One of the first things you’ll need before you start riding horses is a good pair of riding boots. There are several different options for boots depending on your specific needs and whether you’re doing mostly schooling and pleasure riding or competing. Which horseback riding boots to buy is a big decision, as you want to make sure you’re comfortable and have the pair you need.
In this piece, we’ll review the different types of equestrian boots, what to look for in a quality boot, and how to fit them, and we’ll share some great beginner boots that we offer at the Farm House.
But, before we get any further, why should you take my advice? Over my 17 years at The Farm House I've helped fit hundreds of new equestrians with their first pair of riding boots. Whether you're a parent that's new to the sport and looking for beginner riding boots for your child, or an adult getting ready for that first lesson, read on. We've got you covered.
Types of Boots for Horseback Riding
There are two primary types of riding boots: tall boots and short boots. Let’s dig into these different types and the variations offered.
Paddock boots, also called jodhpur boots or short boots, are typically used for casual riding or by children. They typically zip up the front, but sometimes zip up the back or side. Paddock boots are easier to fit and care for than tall boots. When worn for riding, they are typically worn with half chaps to prevent blisters. You may also hear the term “barn boots,” which are usually short boots that are used for work in the barn.
Tall boots are the traditional equestrian boots that extend up the leg to just under the knee. They come in two kinds: dress boots and field boots. Dress boots are the more formal boots used by Fox hunters and dressage riders. They have Spanish tops that extend up the outside of a rider’s leg. Field boots have a laced closure at the front of the ankle, providing more room for the foot and greater flexibility. They are typically used by eventers and jumpers. Both dress boots and field boots may have a full-length zipper in the back, making them easier to pull on and off. During competitions, tall boots are generally required.
Beginner English riders always start off with paddock boots and graduate to tall boots as they progress in skill and desire to compete. Generally, beginner riders are fitted for paddock boots and half chaps as the investment is much less than a pair of tall boots. Riders that don’t plan to compete but are learning with the plan of being a casual rider are often happy sticking with paddock boots. However, at some point in a rider's life, the choice of paddock boot or tall boot becomes a personal preference.
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Safety Features of Horse Riding Boots
When horseback riding, it’s important to wear boots that are specifically designed for equestrians. In fact, you might be surprised by the safety features these boots offer.
As mentioned above, the first features are found on the soles of the boots. Horse riding boots have a low heel to prevent the rider’s foot from passing all the way through the stirrup and a smooth sole to ensure the rider doesn’t get their foot caught in the stirrup if they fall. Both are particularly essential features for new riders, but they’re important for experienced riders as well.
Additionally, horse riding boots have a sturdy toe box to protect the rider’s foot, and they usually rise high enough up the leg to keep the saddle from pinching. Boots do quite a lot to keep riders safe and comfortable!
How to Choose a Pair of Equestrian Boots
Horse riding boots can be a significant investment, so new riders should choose very carefully. Because tall boots are generally more expensive than paddock boots, many new riders start off with paddock boots and half chaps. Once you start competing, you’ll need a pair of tall boots, but you don’t need them right away.
If you’re a parent of a first-time rider, a great place to start is by answering how many lessons per week your child will be taking. If your answer is once, then you could consider getting a fairly inexpensive pair of paddock boots. This way, if your child decides they don’t love riding, or if they’re outgrowing them quickly in comparison to use, you’re not out a lot of money.
On the flip side, budget-friendly paddock boots are not made to withstand everyday riding and barn wear. They’ll fall apart quickly if subject to that level of use. So if you’re child has more than one lesson per week, or a mix of lessons and practice rides weekly, consider investing in something like the Ariat Scout paddock boot, they’re sturdy and meant to hold up to the demands of daily wear, plus, with Ariat “wiggle room”, you’ll an extra size out of the boot.
Good riding boots should be durable, have the safety features mentioned above, and they should be comfortable and fit you well. Consider the environment you’ll be riding in to determine if you need waterproof, water-resistant, insulated, or breathable boots. And when it comes to tall boots, make sure you select a boot based on your English riding discipline.
How to Measure Feet for Horse-Riding Boots
Measuring feet for short boots is easy. Simply take the size of your casual shoes as a starting point, then go from there to find the boots that fit you the best.
Measuring for tall boots requires two additional measurements. First, measure your calf in a seated position with your leg bent and your breeches and socks on. Take a soft tape and measure the widest part of your calf. It might be helpful to ask someone for assistance. Then, measure from your heel to the bend in the back of your knee. You’ll need your usual shoe size plus these two measurements to determine your tall boot size.
5 Best Horse Riding Boots for Beginners
When you’re starting out riding, short boots offer the best value, with all the important features at a more affordable cost. Here are some top picks to get you started.
1. Ariat Women's Devon Nitro Paddock Boot ($239.95)
These boots are a hit with people who are on their feet much of the day, as they are extremely comfortable and have a super-soft padded collar. They’re made of premium full-grain leather with a waterproof finish. These performance boots incorporate the latest technology for maximum shock absorption, flexibility, stability, and comfort. They are available in black or waxed chocolate.
These boots are also available in men’s sizes.
2. Tredstep Donatello Front Zip Paddock Boots ($139.95)
These boots are an incredible value for their price. Not only is the leather quality amazing, but they are as comfortable as they are supportive. The boots include a revolutionary cushioned rubber sole with a CoolMax-lined cushioned footbed, ensuring advanced stirrup grip with ankle flexibility, while reducing foot fatigue. They are available in black or brown.
They are also available in a front lace paddock boot.
3. Ariat Women's Ascent Paddock Boot ($169.95)
If you’re looking for paddock boots that can be used for riding and are sturdy enough to hold up to working in a barn, then Ariat has you covered! These boots are the perfect cross of riding and barn boots, and we know you’ll love their practical double-duty capability. They’re stylishly made with flexible, lightweight construction and shock-absorbing cushions for safety, stability, style, and comfort. They are available in black.
The Ariat Ascent Paddock boots are also available in men’s sizes.
4. Ariat Kid's Scout Zip Paddock Boot ($89.95)
We love these classic and stylish kids’ boots made of full-grain leather. They’re thoughtfully constructed with moisture-wicking lining and Duratread outsoles that will hold up for years to come. The boots have a zipper close, making them easy to put on and take off for kids of any age. They are available in black.
TuffRider offers another great option for children’s boots. We love that these are water-resistant and easy to clean, and that they’ll hold up for the barn or for shows. These stylish synthetic leather boots have a punched toe cap for a classic show ring look, great for all English riding disciplines at a super affordable price. They are available in black and mocha.
Start Off on the Right Foot
When you’re starting out riding horses, finding a comfortable and durable horseback riding boot is essential. But you don’t have to break the bank on your very first pair. Use this guide to decide on a great pair of paddock boots and get riding! You can always grab a pair of half chaps for the feel of tall boots until you’re ready to make that purchase.
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