Hunt Seat Riding Boots Decoded

Hunt Seat Riding Boots Decoded

hunt seat riding bootsFor young hunt seat riders embarking on a show career, the show ensemble can be one of the bigger investments. A source of particular confusion, especially for non-horsey parents of passionate young riders, is the issue of what kind of hunt seat riding boots to invest in, and when?

For general riding purposes, the style of footwear you choose is a matter of personal preference. Basic guidelines are, what is safe, and what is comfortable. Look for something with minimal tread, a defined heel block, and enough freedom through the ankle to allow you to drop your weight correctly through the stirrups. In short, if it won’t let your foot slip through or get trapped in the stirrup, and doesn’t hinder your position, it will suit for general schooling or leisure riding.

Once you enter more formal settings like horse shows, however, tradition plays a role in the boot choices that you will need to make. Correct turnout (the rider’s attire plus the horse’s conditioning, preparation, and grooming) forms a portion of the score in every judged riding event.

Paddocks or Talls: What is the Difference?

First of all, I want to quickly run over the types of hunt seat show boots out there. For industry newbies, or for unfamiliar parents of young horsemen, just keeping track of the types can be tricky.

Paddock Boots

Paddock boots
By Ealdgyth [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
Paddock boots are ankle height leather (or synthetic) boots. They can either lace or zip up, and are available in brown or black.

For show ring purposes, paddock boots are worn with jodhpur pants that have elastic loops at the feet (like old-school stirrup pants) and garter straps at the knees to hold the jodhs in place during the ride.

Tall Boots

Tall boots are knee height, available in leather or synthetic material, and also available in brown or black, along with myriad leather types and textures from the traditional to the exotic. For general show ring purposes, plain black leather is ideal. Tall boots can either pull on and off with boot hooks and a boot jack, or can be zippered up the back. Some tall boots have elastic gussets and other features to increase comfort and ease-of-wear. Tall boots also merit some special storage considerations in the form of boot trees to help them keep their shape.

While paddock boots are worn with jodhpurs and garters, tall boots are worn with breeches. High socks made of thin and stretchable material, usually in fun patterns, make the boots easier to put on and take off.

Field Boots or Dress Boots?

Field boots
By Ealdgyth [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons — Example of field boots, appropriate for showing in hunt seat disciplines
Just to add to the confusion, tall boots come in either field or dress varieties. The upside is that it is fairly easy to distinguish the two – field boots have laces at the ankle, and dress boots do not have laces at all. For the vast majority of hunt seat riders’ needs, field boots are the more appropriate choice. Dress boots are more common in the dressage arena, and even in that sphere field boots are appropriate for the most introductory level riders.

Dressage boots Cavallo
By Nordlicht8 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons — Example of dress boots, appropriate for showing in dressage

Which Hunt Seat Riding Boots Should I Choose for the Show Ring?

The simple answer is that younger youth riders show in paddock boots with jodhpurs and garters, and older youth riders and adults show in tall boots.

But then the answer gets less simple… how old is old enough for tall boots?

Guideline #1: Age Alone

Once a rider reaches 13 years old, they are typically moving into a new age division, riding against other older (but still youth) riders, often leaving behind the ponies for larger mounts. With these considerations in mind, a 13 year old rider in paddocks will stick out, and not in a good way, against 16-17-18 year old riders in talls.

Pony club gymkhana
By Cgoodwin [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons

Guideline #2: Height and Build

Taller, leggier, and more “maturely” built kids often present better in tall boots. Often, these kids are already riding horse-sized mounts versus small or medium ponies, and tall boots at age 12 may even be a sensible choice. Just bear in mind the issue of future growth spurts — you don’t want to be replacing tall boots, even synthetic ones, on an annual basis.

As a general rule, 13 years and 5 foot 2 inches are the numbers to balance — under 13 and under 5 foot 2, stick in paddocks. When the rider hits one of those numbers or the other, it’s probably time to go shopping for tall boots.

Photo by roberto gerco on Unsplash

Common Questions about Hunt Seat Riding Boots

“I’m over both 13 years of age and 5 foot 2 inches… do I only get to ride hunt seat in tall boots now?”

