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Robert Rootslane




Location: Estonia
Joined: 06 Aug 2007

Posts: 71

PostPosted: Mon 06 May, 2013 6:46 am    Post subject: Whats up with spurs         Reply with quote

Anyway, i havent really thought about it before, but lately i have read that here in Estonia, and also in many other burials in Europe, the corpses had only one spur with them. Usually on the left leg.

I also read that many consider, that it meant that until the 12th century or so, only one spur was worn.

Is there any truth to this? Wouldnt it make effective manuevering with the horse very difficult?
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
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Reading list: 8 books

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PostPosted: Mon 06 May, 2013 6:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Spurs are not used in all normal circumstances. They are for emergencies only, especially if you look at the rather sharp medieval types, if in constant use to control the horse, they would have bleeding sores along the flanks..

One speculative reason for using one spur only, is that riding with a lance and shield makes you unbalanced, and make the horse tend to veer to the left. With hands occupied with lance and shield the rein control is hampered, and using a spur would be a control mechanism, and if the shield/lance thing makes you unbalanced the same way all the time, you would need only one spur.

(Caveat here: I love horses, and consider some riding implements such as spurs, many bits and crops as torture devices more than riding aids. I'm kind of a Hippie that way)

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
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PostPosted: Mon 06 May, 2013 9:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

People where usually depicted with two, and in viking age graves they come in matched sets. Possibly it could be some kind of tradition or burrial ritual. The son or widdow keeping one of the dead knights spurs, or some such.

As a paralell, There are instances of single tortoise brooches in mens graves from the viking age. Possibly this could be a symbolic way of maintaining a link with the dead person; He has one of the pair, his widow the other.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Robert Rootslane




Location: Estonia
Joined: 06 Aug 2007

Posts: 71

PostPosted: Tue 07 May, 2013 2:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Elling, i was suspecting something like that.

Have you got anything good to read about the turtle brooches? It sounds interesting.

Meanwhile i searched the web for images before the 10 century. Seems, that on those, cavalry rarely wears spurs at all. Didnt manage to find ANY image, where a rider had a spur, on only one leg. If anyone has got one, id like to see it. Also if anyone has early images of riders with both spurs, would be good to see too.

Talked about the same topic with some friends. One of them mentioned that there was a custom of taking a spur of the knight who you had slain/ was dead on the battlefield. I know that after the battle of the golden spurs, loads of spurs were taken as a sign of victory, however, it does not seem to have been a common practice.
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Raman A




Location: United States
Joined: 25 Aug 2011

Posts: 143

PostPosted: Thu 09 May, 2013 4:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bjorn Hagstrom wrote:
Spurs are not used in all normal circumstances. They are for emergencies only, especially if you look at the rather sharp medieval types, if in constant use to control the horse, they would have bleeding sores along the flanks..

One speculative reason for using one spur only, is that riding with a lance and shield makes you unbalanced, and make the horse tend to veer to the left. With hands occupied with lance and shield the rein control is hampered, and using a spur would be a control mechanism, and if the shield/lance thing makes you unbalanced the same way all the time, you would need only one spur.

(Caveat here: I love horses, and consider some riding implements such as spurs, many bits and crops as torture devices more than riding aids. I'm kind of a Hippie that way)


Out of curiosity, which is worse for the horse: the spike style spurs, or the rowel ones? Were rowel spurs developed to perhaps reduce harmfulness to the horse? The spike style ones always looked to me like if you weren't careful you could give a serious puncture wound to your mount.
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Jeffrey Hedgecock
Industry Professional



Location: Ramona CA USA
Joined: 22 Jan 2004

Posts: 129

PostPosted: Sat 11 May, 2013 9:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Folks,

OK, <deep breath>..................

What's your evidence for your assertions??

Does it make any sense at all to wear one spur??

Perhaps talk to a knowledgeable equestrian historian in the region of the tradition to see if it's apocryphal or has any shred of truth?

