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  1st Cavalry Division  
Order of the Spur

The tradition of the Order has its roots in knighthood, where the awarding of gilt spurs symbolized entry into 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 considered training for combat) 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). Thereafter, it was the spurs that symbolized that a man was a knight, not his sword, horse, or 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 knights spurs. So much for the mists of time. It is not known when the ceremony for awarding spurs for outstanding performance was started in the US Cavalry.

1st Cavalry Division - "Order of the Spur"

"As one of the Army's two on-call heavy contingency force divisions, the First Team has an on-order mission to deploy to a designated contingency area of operations by sea, air or land, conduct reception, staging, onward movement and integration; and on order, conduct combat operations and redeployment."


The "Order of the Spur" is a Cavalry tradition within the United States Army. Soldiers serving with Cavalry units (referred to as Troopers) are inducted into the Order of the Spur after successfully completing a "Spur Ride" or for having served during combat as a member of a Cavalry unit.

The tradition of having to "earn your spurs" reaches back to the beginning of the 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, 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

The Spur Ride is the only means of joining the Order of the Spur, aside from a wartime induction. The Spur Ride is an event normally held over multiple days during which a Trooper must pass a series of physical and mental tests that evaluate leadership, technical and tactical proficiency, and the ability to operate as part of a team under high levels of stress and fatigue, under both day and night conditions. A written test is often administered, with questions that cover United States Cavalry and unit history. During the Spur Ride, candidates will be required to recite from memory the traditional cavalry poem, Fiddler's Green, or other traditions or historical information pertaining to the Cavalry.

Today the Order of the Spur recognizes individual qualification for those in a Cavalry Unit. The privilege of being awarded spurs in any Cavalry Unit comes with hard work and challenges. The criteria for participation in the Spur Ride are set by each Cavalry unit, usually at the Squadron level. Many units require demonstrated leadership ability through planning and conducting unit-level training events such as established standards of performance on gunnery ranges, soldier task training or other NCO/Officer-level tasks. Some examples of minimum criteria are:

  • Service in the Squadron or Regiment for at least 180 days.
  • Service in at least three Field Exercises.
  • A score of at least 240 in the last Army Physical Fitness Test.
  • Meet or exceed the weight standards according to AR 600-9.
  • Qualify to "Expert" or "Sharpshooter" on personal weapon.
  • Possess the spirit, determination, cunning and initiative in the finest traditions of the United States Cavalry.

Once documented as having achieved the above performance objectives, the candidate is designated to participate in the Spur Ride Exercise. This exercise requires the completion of:

  • Land Navigation Problem.
  • Leadership Reaction Situation.
  • First Aid Administration.
  • Weapons Deployment and Use.
  • Signal and Communication Procedures.
  • Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Situation.


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Order Of The Spur
Upon successful accomplishment of the requirements, the Senior Officer awards an "Order Of The Spur" Certificate signed by the Troop and Squadron Commander along with a set of Spurs to be proudly worn by the Trooper throughout his/her Cavalry Career.

There are two types of spurs that are characterized by their appearance. Those having a silver finish indicates that the soldier went through a rite of passage, established by their unit commanders. Those having a gold finish indicates that the person wearing them has deployed and has experienced combat with a cavalry unit.

Within the tradition, silver spurs and gold spurs hold a similar relationship for the cavalry as the Expert Infantryman Badge and the Combat Infantryman Badge hold in the Infantry. There is no Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) requirement for the Order of the Spur and the order is open to members of foreign militaries serving with US Cavalry units.

New spur holders are welcomed with a formal induction ceremony. The ceremony is a dining in, called the Spur Dinner, that often includes other military traditions such as honoring lost comrades, a ceremonial punch[1] (called a grog), and a roll call of the successful candidates. Some units also hold a "hero's breakfast" immediately following the end of the Spur Ride. During the breakfast, the unit commander presents a toast welcoming the successful candidates to the brotherhood prior to the formal induction ceremony.

The Presentation Of A Coveted Award

Traditionally, the spurs are to be worn with the military uniform during Squadron or Regimental ceremonies and events or as designated by the Cavalry unit commander.


The US Department of the Army classifies the Order of the Spur as an Army tradition, so regulations for induction into the Order of the Spur and the wear of cavalry accoutrements are set by each cavalry unit commander. Lacking any Army-wide regulations, some standards may differ from unit to unit, but the tradition remains the same. What follows is one example of a Cavalry Squadron's policy on the wear of Stetsons and Spurs:

  • Spurs: Spurs will be worn as a matched pair. The type of spurs allowed are set by each unit but most often they are Prince of Wales style spurs.
    • 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.
    • Boots: The spurs will be affixed to the footgear so that the "U" shaped portion follows the seam of the ankle support. The strap will be fastened over the instep of the footgear in such a manner that the buckles face the outside of the boot.
    • Single Soldiers will wear the rowels of their spurs pointing up, while married Soldiers will do so with their rowels pointing down.
  • Occasions for Wear: Spurs and Stetsons will be worn at all cavalry functions, otherwise, they will not be worn outside of the cavalry footprint. Spurs may be authorized by the local command, but are not authorized for wear at Army functions not specifically dedicated to cavalry. Wear with civilian attire may be restricted by a local commander, but otherwise the spurs may be mixed with civilian attire when rank has been removed.

As you journey through the history of the 1st Cavalry Division and its assigned elements, you may find it interesting enough to send a message to your friends and extend them an invitation for the opportunity to review the rich history of the Division. We have made it easy for you to do. All that is required is for you to click on the Push Button below, fill in their eMail addresses and send.

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Copyright © 1996, Cavalry Outpost Publications ® and Trooper Wm. H. Boudreau, "F" Troop, 8th Cavalry Regiment (1946 - 1947). All rights to this body of work are reserved and are not in the public domain, or as noted in the bibliography. Reproduction, or transfer by electronic means, of the History of the 1st Cavalry Division, the subordinate units or any internal element, is not permitted without prior authorization. Readers are encouraged to link to any of the pages of this Web site, provided that proper acknowledgment attributing to the source of the data is made. The information or content of the material contained herein is subject to change without notice.

Revised 12 Jan '13 SpellChecked