Order of the Spur
What is a Spur Ride or Order of the Spur?
A Cavalry Trooper enters the Order of the Spur through a Spur Ride. A Spur Ride is a series of rigorous physical, professional, and technical activities. The completion of a Spur Ride recognizes the Trooper's leadership skills and excellence in the Cavalry.
Throughout history, Cavalry units have been readily identifiable by their Stetsons and Spurs. As the Army was modernized and horses were traded for tanks and helicopters, the Cavalry held onto its distinctive traditions. These traditions are a reminder of the Cavalry’s glorious past and tend to set apart the Cavalry Trooper from his more traditional brethren. The Spurs evolved into a source of distinction to recognize the best of the Cavalry.
Today, Cavalrymen are still distinguished by their unique hats, or “Stetsons,” as they are now called. The Spurs, however, are awarded to only a deserving few. These few represent the best of the best and embody all that has been, is, and will be great about the U.S. Cavalry.
What is the history of Spurs?
The tradition has its roots in knighthood, where the awarding of gilt Spurs symbolized entry into the ranks and fraternity of mounted warriors. Usually, the squire aspiring to knighthood had to perform some task or deed on the battlefield or tournament field (tournaments were similar to today's training maneuvers) to “win their Spurs.”
The Spurs themselves were buckled on during the investiture to knighthood, usually during a Mass or other religious ceremony. Knighthood was considered sacramental, if not a sacrament itself, and it was the Spurs that symbolized that a man was a knight–not his sword, horse, nor armor. No matter how financially destitute, a poor knight would part with everything else before his Spurs. The primary act of degradation (removing someone from the knightly class) was to have another knight cut off the offending
It is not known exactly when the tradition of awarding Spurs was started in the U.S. Cavalry. When green troopers first arrived at their new cavalry assignments, they were assigned a horse with a shaved tail.
This led to the nickname “Shave Tail” for newly assigned, Spurless soldiers. Upon arrival, they were in need of extensive training, especially in the area of swordsmanship from atop a horse. The horse with a shaved tail was given extra space in which to operate since its rider was marked as an amateur. During this phase of training the troopers were not allowed to wear Spurs because this would only serve to compound their problems. Only when they were able to prove their ability to perform with their horse and saber were they awarded Spurs.
Once assigned to a Cavalry unit, Troopers had to undergo rigorous training and professional development before being considered for the awarding of Spurs. Earning Spurs was not optional. Troopers would sometimes spend an entire month’s pay to purchase distinctive and original Spurs, often engraving the name of his steed or his sweetheart on them.
How does a Trooper Earn his/her Spurs?
As mentioned, when worn, the Spurs indicate that the trooper has demonstrated cavalry and leadership skills greater than those expected of the common soldier. Today’s Spur Programs are Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer leadership development programs, which focus on the individual trooper’s physical, technical, professional, and communicative abilities. All Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers are usually required to participate. If it is an Officer’s or NCO’s first Cavalry assignment, they will be required to complete the Squadron’s induction requirements.
Paying for the Spurs and the certificate is voluntary in some units, while other units provide them for free after the Spur Ride is completed. In some units, the Trooper will be “sponsored” by his or her NCO or mentor, and the sponsor buys the Spurs for his or her pledge. Nearly every Cavalry unit offers soldiers the opportunity to earn their Spurs, either during peacetime or combat.
What is the Prince of Wales Spur?
The standard Spur for many Cavalry units today is the silver Prince of Wales Spur. This is a more traditional form of Cavalry spur. Note the short neck and no rowel at the end. While other spurs take a much more fancy and ornamental approach to riding, these spurs are designed for a well-trained horse. A nudge from the spurs and a slight tug of the reins is all it takes!
Silver Prince of Wales Spurs
What are Combat Spurs?
In most units, the gold Spurs are considered “Combat Spurs,” and are awarded for Cavalry service in a combat zone.
Gold Combat Prince of Wales Spurs
Authentic military spurs are usually stamped and can be quite valuable to collectors. Some soldiers stamped their own initials or had their names engraved into the Spurs. If the mark is on the leather strap, near the U.S., then it is an inspector’s mark (usually their initials). If it is on the spur itself, then it would be a contractor’s mark.
Some Possible Historical Spur Stamps:
C.S. - Confederate States (Confederate Government Richmond Depot Issued)
U.S. -United States
N.S. - Nickel Steel
A.B. - Manufacturer August Buermann – August Buermann was born in Sattenhausen, Germany Aug. 04, 1842. He apprenticed as a locksmith in Germany, and he arrived in New York Aug. 1864. A few weeks later he went into the Army as a substitute for someone who came into the locksmithing company where he was working, looking for a volunteer. August Buermann Mfg. Co. began making spurs for both the civilian and military markets. Most all of the civilian Buermann spurs after about 1912 were stamped with a star in the government contract versions. Buermann contract spurs were marked US over AB on the inside yoke base, opposite the shank. Many of the “1911 officer spurs” that are seen today were private purchase Buermann’s. Officially, both enlisted men and officers were issued the same 1911 spur, except the officers were entitled to heel chains instead of leather but a wide variety of spurs and 1911 variations were used. The 1914 experimental spur was the only other official spur authorized besides the M1903, which was in use until after WWl and the M1911 which was issued beginning in 1912 and was in use until the end of the era. The 1914 spur had downward bent yoke ends and two lugs instead of one. Buermann was bought by North & Judd, a huge hardware company, who continued to make some cavalry goods until the dismounting in 1948. Partrade now owns the remnants of North & Judd, and they deal chiefly in imported inexpensive pet horse hardware.
(Webmaster’s note: Thank you to Ms. Muriel Parker for the information on her great grandfather, August Buermann!)
