurs have a long shank and a spiked rowel, while others deliver more subtle cues using a shorter shank and blunt rowel.

horse hoof human boot with spurs

Source: Canva

Definition of a Spur

A spur is a metal riding tool that attaches to the heel of the rider’s boot. In the right hands (err, on the right feet), spurs may enhance communication between rider and horse and provide more precise control over the horse’s movements.

Anatomy of a Spur

anatomy of a spur picture with definitions

Photo of Spurs by Canva, Infographic by Horse Rookie


Rowels first emerged in the 13th century and soon became the most popular type of spur as they enabled the rider to reach the horse’s flanks regardless of the angle of the foot.

It’s also believed that the rowel was gentler on the horse as it rolled along the flank rather than hitting it directly.

Rowel Types

  • Ball
  • Barrel Racing (Bumper)
  • Cloverleaf
  • Nine Point Star
  • Reiner Style
  • Rock Grinder
  • Roper Style
Shank Length

The shank connects the rowel to the heel band and varies in length, with the shortest being around ¾” and the longest 3½”. To establish the best shank length, mount your horse and take up your usual riding position. Now look to see how far your heel is from your horse’s side and judge the shank length accordingly.

If you’re new to spurs, you should opt for a shorter shank. Longer shanks are helpful for taller riders and also enable you to reach a larger area of your horse’s barrel.

Heelband Sizing

The heelband or yoke must fit snugly around the heel of your boot. If it’s too tight, it could rub your heel, but if it’s too loose, it will move around, making your aids inaccurate and potentially causing discomfort to your horse.


The strap secures the spur to your boot, buckling over the top of your foot. You can choose from basic leather options, at a very inexpensive price point, to decorative, hand-tooled options that may set you back hundreds of dollars.

To ensure the right fit, always try on spurs with the boots you’ll be wearing them with.

western cowboy boots with spur

Source: Canva

Spur Basics: Form to Function

Why Use Spurs

Riders use spurs to influence a horse’s movement and elicit a quicker, more accurate response. They help the horse focus on the task at hand and enable the rider to use more subtle cues to influence speed and direction.

When To Use Spurs

Use your spurs to reinforce your leg aids and get the horse to react promptly and accurately. You should only use them if your leg position is secure and stable.

Western rider using spurs with show tack

Source: Canva

How To Select the Right Spurs

The well-being of your horse should always be the top priority when selecting the best spurs. If you’re new to wearing spurs, choose a shorter shank and rounded rowel that won’t hurt your horse if you accidentally apply pressure at the wrong moment.

If you ride with short stirrups, a shorter shank is ideal, whereas a taller rider with longer stirrups may require a longer shank to accurately apply pressure to the correct point on the horse’s flank.

Your riding discipline will also influence the type of spur you choose. For instance, dressage riders tend to use spurs with shorter shanks and rounded ball-like rowels, whereas Western riders generally prefer roper-style spurs with short shanks and wheel-like rowels consisting of ten blunt points.

Best Spurs for Western Boots

Category Option Price Point Key Features
Best for Beginners Diamond R Ladies Roller Spur $$$ Rolling ball rowel is gentle on the horse
Best for Barrel Racing Tough 1 SS Sidewinder Bumper Spurs $$ Applies pressure without rotating the leg or causing the horse discomfort
Best for Roping Western BS Silver Del Rio 9 Pt Men’s Roper Spurs $$$ Nine-point rowel delivers a clear message without harming the horse
Best for Training Professionals Choice PS Trainer Spurs $$$$ Longer shank reinforces aids without requiring excessive leg movement
Best Gentle Spurs Weaver SS Rosebud Rowel Spur $$ Short shank and rosebud rowel provide gentle reinforcement, especially on chubbier horses!
Best for Sensitive Horses Tough 1 SS Long Knob End Equitation Spurs $$$ A longer shank provides more leverage, while a rounded rowel is less severe
Best English Style Spurs Prince of Wales Spurs with Straps $ Short shanks reinforce aids but prevent accidental contact

Best for Beginners

Diamond R Ladies Roller Spur

These spurs have a short shank and a ball rowel that rolls along the horse’s flank without digging into the skin. This gentler action means they won’t hurt your horse, even if your application is a little inaccurate to begin with.

