I'll admit it. This past weekend at Goose Downs X-Games I was (only a little) nagging one of my junior riders about cleaning her tall boots before Sunday. I'll also admit that I was too crazy busy to actually notice if she got around to doing that chore. But, the resulting group conversation did bring up some interesting points when it comes to boots.
Boots in the real world are a lot different than boots in advertising. How many times do we see a rail thin Equestrian Barbie looking character posing with her ultra gorgeous, immaculately groomed horse? I don't know about you, but I see this all the time. Sometimes I even pause and think to myself that her boots look super comfy or super (insert adjective here).
We all know that's not what equestrian life is like. At least not for most of us. Our boots are covered in mud and crap. Literally. Most of us HAVE a pair of boots for barn chores and a pair for riding, but who has enough time to change footwear between those activities? Especially when barn chores pretty much encompasses everything about being at the barn that isn't happening in the saddle?
Of course, the same thing applies to our "show" boots and our everyday boots too. There are a good many of us who don't show enough to be comfortable in our "show" boots so we'd rather show in our everyday boots. But the everyday boots are kind of icky because we did chores in them... You get the idea.
Here's where I'm going with this. Choose your boots because you like them. Your show boots don't have to be super fancy. And if you have a pair, make sure you're actually wearing them outside the show ring. Make them your show/lesson boots if you have to. That way you're comfortable in them when the time comes to go play horse show! Whatever you wear in the ring, they just need to be clean. If you'd rather show in your everyday tall boots, then fine. Just CLEAN them beforehand. Maybe traditional tall boots just aren't your thing. If you want to wear a pair of comfy "stable boots" all day long, ride six horses in them, clean stalls, and then dust them off and wear them to work, then DO it. Here are a few ideas when it comes to practical boots for people who ride, work, and slop through God knows what in between:
Tall boots for people with slim calves:
I've heard many equestrians tell me that their calf measurement is so slim they need something that is customizable like a Parlanti or a Der Dau, but there might be another option if you're willing to shop around.
If you're looking for a traditional field or dress boot, you might try Tredstep. You can see a full line of their boots here. They are one of the only companies in this midrange price point (around $300) that offers, slim, xtra slim, and xxslim. According to those I've known who own them, the boots hold up rather well and the footbed is actually comfortable.
Tall boots for people with wide calves:
Now. This is most of us. Ariat makes the Heritage tall boot (field boot) and this was the traditional choice for quite some time for people with that 17 plus inch calf measurement. Not only do the boots have an elastic panel that stretches, but they can be aftermarket stretched by a stubborn equestrian with a little bit of time, a lot of leather conditioner, and a determination to wear those suckers around the house every single day for two weeks half zipped.
In the last few years, the Heritage boot has undergone some changes and the calf measurements are no longer quite so generous. Enter the Ovation Flex Plus. This link will take you to the Dover website, but make sure to shop around. Schneiders and State Line Tack carry these as do a few other retailers and the price can be in the $200 range. The Flex Plus comes in a calf measurement so generous that some of the reviews have suggested people purchase a width smaller than they first think they need. While I haven't known anyone who has had a pair of these long enough to really speak to their durability, the price point means it might be worth a try.
Stable Boots for people with real legs:
Mountain Horse has always been a super popular brand of boot for equestrians who live in their boots 24/7/365, but they don't always have a great selection for those of us with an ultra slim or ultra wide calf measurement. Ariat has a few options for working/riding boots that have laces to allow more room for adjustment, but they tend to be on the pricey side.
If you've never looked at a Dublin boot, I suggest you at least take a peek next time you're boot shopping. I've gotten pretty rave reviews from those of my students who have owned them. The Pinnacle boot in particular is waterproof even though it laces up the outside and allows for plenty of adjustment in either direction. The boots can typically be found in the under $200 range and they can take a beating. I have one student who buys a new pair each year because she wears them every single day for 4-6 hours riding multiple horses and doing a full selection of barn chores. Plus, these boots are attractive enough to give them a brush down before wearing them to the office party after barn hours. The down side is the lack of a spur rest, but a bit of ingenuity might provide a solution if you really needed one.
Whatever your boot choice, I hope what you take away from this post is that the most important thing is to be safe, comfortable, and CLEAN (when you're in the show ring at least). And above all, enjoy your ride!