A cowboy walks across the wooden floor of a saloon. All you can hear is the jingle-jangle of his spurs as his boots hit the ground with each step, kicking up a small puff of dust. Ka-ching. Ka-ching.
When most of us think of spurs, that is what comes to mind. We turn our thoughts back to those western movies featuring cowboys wearing elaborate, shiny spurs on the heels of their boots. Those of us who have known working cowboys may not share that vision. We might think more in terms of a simple piece of equipment. Bent metal, leather straps–nothing exciting, carefully engraved or shiny.
There is another type of spur out there. Bull riding spurs are required equipment for those daredevils willing to risk life and limb for an eight-second ride on the back of a mean, massive creature who does not want anyone on his back. Bull riding spurs do not really share that much in common with other spurs, though. They have a different appearance and a different function.
Bull riding spurs really are different from the ornamental spurs of dandy movie cowboys and they are a radical departure from other traditional spurs. Understanding why they are different requires a sense of how and why they are used.
Riders do not use these spurs to goad the bull into intensifying the action. They are not digging their spurs into the bull’s side to create a more violent, exciting ride at all. In fact, it is against the rules to cut a bull with your spurs. These spurs are not on a rider’s boots to inflict pain.
Instead, riders use these spurs to help them stay on the bull. Riders will attempt to balance and center themselves by getting a good grip on the bull with their legs. They use the bull riding spurs to accomplish this. The legs are a key part of successful riding and the most accomplished bull riders do a wonderful job of managing their ride with their legs–and their spurs.
Bull riding spurs are subject to a number of limitations and regulations in the professional bull riding world. They cannot be too long. They cannot be sharp. Their wheels must freely spin. Again, you are not going to see those shiny silver spurs from the movies at the next PBR event. Instead, you will notice short little spurs, often in matte finishes strapped to the riders’ boots at their spur lines.
It can be easy to overlook those stubby little bull riding spurs, but they are an important part of the rider’s gear. They make surviving those eight seconds a little more safe and manageable.