October 2021 - The Tall Boot Dilemma
Written by courtesy of SmartPak
Tuesday, 28 September 2021 03:10
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Which is the Right Riding Boot for Me?

courtesy of SmartPak

Remember when you were a little kid and you had to wear paddock boots and those crazy garter straps, and you dreamed about being old enough to wear elegant, shiny tall boots? Or maybe you were like me, and one of the first pair of riding boots you had were those stiff black vinyl sort-of tall boots that were neither stylish nor comfortable, but you loved them anyway? I see the excitement and trepidation on the faces of riders when they come to shop for tall boots at SmartPak’s retail store in Natick, MA, where I help customers pick from an increasingly large selection of tall boot options. Not sure which tall boot will work best for you? Read on and I will help you decide!


The first questions I ask are about the kind of riding you do and if are you planning to show. These are important, as most riding disciplines have formal rules or traditions around the style and fit of riding attire. I’ve organized the information below by discipline to help you focus on the information most suited for you. “But I don’t have a discipline, or I do all of them!” This is common – I mostly event, but also ride and show dressage and occasionally hunters/equitation. I also trail ride and do some natural horsemanship.

My suggestion is: figure out which discipline you participate in is the strictest about the type of tall boot you can wear, especially if you are horse showing. Most disciplines are pretty flexible – for example, there is no rule stating that you have to wear stiff dressage boots at recognized dressage shows, especially at the lower levels. I showed through 2nd level in field boots and won my share of pretty ribbons. However, it would be very challenging and probably painful to try to jump in stiff dressage boots, so that helped me decide where to spend my limited funds when I was boot shopping in my younger years.


For those of you who are not showing – the world is your oyster! You can pick whichever boots strike your fancy and seem like they will be the most comfortable and supportive of your riding.

Regardless of whether you show or not, I always recommend asking your riding instructor to see if they have any boot preferences, as some trainers feel very strongly about the style and fit of tall boots.

Tall Boot Basics: There are three main types of tall riding boots – Field Boots, Dress Boots, and Dressage Boots. [show picture of all three styles next to each other.] Each type of boot was developed for a specific purpose. Styles within each boot have changed over the years, the biggest change being the introduction of zippers. This allowed for a much closer fit as well as an easier time putting on and taking off tall boots. For those of you who remember struggling to pull your boots on with boot pulls, you can all join me in thanking that genius!

Most tall boots are made of leather, although vinyl is still being used in economy boots, and more technical materials are starting to be seen in all levels of boots. Black is still the most prevalent color, with brown being seen in the hunt field for cub hunting and occasionally in the jumper, dressage, and eventing show rings, or for schooling. I’ve also seen some amazingly beautiful dark blue dressage boots, along with a wide variety of leather textures and colors in custom tall boots. If you can dream it up, they can make it – for a price, of course!

We are seeing more and more cross-over boots, which blend the attributes of the different types of tall boots and can be used in various show disciplines. Because of this, you have a wider selection of options based on the discipline you ride:

Hunters/Equitation

Boot Type: Field Boot, although Dress Boots are becoming more acceptable
Boot Fit: As tall as possible and highly fitted, especially for rated horse shows. Custom-like look preferred, which is much easier to get off-the-shelf than in previous years.
Boot Style: Traditional – black polished leather with minimal adornments or bling. Punched toe caps are acceptable although not currently as popular.

Jumpers

Boot Type: Field Boots or Dress Boots
Boot Fit: As tall as possible and highly fitted, especially for rated horse shows. Custom-like look preferred, which is much easier to get off-the-shelf than in previous years.
Boot Style: Still mainly traditional but more color and flair are showing up, with colored piping or leather and more technical styles and materials.

Eventing

Boot Type: Field Boot, Dress Boot, Dressage Boot (for dressage phase only.) Some riders will change boots depending on the phase, some will wear the same boots for all three phases.
Boot Fit: Based on type, fitted
Boot Style: Still mainly traditional but more color and flair are showing up, with colored piping or leather and more technical styles and materials.

Dressage

Boot Type: Dressage Boot, Dress Boot, Field Boot at the lower levels.
Boot Fit: Tall for an elegant look, fitted to the upper calf, Dressage Boot is straighter through ankle.
Boot Style: Still mainly traditional but more color and flair are showing up, with colored piping or leather and more technical styles and materials.

Specialty Boots

Polo Boots: Used to play polo. Generally brown leather with a zipper in the front and/or buckles on the outside of the boot. Worn with matching knee guards.
Fox Hunting Boots: Used for fox hunting, check with each hunt for specific attire guidelines. For cubbing season, brown field or black dress boots; for formal season, black dress boots, can have tan tops (men) or patient black tops (women).

Winter Boots: There is a wide variety of insulated tall boots are available – these are mainly black, and there are many styles available from traditional black leather with insulation to technical boots in various styles.

Schooling Boots: Used for everyday riding, not generally seen in the show ring. These boots can be of any color and style and may have technical features like a sneaker-style footbed, gripping materal on inside calf of boot, and materials that are light-weight, breathable, flexible, and/or waterproof. Seen more in Europe than the USA.

I recommend that you check the official rule book for any recognized competition you enter to ensure your attire is compliant.