It's All About the Shoes (erm, BOOTS!)
There is a special relationship between an equestrian and their boots. It might sound hokey, but c'mon. Let's be honest with each other, shall we? We love our boots. We get attached. And that can sometimes involve a really uncomfortable trip into the local bootery where we beg, plead, and otherwise whine to the clerk that we just KNOW he can fix our boots again even though he told us that the last time was the LAST time.
I have to say that as a trainer, I'm kind of hard on my boots. And that's not just my tall boots either. I spend day in and day out in one pair or another and that means I value comfort as much as style.
When I'm dealing with clients and their search for boots, I tend to keep those same things in mind. Comfort. Value. And yet, I admit I have one pet peeve when it comes to boots. Please. Do not purchase for yourself or your child, black rubber tall boots. Even the Dublin brand Universal Rubber Tall Boots are on my no-no list. And here's why:
What is the purpose of your boot while in the saddle? Seriously. Sometimes it's easy to forget the basics of this one very important tool.
A boot has a heel which prevents the foot from going too far or through the stirrup.
A boot should be made of material (leather) which can allow your ankle to flex into a heels down or at least a heels lower position.
A boot (or appropriate half chap) should protect your inner calf from undue pressure and friction from your stirrup leathers.
Your boot (or half chaps) should allow you to grip your horse's sides without going all rubbery and allowing your leg to slide around inside the boot.
Think about that list for a moment. All of those items relate to comfort. The other thing they relate to is safety. As a trainer, I want my students to be comfortable and safe in their gear. And really, let's be honest with ourselves here. What is the real reason behind purchasing the black rubber tall boots?
It's all about the look. That traditional black tall boot against taupe riding breeches look. The look that you realize (after you've been at this awhile) is achieved by purchasing a pair of three hundred plus dollar (I'm assuming you don't require custom fit here) tall boots and spending months breaking them in slowly so you don't wind up with a blood infection from epic blisters.
Rewind a bit. When purchasing boots, I always recommend my students get a decent pair of paddock boots. And for pity's sake, if you've got an eleven year old, don't spend $75.00 on a paddock boots. Spend $20 because that kid is going to outgrow those before they wear them out. Then spend another $20 on a pair of half chaps.
Ease into the tall boot purchase. By the time you purchase those beautiful lush leather tall boots, you and your budding equestrian will have discovered exactly what you'd like to buy. You'll have quizzed every Pony Club kid and parent you can find. You'll hear advice from dozens of adult amateurs who have probably tried every brand of boot on the market. And, you'll probably be showing on a regular basis.
A few notes about boots and showing. You don't NEED tall boots in order to start your career at the schooling shows. A neat pair of paddock boots (with the dust & mud wiped off) in brown or black with a matching pair of half chaps are perfectly acceptable attire for a schooling show. Now. If you ARE planning to do the schooling shows, I'm going to request that your boots and half chaps not have a bedazzled look to them. No purple sparkles or bright pink fringe. If you want bright pink, let's find a nice cover for your helmet during the cross country phase. You can even sport a saddle pad to match.
Now. That's enough about boots for now. Next month we're going to explore the search for tall boots and/or half chaps to fit the NOT ideal leg. In other words, tall boots and half chaps for the rest of us.