The Best Boots for Beginner Riders
I have been bitten, kicked, dragged, chased, and bumped into by horses. They have bucked me off when jumping and riding bareback, in shows, in lessons, and on the trail. I can remember each of those instances distinctly. But there is one category of injury that has happened so many times, that the different instances just run together in my mind – getting stepped on. While there are some times that horses seem to aim their hooves for their human handlers’ feet, most of the time they simply can’t help it. It is an important part of horsemanship to learn how to keep your feet safely out of harm’s way.
Why Wear Boots
When I was a riding instructor and trail guide, one man showed up with long, straggly hair on his head and face, soft khaki cargo pants, and no shoes or socks on his feet. As the 17hh gelding stood in a stall behind me, my eyebrows raised into the rim of my baseball cap. “Sir, can I ask where your shoes are?” He looked at me with confusion and mild offense. “I go barefoot. It’s a lifestyle choice.” My jaw dropped, and I uncrossed my arms. “Well, I respect your rights and lifestyle choices, but my horse weights close to 2,000 pounds, and is also goes barefoot. And if his bare foot lands on your bare foot, it can do a whole lot of damage to yours.”
Horses are big animals, often clumsy, and accidents happen easily. Proper footwear is the easiest way to minimize damage from the most common type of horse-related accident.
What to Look For in Boots
If you are just getting started riding, there are a couple of things to shop for. No matter what kind of riding you do, your boots need to have solid, inflexible material over the toes, and be closed over the tops of your feet. They should have stiff material to cover your ankles as well. They should also have a low heel: if you fall, the heel of the boot will stop your foot from sliding through the stirrup, catching your ankle in the stirrup. So long as your boots have those three basic safety features (solid toes and tops, ankle support, and low heel), you can begin to choose a boot based on style and the type of riding you want to do. Do you ride English or Western? Do you just hit the trails? Do you want to show? Will you do a lot of barn chores in your boots, or will you keep them just for riding? How many horses do you ride per day? Keep these questions in mind as you look over these boot options.
The Best of Each Style of Boots
Short English Boots
From the budget friendly, lace-up Horze Kilkenny Paddock Boots to the zip-up Horze Wexford Paddock Boots, paddock boots come in a range of looks, leather finishes, and linings. The benefits of short boots are that they are cooler in the spring and summer, and they can be worn with half-chaps which can be removed between rides.
Tall English Boots
Two of the most trusted brands in English boots is Ovation, which offers field boots and Ariat, which offers zip-up tall dress boots. Field boots are preferred for the jumping disciplines, while dress boots are preferred for dressage. Baker also makes schooling dress boots with plaid accents for everyday riding.
Most riding boot companies now make work boots as well – waterproof, durable, made of leather or strong rubber, and tough enough to protect your feet from barn chores and clumsy hooves.
Again, The Mountain Horse Rimfrost Rider III Boots are fashionable and warm to take you from barn chores to the grocery store.
Similarly, the Ariat Ladies Barnyard Side Zip Boots are good for riding, working around the barn, and going hiking with friends on days away from the barn (in the beginning, while you still have a life away from the barn).
As a working student for my jumping/dressage trainer, I ride in the arena and on the trails five hours per week. I also do clinics and in-hand shows for young horses in Western disciplines during the show season, and a lot of ground work, including hand walking, with my youngster. For riding, I have a pair of synthetic leather field boots that are easy to clean for shows and if they get dirty between rides. For working with my own young horse, I have a pair of paddock-style work boots that are also safe to ride in for spring, summer, and fall (I live in these). Finally, I have insulated tall boots for winter that can be used for riding or barn chores. This setup keeps my legs and feet stable for my barn life, covering all my needs.
For starting out, it is best to get a budget-friendly boot that is comfortable for walking and riding, and is suitable for the kind of riding you want to do. There may not be one perfect set of boots, but if you can find an affordable, quality option that serves multiple purposes, you are doing pretty well.
Which boots of these appeals to you the most?