For the purposes of showing, yes. Schooling and otherwise, wear whatever footwear floats your boat! I personally love paddock boots and half chaps for casual riding. Really, that’s the way to compare the two options; paddock boots as casual and tall boots as more formal. It can be very appropriate (even traditional outside of the middle-class of western culture – check out Britain’s Prince George’s shorts for example) for a student to wear shorts and sneakers to school and social events. It’s a lot less appropriate in the traditional workplace for an adult to wear such clothes. If I show up to my office in shorts and sneakers, I’m too casual.

“My child definitively should be in tall boots this year, but boots are EXPENSIVE, and I’m not sure if they are done growing yet! What if I invested in half chaps to go over their paddock boots instead until they are finished growing?”

Short answer… no. Unless you are doing extremely small and local shows, half chaps in lieu of tall boots are not appropriate. Even in the extremely local small schooling show it is iffy. Certainly not in any kind of association or rated show.

By Montanabw [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
Tall boots are definitely an expense and an investment – I feel your pain! The best routes to take are to buy used, buy quality synthetic, or both, until you and your child are sure that the last major growth spurt is behind you. Don’t feel the need to dart out and order a pair of custom Venetian leather field boots for a 14 year old. Take advantage of local tack swaps, eBay, Craigslist, and other venues to find folks looking to size up or upgrade, and selling their used boots. There are some great deals out there.

Synthetic boots are an ok compromise, especially at that extreme small and local level, however I do recommend investing in good used leather if you can. Not only are they more appropriate than synthetic, especially in shows of any size at all, but they also have resale value when the time comes to trade up in size or quality.


What has your paddock/tall boots experience been like? When did you make the transition from paddock boots to your first pair of tall boots? What do you prefer to ride in from day to day? Drop us a line, share your story in the comments, and don’t forget that you probably should be riding!!

Are You and Your Horse Ready? 3 Crucial Stages To Preparing for Winter

Are You and Your Horse Ready? 3 Crucial Stages to Preparing for Winter

I know, I know… it’s still August. There is still summer left to enjoy. Thank goodness for that. Preparing for winter is the last thing that I want to think about. You probably agree.

Preparing for winter girl feeding horse

But, before you know it, fall (and winter… grr…) will be upon us again. And now is the time to start preparing for winter. You don’t want to be caught with your pants down, especially if you live in more northerly latitudes! Read on for tips and tricks to make the most of the time you have left to prepare for the changing seasons!

Pre-Season Inventory

Stock and Source Consumables

The most important thing is to ensure that you have adequate fodder stocked or reliably sourced for the winter. If you, like me, live in a latitude where your horse’s primary roughage source will be hay for several months, you need to have enough now to get you as far as next year’s first opportunity to cut more. After September or so, what has been harvested is all that there will be for the year. Hay and similar locally harvested forage will only become more expensive and more scarce from now until early summer next year. Also consider your bedding type and sources. Depending on your material of choice, bedding may also become scarce or higher in price later in the winter months.

Finnhorse stallions lunch time
By Sini Merikallio (Flickr: Finnhorse stallions lunch time) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Equipment Check

Now is the time to get your winter gear out of storage and check everything over.  You want to be sure that you have what you need in good fit and state of repair before you need to use it. Hopefully when you put these things away last spring, you didn’t store anything that needed repaired or replaced, and you used a storage method and location that kept your gear away from pests, molds, and other hazards. However, best laid plans and all of that… There is still plenty of time to arrange for repairs or order replacements before you’ll really need these things if they did not survive off-season storage unscathed. Be sure to inspect your horse’s winter weight blankets and rugs, and also your own winter weather clothing and footwear.

'Cavalli della Madonna' im Marstall des Klosters Einsiedeln 2013-01-26 14-11-05 (P7700)
‘Cavalli della Madonna’ im Marstall des Klosters Einsiedeln 2013-01-26 14-11-05 (P7700) © Roland Fischer, Zürich (Switzerland) – Mail notification to: roland_zh(at)hispeed(dot)ch / Wikimedia Commons

The major seasonal change is also a great time to audit your equine first aid kit to ensure that all supplies are stocked and within date.

Since summer isn’t quite over, autumn can be a great time to stock up on items for next year as long as they are nonperishable. Consider taking advantage of end-of-season sales on fly masks, summer sheets, some fly sprays and traps (check shelf life), etc. If it will keep through the winter, grab it while the prices are good instead of when they are re-released in the spring.

“Winterize” Your Horse

This is a great time to touch base with your vet. You can schedule any fall-specific vaccinations that are recommended for your area, and also a general once-over for your horse. A fecal egg count can be worth the investment to help your vet help you coordinate an appropriate deworming program for the season and your horse’s needs.