As a historian, jouster of over 10 years experience and classical riding student with a stable of 4 horses, I can say with a high degree of certainty that a single spur wouldn't have bee used by a medieval martial rider. Evidence suggests that men at arms and knights who were of sufficient economic class to own armour would have been skilled riders, and therefore would have used all the tools at their disposal when in battle or tournament, including both spurs. The very idea that a rider would use a single spur is ridiculous.

Spurs, regardless of style, are a tool to aid the horse in understanding what the rider is asking of him. Using a single spur would confuse and likely frustrate a horse, and that's the last thing one wants in combat. Horse and rider should be "one", and the clearest communication between horse and rider is mandatory. This includes proper bit, bridle, saddle (so seat and leg aids can be accurately applied), and spurs. Spurs are a normal part of riding gear, not for "emergencies". Spurs allow a rider to give a very specific instruction in a very specific area of the horse's side, and are an everyday part of riding. Using a single spur because of a rider's "imbalance" is, I must say, ridiculous. Using one spur would make a rider -more- unbalanced, in the mind of the horse and is no way to correct this sort of problem.

Any type of riding "aid" when misapplied or improperly applied can be detrimental to the horse. Just because a spur "looks" sharp or dangerous does not mean it was used in a way that it's full potential for harm was employed. Skilled riders know how to use a potentially harmful spur in a way that is fine for the horse, but the reason for using the seemingly "sharp" spur is to have that strength of aid -available- if the need arises. Also remember horses were most often caparisoned in tournament or battle, so the spur needed to be somewhat sharp to be felt through layers of cloth or even mail.

Long and short is, the "harshness" of medieval spurs has long been misunderstood and misinterpreted. Please don't believe everything that's been published about how "inhumane" long or pointed spurs were historically. Knights highly valued their horses..........do you think they would have employed tools in ways that would consistently injure horses? Yes their attitudes toward horses were different than ours today, but a horse is a horse, and one's mount still needs to cooperate and understand its rider. Hurting the horse is the worst way to accomplish that.

As to the Estonian burial tradition.........check the sources of what you're reading and consult with historical experts (ie museum curators or scholars at a university). Chances are the tradition is very local and very likely may have been misunderstood or misinterpreted by the author or could be an over-generalization based on a single source. It happens all the time.

Sorry to sound preachy or scolding guys, but so much misinformation and incorrect assumptions are constantly made about stuff like this that it makes me crazy. Please read up before adding more bad info to the mix.

Cheers,

Jeffrey Hedgecock
Historic Enterprises, Inc.
WorldJoust Tournaments™
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Robert Rootslane




Location: Estonia
Joined: 06 Aug 2007

Posts: 71

PostPosted: Sat 11 May, 2013 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeffrey Hedgecock wrote:
Folks,

OK, <deep breath>..................

What's your evidence for your assertions??

Does it make any sense at all to wear one spur??

Perhaps talk to a knowledgeable equestrian historian in the region of the tradition to see if it's apocryphal or has any shred of truth?


----""----

As to the Estonian burial tradition.........check the sources of what you're reading and consult with historical experts (ie museum curators or scholars at a university). Chances are the tradition is very local and very likely may have been misunderstood or misinterpreted by the author or could be an over-generalization based on a single source. It happens all the time.



First of all, i was not claiming anything about the one spur being worn, it would be a foolish thing to do anyway, considering, that i dont know much about this topic. I was merely asking,

The article i read was written by a quite knowledegeable historian in these parts. I do not doubt the part about only one spur being in the grave. However i do doubt the part in the article that claimed, it meant only one spur was used. That is also the reason why i decided to ask here, since i know many people here are familiar with jousting etc.

Anyway thanks for your comments Jeffrey.
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Jeffrey Hedgecock
Industry Professional



Location: Ramona CA USA
Joined: 22 Jan 2004

Posts: 129

PostPosted: Sat 11 May, 2013 12:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

No worries, I was addressing Bjorn's speculation on the one spur being worn while riding. I understood what you were asking.

Speculation has a place, but only if it's grounded in evidence.

Cheers,

Jeffrey Hedgecock
Historic Enterprises, Inc.
WorldJoust Tournaments™
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