History of Long Shank Spurs
This very old word derives from Anglo-Saxon spura, spora, related to spornan, spurnan, to kick, spurn; The generalized sense of "anything that urges on, stimulus" is recorded in English from circa 1390.
It is thought that the earliest spurs were probably made from bone or wood.
The spur was used by the Celts during the La Tene period (which began in the 5th century BC). Iron or bronze spurs were also used throughout the Roman Empire based on archaeological finds in England, left by the Roman Legions of Julius Caesar.
They do not however, appear in any of the early Roman, Greek and Byzantine sculpture so were probably restricted to fighters who wanted to steer their horses with their legs leaving their hands free to fight.
These early spurs had a single sharp protrusion. These had straight necks in the 11th century and bent ones in the 12th. The revolving rowel, used in western spurs today, probably originated in France. The earliest rowels probably did not revolve but were fixed
These rowel spurs also show up on the Seal of Henry III of England, who lived from 1207 to 1272and on monuments of the 13th century, but it does not come into general use until the 14th century.
The Rowel of a spur is usually round and spins like a wheel with spikes that attach to the neck or shank of the spur. It is the part that actually touches the horse and makes a jingle noise when the rider is walking around.
During the age of chivalry, spurs became a mark of rank. Gold or gilded spurs were only worn by knights or royalty. Esquires’ spurs were silver and those of a page were tinned. One could tell the rank of the wearer by the spurs, even if the armor or clothing gave no clue.
Knights vied with each other to indicate their prestige with costly spurs. Many were jeweled and all were objects of art. Spurs were usually buried with their owners as a treasured possession, accounting for the fact that few remain today.
When a valet became an esquire, or an esquire was knighted, he was fitted with new spurs during a special ceremony hence the expression “earned his spurs.” In the rare case of disgrace, a knights spurs were chopped off in a public ceremony with the cook’s cleaver.
After the battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302 where the French chivalry suffered a humbling defeat, the victors hung up bushels of knights' gilt spurs in the churches of Kortrijk as trophies of what is still remembered by the Flemings as the Guldensporenslag (the battle of the golden spurs).
Though often decorated throughout history, in the 15th century, spurs became an art form in both decoration and design, with elaborate engraving, very long shanks and large rowels.
Spurs are worn with the tip of the neck pointed downward, sitting on the spur rest of the riding boot, if there is one, with the buckle of the spur strap worn on the outside of the foot.
In equestrian riding, the spur is a refined tool, designed to allow the rider to transmit very subtle signals to the horse that are nearly invisible to any other observer.
Within the RCMP, Spurs were essential to members in the early days of the Force because horses were their means of transportation. A spur attached to the heel was worn with the short boot or Wellington-style boot, but the most recognizable style was the Jack spur worn with the riding boot.
For officers, the shank of the spur was swan-necked or crane-necked and it was fastened by a chain strap under the boot and leather strap across the top; for corporals and constables the shank was straight-necked and the spur was fastened by leather straps. They were usually steel and nickel plated with a spiked rowel.
In the 1930s, the wearing of spurs was re-evaluated since technological advances made the use of horses obsolete. Very little of an officers’ duties were ‘mounted’ and other ranks had many un-mounted sections. After considerable debate, it was decided to keep spurs for certain situations such as formal parades. The use of spurs declined in day-to-day activities, but remain as part of the kit for formal attire.
The long shank spurs were discontinued in 1965 when riding was taken out of the 'basic' training. They were replaced by the Officer style spurs with the round rowels, for those in the Musical Ride.
In the late 1980's Material Management agreed to allow members of the Musical Ride to adopt the Prince of Wales style spur (also known as training spurs) as they are more practical and less severe than the officer style spur which would on occasion cut a horse.
These spurs were only to be used on the Ride "Whilst employed" and were to be returned upon completion of their Ride duties.
In September of 1966, the Musical Ride was moved from the RCMP Training Academy, Depot Division-Regina, Saskatchewan to RCMP Headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario (also the Nation's capital) to prepare for Canada's 100th birthday celebrations, July 1st, 1967.
From that time to present, the current membership issue spurs are called the "Jack Spurs" for both male and female 'High Brown' (Strathcona) boots. For formal functions, the male black 'Congress' (Wellington) boots have a plug-in spur called "Box Spurs", while the females wear a black ladies 'pump' shoe (without spurs of course).
In present day ceremonies & parades, members both active and retired are allowed to proudly wear long shank spurs with the proper dress code. Cadets, however, must wait until after graduation to wear the prized spurs.