Footwear (Mine, that is — not the horses’)

I’ve always had trouble deciding which boots to wear when I ride.

When I was seven or eight, I believe I wore one pair of cowboy boots (like the one pictured above) every day all summer, even when taking tennis lessons. Needless to say, I had no fashion sense – it was the sixties and I wore tube socks and cut-off jeans with the boots. Also, the hard, slippery soles didn’t do a thing for my game on the court, so it was no surprise to my coach that I gave up tennis.

Strangely, even though I kept riding, I ditched the cowboy boots and took up tennis shoes (to be precise, running shoes as soon as Nike invented them.) Starting in my teens, most of my riding involved training which involved a lot of ground work. I needed to be able to walk and run with horses nearly as much as ride them.

I knew full-well that running shoes should never be used to ride in because they lack a heel and they can become hung up in a western stirrup. At first I solved that problem by only riding in English peacock stirrups, but then I discovered Australian stock saddles have wonderful break-away stirrups, so I bought an Aussie and kept my running shoes. 

My horse friends tease me every time they catch me riding in running shoes. In the words of my friend Greg, who leads a pack string and NEVER dismounts, “THESE boots weren’t made for walking.” 

I tease him that he hasn’t yet learned how to tie shoelaces.

For me, cowboy boots aren’t comfortable in the saddle, because the tops chafe my calves, and in order to prevent that, I need to wear knee-high stockings which make me overheat in the summer. And I’ve yet to see the benefit in wearing cowboy boots when you cross a river and your horse decides to take a swim unless it’s really hot and you enjoy cold, water-logged boots to cool your feet.

Running shoes are definitely not adequate for long hikes over rocky trails. I prefer to get off and walk every now and then on a trail ride, but the first time I hiked downhill for an hour in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, I ended up with blisters on my toes from my running shoes that took several weeks to heal.

I also discovered how nice it is to wear a big, hefty boots with hard toes when training a horse to stand still for trimming and shoeing. Knowing that my toe won’t be smashed if a hoof comes slamming down on my foot gives me confidence to hold that foot up a little bit longer.

And then there’s the problem of winter. Where we live, for about eight months there are two “road conditions”: cold and icy, and absolutely ridiculously muddy. Muck boots suffice for the last condition, but they don’t have heals and I’m still experimenting with switching out regular stirrups for larger winter ones. I have yet to figure out boots for “cold and icy.” My daughter had a pair of insulated Ariat riding boots that I snitched from her, and although they work well in the fall, they’re of no use in the spring with both icy and muddy conditions. 

My search for footwear continues…

 A few days ago, a friend suggested a pair of Ariat Terrain Pro Waterproof boots paired with waterproof gaiters for spring riding. Looks like I’ll have to try out the combination and post a review, huh?