Taking to the saddle
Highlighting popular styles of boot worn by horse riders.
Image © Oxfordian Kissuth
Footwear made for horse riders comes in a number of styles, with each designed for different riding disciplines. Such boots can be typically placed into two main categories: the tall (or long) boot which ends just below the knee (often called the ‘English’ boot) and the short boot. Features found in the classic tall boot are that it fits high enough to prevent the saddle from pinching the rider’s leg, and a sturdy toe to protect the foot when the rider is standing – particularly if stepped on by the horse.
Most tall boots are made of smooth bovine leather and occasionally pig. However, synthetic leather-like materials are becoming more commonly used.
The sole on the modern riding boot is generally smooth or lightly textured in order to avoid catching on the tread of the stirrup in the event of the rider falling. This footwear also has sufficient depth of heel to prevent the foot from sliding through the stirrup (normally up to one inch high). Today, only certain cowboy boots are fitted with a higher heel.
Toes are typically tapered and rounded and, if not the traditional ‘pull on’ type, fastening is often achieved by means of a zip running down the back of a tall boot’s calf or at the front of a short style.
Tall riding boots
Cowboy boots are generally worn for western riding. Heels vary in height from the one-inch high ‘roper’ style to the considerably higher ‘cowboy’ or ‘riding’ heel. The uppers are also available in various heights – the most classic length reaching the mid-calf to prevent the saddle from chafing the rider’s ankle and calf. Cowboy boots are traditionally made from smooth leather, although they may sometimes be produced from suede. The uppers of more expensive productions may be made of alligator, ostrich, snake or other exotic leathers.
Dress boots are popular tall riding boots which are worn by riders in all disciplines. Traditionally black in colour, most dress boots feature a higher cut on the outside of the rider’s leg than on the inside (called a ‘Spanish Cut’), which extends over the outside of the knee.
Field boots are tall leather styles that feature a short area of front lacing to permit flexibility at the ankle, which is designed to improve comfort when the rider uses a shorter stirrup length for jumping. Often more flexible overall than dress boots, field boots normally have an extra layer of leather added to strengthen the toe cap.
Hunt/top boots are similar to dress boots, except for a ‘cuff’ at the top of the boot. While the boot is usually made from black leather, the cuff is often in a contrasting tan or brown leather.
Short riding boots are more informal designs and are often favoured for young riders and beginners due to their relative low cost. Some short boots feature elastic side gussets.
Jodhpur boots are used most often for pleasure riding and everyday use. Made from leather and finishing just above the ankle, they feature a smooth sole, slightly pointed toe and a low heel. As the soles are usually made from rubber or a composite material, they are unlikely to quickly degrade due to wet weather or be damaged when ‘mucking out’. Jodhpur boots are occasionally combined with gaiters known as ‘half chaps’ for added protection or to give the visual impression of a tall boot.
Paddock boots are generally worn when working in the yard, and some manufacturers advise that they are not used for horse riding. Also known as ‘mucker boots’, these are produced from durable synthetic materials and are designed to offer maximum comfort and protection. Paddock boots generally feature a well-padded sole and a protective toe and, being water-resistant, they can be easily cleaned.
How can we help?
Please contact SATRA’s footwear testing team (firstname.lastname@example.org) for help with the testing of horse riding boots.
This article was originally published on page 36 of the February 2020 issue of SATRA Bulletin.