Advanced Primary Riders Wearing Spurs

There has been a lot of changes taking place within the riding club, the biggest being the festival moving from Stradbally Hall to Mullingar Equestrian Centre, which is rumoured to be resulting in the loss of long arena dressage and the musical ride. I, personally, think change can be a good thing, and I'm looking forward to hearing feedback from riders about this change of venue. While a shame to be potentially losing two major competitions, perhaps they will be offering us something else instead?

One of the latest changes has left me feeling a little uneasy and has had very mixed feedback. Allowing advanced primary riders to wear spurs.

I have previously spoken about how there are minimal differences between advanced primary riders and intermediate riders (please click for the link), as they both ride dressage at the same level. The use of spurs was one major factor that separated them.

Going by their own guidelines, intermediate (inter) riders should have an independent seat while advanced primary (ap) riders do not, this difference meant that inter riders were balanced and had a still lower leg which allowed them to use spurs. What confuses me is how ap riders are suddenly now considered good enough to use spurs?
Spurs are designed to refine the riding aids and to back up the natural aids (leg, hands, and seat). It is to give accurate and precise aids, not for livening up a lazy horse.

A few people have heralded this as good news and are delighted with the rule change. I wonder what is preventing these riders from riding at inter level? They must have soft hands and a steady leg already if they ride in spurs, therefore, meeting the inter levels criteria of having an independent seat?

Previously, if you were competing at AP but felt your horse went better while using spurs then you moved up to intermediate level, where you continued to ride preliminary level tests and did the same dressage movements as those in AP level; just with the added advantage of being allowed wear spurs. Now that AP and Inter riders ride the same movements, and can both use spurs I'm finding it difficult to find the difference between the two grades? Does this mean the dressage guidelines will change and AP riders will be expected to have independent seats too? Or will AP and Inter be combined into one major grade?

One response has been that it will be up to the judges to spot if spurs are being used excessively. There are currently no rules in the AIRC rulebook in relation to blood on a horse, but riders can be disqualified if they are seen to be excessively using spurs or whips. A vague rule. Judges are neither vets nor animal welfare officers and, as such, cannot state if a horse is being abused, while the term 'misuse' is indefinite and open to debate. Judges only have one mark to give the rider during a dressage test while the rest is based on the horse. Therefore, a poorly balanced rider that is constantly jabbing a horses side may get low rider marks, but still has the potential to win a class.

Another issue is that we have no tack stewards at shows or at the championships. How is the rule regarding blunt spurs going to be enforced? What defines if a spur is blunt or not?
These, Prince of Wales spurs may divide people's opinion on what a 'blunt' spur is. While they are not sharp, some may not consider them to be blunt either.

This has not only caused debate among the dressage and showing riders but the showjumpers too.  They, it seems, are not deemed good enough riders to use spurs. If this new rule is to continue, then surely, if someone if good enough to wear them for dressage and showing then they should be good enough to wear them while jumping? 

This matter was brought up at our regional meeting last night with the response being that the spur rule was introduced as AP riders doing Dressage Ireland are allowed to wear spurs at prelim level. However, those who jump 70's and 80's at SJI are allowed to wear spurs but are still not allowed to in the AIRC. Therefore, that argument seems defunct and non-logical.

I'm surprised at the AIRC are condoning the use of additional artificial aids and gadgets for lower level riders. Should they not be encouraging better riding and the use of fewer artificial aids instead? I am aware that riders will only be allowed to wear blunt spurs of 2cm or less, but this, combined with unsteady lower legs will surely cause issues for the horse?

I am going to have to trust the AIRC in relation to this new rule, I'm sure they have investigated the matter thoroughly and have solid reasoning behind this new rule. My wobbly lower legs and I, however, will choose to remain spur free. 

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