Horse in snow
Photo by Erin Dolson on Unsplash

Early fall is the best time to start adjusting your plan for your “special needs” horse for the winter months. Harder keepers get harder to keep without fresh pasture. Easier keepers get rounder by the day with lessened exercise. Hard frozen footing makes your arthritic senior a bit stiffer. Increased confinement can bring on or exacerbate a number of health conditions. Taking steps to support your horse before the seasons change is a vital part of preparing for winter.

Give yourself time to make any needed dietary changes gradually. Consider scheduling a dental exam/float this fall so your horse starts the season getting the most out of his teeth. Consult with your farrier about the best program for your horses feet given your winter needs; will you carry shoes through the winter months? Will you switch to borium, or to studs, to increase traction? Pads to better absorb shock on frozen ground? Or is barefoot a better bet for you?

Bring your Barn into Winter Mode

The Tack Room

Like you did last spring, deep clean and safely store seasonal gear that you won’t need through the colder months. Your storage should protect your equipment from dust and dirt, as well as pests and rodents. If you take a winter showing/riding hiatus, this is the perfect time to break down tack for the most thorough possible cleaning and inspection. Winter can be a good time to send tack out for specialty repairs, like stitch work or reflocking.

Form a gameplan for cleaning bulky fabrics like sheets and blankets. Most household machines won’t handle loads that size, and many laundromats have policies against horse blankets. Now is the time to find a service that will accept your barn laundry, or do a last deep-scrub with the garden hose while it still gets warm enough to dry blankets outside.

If you’re in a climate that freezes, collect your liquids and store them in a warmer location before the temperature in your barn drops too low. Not only does this prevent messy burst containers, but some products lose their effectiveness or consistency after a freeze-thaw cycle. For liquid products that you use regularly throughout the winter, like waterless shampoos or liquid supplements, invest in a tote to carry them conveniently from house to barn and back until they can live safely in the barn again.

Pasture and Buildings

This is the perfect time to give your infrastructure a general once-over and make any basic repairs and improvements to carry you through the winter. Replace or reset wobbly fence posts before the ground freezes. Check your barn for gaps or drafts, and for adequate ventilation. Cobweb removal can be a war of attrition, but take the opportunity of total turnout for one last dust-raising deep clean while you can. This will not only look tidier, but reduce the risk of fire.

Winter horse
Photo by David Preston on Unsplash

Also check your wiring before you plug in electric buckets or trough heaters. While you should enlist a professional electrician to make repairs, your own sharp eye can spot potential hazards ahead of time. If you haven’t already got them, ground-fault-interruption (GFI) outlets are a small price to pay for peace of mind. These are the same outlets installed in bathrooms for safety around water.

Brace Yourself: Winter is Coming

While preparing for winter is a lot less exciting than preparing for spring, a little extra time now is well worth the effort. By following these steps you’ll set yourself and your horses up for a more comfortable winter season. You’ll have less stress, and more time to enjoy what the colder months have to offer: check out this post on Beating the Winter Blues for lots of ideas to not only survive, but thrive in your horsemanship goals this winter!

In the meantime… it is still August… and there’s a lot of summer and fall to go. Like me, you really should be riding.

Going to the Fair: The Ultimate Packing List

Going to the Fair: The Ultimate Packing List

Last week I posted on what to expect as an exhibitor taking your horse to a fair. This week, I’m sharing the ultimate packing list, so you don’t forget a crucial item for your fair week!

going to fair ultimate packing list stables
Photo By Lidingo [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons

For the Barn

  1. Wheelbarrow
  2. Muck Pick
  3. Flat-edged Shovel
  4. Water Bucket and Hook – Check your venue if you don’t know whether there are rules in place about hanging buckets. Some larger and more horse-centric venues have stalls set up with all the hardware you’ll need. At others you’ll need to provide your own. Of those others, there may be rules in place as far as whether the hook can be hard-mounted to the wall, or must be the type that hook over a rail.
  5. Feed pan/bucket
  6. Hay bag/net
  7. Fan – Check your venue to find out what is allowed, if any. Fans can help keep warm summer air moving, but some venues have strict requirements on the types of fans permitted due to insurance requirements and fire hazard risks.

