Cavalry Spur Tradition
The Cavalry spur tradition has its roots in knighthood, where the awarding of gilt spurs symbolized entry into the ranks and fraternity of mounted warriors. Usually, the individual aspiring to knighthood had to perform some task or deed on the battlefield or tournament field, which is the same as modern day training, to "win their spurs." The spurs themselves were buckled on during the investiture to knighthood, usually during Mass or some other religious ceremony; knighthood, itself, was considered sacramental, if not a sacrament itself. From then on, it was the spurs that symbolized that a man was a knight, not his sword, horse, or armor. It did not matter how financially destitute a poor knight was, he would part with everything else before his spurs. The primary act of removing someone from the knightly class was to have another knight cut off the offending knights spurs. It is not known exactly when the tradition of awarding spurs was started in the U.S. Cavalry.
The tradition of having to "earn your spurs" reaches back to the beginning of the cavalry. When new Troopers, a trooper is the name for a cavalryman, 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, spur-less Soldiers. These new Troopers 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
The spur ride varies from unit to unit. However, there is one underlying theme that never changes: it must involve an event that challenges scouts mentally and physically. By...