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. Traditionally, each Trooper is presented spurs by their sponsor at a ceremonial dining in commonly referred to as the "Spur Dinner". 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. In some units, gold spurs are awarded for combat inductions while silver spurs represent having completed the Spur Ride. 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 U.S. Cavalry units.
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 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.
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 gunnery ranges, soldier task training or other NCO/Officer-level tasks. Some examples of minimum criteria are:
Upon successful completion of the Spur Ride, 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 (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 U.S. Department of the Army classifies the Order of the Spur as an Army tradition, so, like the Rangers' tan beret, 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 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:
While the regulations governing the order of the spur are set by each cavalry commander (and so do not appear in the Army Regulation governing wear and appearance of uniforms and insignia), the practice falls under what the Army officially recognizes as a tradition. The following is from Field Manual 7-21.13 (The Soldier's Guide, dated 15 OCT 2003):