This type of ball spur is suitable for various disciplines, including trail riding, Western pleasure riding, and barrel racing.

diamond spur

Click to see it at State Line Tack


  • Rolling ball is gentle on your horse
  • Rowel won’t leave spur marks
  • Suitable for young and inexperienced riders


  • Despite being made of stainless steel, these spurs are prone to corrosion and rust
  • May need bending to fit a larger boot

Where to buy it: State Line Tack

Best for Barrel Racers

Tough 1 SS Sidewinder Bumper Spurs

Instead of a rowel, these bumper spurs have ridges on the inner side that enable the rider to apply pressure without rotating the knee or ankle. This action enables the rider to maintain impulsion going into the barrel and to accelerate out of the turn without hurting or irritating the horse.

Made of stainless steel, these spurs are extremely durable but could prove a little heavy for smaller, lighter riders.

bumper spur

Click to see it at State Line Tack


  • Design means you can apply pressure without rotating the leg
  • Durable, stainless-steel structure
  • Gentle action makes them suitable for sensitive horses


  • Maybe a little heavy for smaller riders
  • The ladies’ version may be too small for larger feet or bulkier boots

Where to buy it: State Line Tack

Best for Roping

Western BS Silver Del Rio 9 Pt Men’s Roper Spurs

With nine points on the rowel instead of the traditional 10, these spurs deliver a clearer message without causing the horse any harm or discomfort. The eye-catching detail of the engraved heelband makes them ideal for competition, while the longer shank makes them suitable for taller riders.

Although designed for men, they are light enough for women and fit women’s boots.

silver spur

Click to see it at State Line Tack


  • Provide accurate aids without harming the horse
  • Longer shank makes them suitable for taller riders
  • The engraved heelband looks great in competition


  • 10-point rowel is generally favored for roping
  • Nine-point rowel might be too harsh for beginner riders

Where to buy it: State Line Tack

Best for Training

Professionals Choice PS Trainer Spurs

These spurs have a longer shank that positions the rowel closer to the horse’s flank so the rider can reinforce an aid with minimal leg movement. The longer shank and 10-point rowel also provide more leverage and clearer communication.

The 10-point rowel is gentler on the horse than a nine-point rowel, making these spurs more suitable for training and riders with less experience.

professionals choice spur

Click to see it at State Line Tack


  • Longer shank provides greater leverage
  • 10-point rowel gentler on the horse
  • Sturdy design


  • Polished steel rusts if exposed to moisture
  • Higher price range

Where to buy it: State Line Tack

Best Gentle Spurs

Weaver SS Rosebud Rowel Spur

With a short shank and gentle rowel, these spurs are ideal for reinforcing leg aids on horses that are carrying a little extra weight around the girth! They don’t fit as snugly as other designs but can be bent for a better fit.

Surprisingly durable, they also stand up to mud and water better than other brands and provide excellent value for money.

weaver spur

Click to see them at State Line Tack


  • Durable and more rust-resistant than other models
  • Gentle rowel action won’t harm or irritate your horse
  • Cost-effective and affordable


  • Heelband may need bending for a tighter fit
  • Narrow heelband makes them more suitable for women than men (sorry, guys!)

Where to buy it: State Line Tack

Best for Sensitive Horses

Tough 1 SS Long Knob End Equitation Spurs

The longer shank of these knob-end spurs gives the rider greater leverage, while the rounded end gently reinforces the aid. Ideal for taller riders looking to perform more advanced movements or starting with lateral work.

