Hey, all the references to that horse post today have got me thinking about a question I've had for a while but had trouble finding credible research on: are spurs, in particular Western spurs, ethical? What separates ethical spur use from abusive? I've asked around but haven't gotten a conclusive answer, if you have any good sources for this I'd love to hear them! Thanks! Also, I'm on mobile so I can't see the question tax or FAQ, if I missed something because of that I'm sorry.
I need to preface this by reminding you that I am not a ‘horsey’ person in any way. I do not ride them, I do not work with them, and I no longer want to. I’m happy to consider them in an academically interesting sense, and admire them from afar.
In short I had Noped On Out of horses several years ago.
I assume the image above is what you mean by a ‘Western Spur’, where the end that’s used to touch the horse has a spinning component (rowel).
Horses have nerve endings closer to the surface of the skin than we humans do. What this means is that horse skin is most likely at least as sensitive, if not more so, than our own.
If a spur like this can hurt you then it can inflict pain on the horse.
I’m not the right person to discuss whether the use of Western spurs are ethical or not, but if a piece of equipment could cause pain then it could be abusive.
You would have to consider how these spurs were used in training, and whether the user had both a specific need for them and a sound understanding of animal training.
So I don’t have a conclusive answer for you either, but hopefully something to think about. You never know, an equine vet might add some commentary.