WL - Whithorse Lecompte – Another government contractor who made quite a few bits and spurs for the government
R.I.A. - Rock Island Arsenal
N&J - Manufacturer North & Judd
L&R - Leech & Rigdon – Confederate Spur Manufacturer
Boone - Manufacturer (Actual descendants of Daniel Boone)
MSH - Could possibly stand for Miller Saddlery and Harness – I don’t know if they contracted for the Government in wartime, but if General Motors could make machine guns and Smith Corona could make optics for the Army, seems like any horseman manufacturer could worm in on a contract. Millers stayed in business until after Korea, then became Miller Stockman.
The Order of the Spur Examples
7th U.S. Cavalry
1. The Order of the Spur is to recognize individual qualifications for those in a cavalry unit. The privilege
2. The following minimum guidelines must be met:
3. Qualified on a Squadron Spur Ride. The title belies the nature of this event. A Spur Ride is led by “Spur Qualified” Non-commissioned Officers and is supervised by the Squadron Command Sergeant Major. Officers, generally, conduct their own Spur Ride along similar lines. Traditionally, it starts at the break of day with group PT or a PT test; individuals and their equipment are inspected, and a thorough hazing of candidates begins. During the course of the day, candidates are subjected to different stations that test their initiative, military expertise, and stamina. As night approaches, the candidates are assembled and provided with instructions. From there, the candidates must negotiate a general route from station to station where, again, their skills and tenacity are tested. Their route is designed to take them over a twenty-five mile course in the dead of night. During the course of the night and usually into the morning, candidates negotiate the course and, eventually, arrive at the finish line.
4. In addition to the above minimum requirements, the following are criteria that will be graded on a point system. A total of 300 out of a maximum of 450 will qualify.
Individual Weapons Qualification: Marksman = 50/ Sharpshooter = 100/ Expert =150
Annual Physical Fitness Test: 180-220 = 50/ 220 – 270 = 100/ 270-300 = 150
Cavalry Thesis w/bibliography: Grade C = 50/ Grade B = 100/ Grade A = 150
Army Reserve Cavalry Unit E Troop, 101st Cav
Reference for esteemed brothers of the Order of the Spur and would be maggots. For those that aspire to someday join the ranks of those elevated to a stature in life befitting a Spur Holder, the following applies:
All candidates will be selected, voted on by the Spur Association and invited to attend the annual Spur Ride based on the following criteria:
In addition to the above stated criteria it is required for invitation to the Spur Ride, a qualifying soldier must meet a minimum score of 400 out of 570 points. The points and their maximum totals are listed below.
Also, past unit members that have made a significant impact on the unit may be considered for invitation contingent upon approval of the Spur Association.
Here is an example of required tasks – this also varies from unit to unit
SPUR CANDIDATES WILL BE TESTED ON THE FOLLOWING TASKS DURING CIRCUIT TRAINING:
EVACUATE A CASUALTY
WEAPONS STATION ( M16A2, M240B, M9 )
ISSUE A SALUTE REPORT
PLACE SINCGARS RADIO INTO OPERATION
EMPLOY CLAYMORE MINE
DECONTAMINATE SELF AND EQUIPMENT
EMPLOY CHEMICAL DETECTION
RECITE FIDDLER’S GREEN POEM
SPUR CANDIDATES WILL BE REQUIRED TO COMPLETE ALL TASKS AS A TEAM
Rules of the Mess – (The Spur Ceremony Dinner)
Once the war is over or the Spur Ride is completed, the former candidates are awarded their Spurs in a formal ceremony which honors their intestinal fortitude and valiant efforts. Below is one example of the “Rules of the Mess.”
A. Anything determined by the head table.
B. Improperly worn Spurs.
C. Improperly worn Stetson.
D. Calling the Stetson a “hat”.
E. Out of proper uniform.
F. Smoking prior to the lamp being lit.
G. Moving from seat without permission.
H. Uncharged glass during toasts.
I. Making false charges.
K. Chewing tobacco before the smoking lamp is lit.
L. Improper toasting procedure.
M. Foul language.
N. Harming a Shave Tail.
O. Spilling of drinks or breakage of glass.
P. Inability to respond to being coined.
Q. “Tossing your cookies” in the mess.
*Note: Spur committee members will judge the validity of any infractions and rule on the necessary penalty. Possible penalties include but are not limited to: reciting “Fiddler’s Green”, push-ups, performing, fines (not to exceed $2.00), and eviction from the mess.
Wearing the Cavalry Spurs
Many units have specific requirements regarding the wear of the Spurs. Some are memorandums and some are created as an addition to the Army Regulation 670-1 – Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia.
Here is an example:
Spurs: Spurs will be worn as a matched pair. Only Prince of Wales type spurs will be worn.
a. Low Quarters: The spurs will be affixed to the footgear midway between the upper portion of the sole and the lower part of the heel along the seam of the shoe. The U shaped portion shall enclose the shoe in such a manner as to assure that the rowel of the spurs curves down to the ground*. The strap will be fastened over the instep of the footgear in such a manner that the buckle faces to the outside of the foot.
b. Boots: The spurs will be affixed to the footgear so that the U-shaped portion follows the seam of the ankle support. Ensure that the rowel curves downward to the ground. The strap will be fastened over the instep of the footgear in such a manner that the buckles face the outside of the boot.
c. Occasions for wearing the spurs: Regimental/Squadron formations, parades, reviews and ceremonies, Squadron dining-ins/outs and other social functions conducted in class A or dress uniform. Spur calls,
* In some units, tradition says that spurs worn with the rowels pointing up are to be worn by single soldiers
Another kind of Spur Ride … in Combat
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