These spurs are available in different sizes, with the men’s version having a slightly longer shank and wider heelband.

tough 1 spur

Click to see it at State Line Tack


  • Knob-end rowel won’t irritate sensitive horses· Available in both men’s and women’s sizes
  • The sturdy design makes them highly durable


  • Getting the perfect fit can be tricky and may require a good vice!
  • May prove too long and heavy for smaller riders

Where to buy it: State Line Tack

Best English Style Spurs

Prince of Wales Spurs with Straps

These simple spurs have a short ¾” shank with a blunt end, making them ideal for all English riding disciplines, including showjumping. The short shanks mean they’re less likely to come into contact with the horse by accident but can still reinforce the message without leaving spur marks.

The lower price range also means they’re ideal for those on a tight budget.

While these are English spurs, depending on the width of your boot heel, these could work on Western boots and are a solid choice for a beginner just needing a little extra.

prince of wales spur

Click to see them at State Line Tack


  • Short shank prevents accidental contact
  • Blunt-ended rowel won’t leave spur marks
  • The lower price range makes them more affordable


  • May be too narrow for bulkier or Western-style boots
  • Nylon straps are not as durable as leather

Where to buy it: State Line Tack

western rowel spur on cowboy boot

Source: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What spurs do cowboys wear?

Cowboys tend to wear spurs with a longer shank and a ten-point rowel.

Q: How do I choose a pair of spurs?

Choose a pair of spurs that won’t hurt or irritate your horse but will reinforce your leg aid. Your chosen riding discipline will influence the type of spur you opt for, as will the size and shape of your riding boots.

Spurs with shorter shanks and no rowels are more suitable for most English riding disciplines, while longer shanks and sharper rowels are more popular in Western events.

If you’re planning to show, be sure to check applicable rulebooks to be sure your spurs are legal to wear in the show ring.

Q: Are spurs illegal to wear in public?

In most circumstances, it’s perfectly legal to wear spurs in public, although there are some strange laws you might want to be aware of. Whether it’s a true law or simply an urban myth, you might want to avoid wearing spurs in a hotel lobby in Arizona!

Otherwise, feel free to wear your spurs out and about—just be aware that some people find it tacky and attention-seeking.

Q: What are the best spurs for cutting?

Roping spurs are a great choice for cutting. The ideal shank length depends on your height and riding style, but a 1½ to 2½ inch shank is probably best. A nine or 10-point rowel is perfect for getting a quick reaction, while a rosebud rowel will work more effectively on sensitive horses.

Want to learn more? Check out this video:

Q: What are the best spurs for ranch work?

If you’re wearing spurs around the ranch, you need them to be durable and versatile, both in and out of the saddle. You’ll want to avoid spurs with a shank that is too long, which could get in the way out of the saddle.

Spurs designed for roping or cutting would be a solid choice.

Q: What are the types of spurs for English riding?

English riders tend to wear smaller, lighter spurs, like roller spurs, Prince of Wales spurs, or in the case of dressage riders, swan neck spurs.

Q: How are English spurs different from Western spurs?

English spurs are generally much smaller than Western spurs. Instead of a rowel, they may just have a ball or a knob. Since English spurs are thinner, the spur strap will go under the foot as well as over to secure the spur to your boot.

Q: What are the best spurs for English riding?

The Prince of Wales spurs with straps are great spurs for English riding because they have a short shank that prevents accidental contact, a blunt end for gentle communication, and won’t leave spur marks on your horse’s flanks.

silver decorative spurs close up on rowel

Source: Canva

Parting Thoughts

Although sometimes perceived as cruel or unethical, in the right hands (or feet!) spurs enhance the rider’s ability to communicate subtle cues to their horses. If you’re new to using spurs, work with a trainer and opt for a gentler design with a roller ball and short shank.

Your horse’s well-being should always be your top priority when shopping for spurs, so consider his needs before thinking about your own. Lastly, evaluate spur choices specific to your chosen discipline.

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About the author


Holly N.

Holly started riding as a six years old in the UK and competed regularly in local events, including showjumping, cross country, showing, working hunter, and gymkhana. She now lives and rides in South Africa, working as a trail guide with Wild Coast Horseback Adventures. Her interests are primarily in the areas of DIY horse ownership, trail riding, barefoot horses, endurance, competitive trail riding, and South African breeds.