For Your Horse: General

  1. Hay
  2. Feed Rations — I love prepacking these for the week in individual gallon storage bags for each meal. Easier to store, less mess in cramped and possibly shared space than a bin or a bag, and you’ll have exactly what you need rather than toting in more than necessary and toting out what you didn’t need in the first place.
  3. Basic First Aid Kit
    1. Include contact info for your vet, farrier, and other equine health professionals you work with. Most fairs, like horse shows, contract a vet and farrier on call, and if you are far from home these pros will be your best bet for immediate assistance. However, you will have your own team’s contact info at hand if you need it for advice or a second opinion.
  4. Basic Grooming Kit
  5. Fly Spray
  6. Wash Kit — Shampoo and conditioner of choice, plus water scraper
  7. Clippers
  8. Halter and Lead Rope (at least one; I recommend also bringing a spare of each)
  9. Sheets/Coolers/Hoods
    1. Light sheet and lycra hood for keeping clean ahead of show morning
    2. Fly sheet if your horse is sensitive even in the barn
    3. Cooler for between classes
  10. Standing wraps/bandages (if you are familiar with their correct application) — these can assist with the stocking up symptoms that we went over in last week’s post.
  11. Stall “toys,” if they are something your horse finds diverting.
  12. Fun accessories, if there is a parade, costume class, or exhibition “fun show” event during the fair. Glitter hoof polish, non-toxic body paint, colorful ribbons or hair extension clips, etc. are all fun options.

For Your Horse: Schooling Equipment

  1. Saddle
  2. Saddle pad
  3. Girth/cinch
  4. Protective boots/wraps
  5. Lungeline
  6. Lunge Whip/Cue Stick
  7. Dressage Whip/Crop/Jumping Bat (your preference/typical needs)
  8. Any “skilled user” equipment that you may utilize at home: martingale, training fork, draw reins, side reins, etc.
  9. Helmet and gloves (if you use different for schooling than for in the show ring)

For the Show Ring

For Your Horse

  1. Any show-specific grooming tools/products
    1. Coat Shine/Detangler
    2. Color/marking touch-up product
    3. Hoof Polish
    4. Baby oil
    5. Braiding/banding kit
  2. TackCheck your premium book for specific guidelines and legalites, especially regarding bits and “extras” like boots and martingales.
    1. Leather Halter and Lead Shank with Chain (for any in-hand classes)
    2. Bridle
    3. Bit(s)
    4. Reins
    5. Saddle pad
    6. Saddle blanket (if western)
    7. Girth/cinch
    8. Breastplate/breastcollar (if worn)
    9. Flank cinch and connector strap (if fitted for your Western saddle)
    10. Harness and cart (if you drive)

For Yourself

The specifics on what you will need for yourself will obviously depend on your discipline. I’ve broken down lists for the “Big 2” below.

English/Hunt Seat

  1. Jodhpurs/Breeches
  2. Show boots
    1. Tall field or dress boots
    2. Paddock boots and garters for younger kids/pony riders
  3. Ratcatcher shirt
  4. Stock tie and pin, or choker-style collar
  5. Jacket/coat
  6. Boot socks
  7. Hairnet (or bows for young girls on ponies)
  8. Gloves
  9. Helmet
  10. Hard Hat (or other non-protective headgear, if that is your preference or for in-hand classes. Check your premium book for rules on protective headgear for individual classes)
  11. Safety pins or tacks for your number (or a string, if you’re an old-school purist)
  12. Spurs (if you wear them; check your premium book for any rules applied to spur design and usage)

Western/Stock Seat

  1. Jeans/Show Pants
  2. Chaps
  3. Boots
  4. Show Shirt(s)
  5. Jacket(s)/Blazer(s)
  6. Scarf/neckcloth/kerchief
  7. Hairnet
  8. Gloves
  9. Helmet (or western hat if that is your preference or for in-hand classes. Check your premium book for rules on protective headgear for individual classes)
  10. Safety pins or number tacks
  11. Spurs (if you wear them; check your premium book for any rules applied to spur design and usage)


  1. Record Book*
    1. *4-H and Pony Club alumni will be familiar with this concept — this book includes things like identification information, baseline vitals, feeding, conditioning, veterinary and maintenance history, as well as copies of all relevant certificates. This book is effectively your horse on paper, and could be invaluable to you in a crisis.
    2. Make duplicate copies of any veterinary and registry paperwork that you will be submitting to the fair office when you check in.
  2. Power Drill — to mount/repair any hardware. Your need for this may vary depending on your venue. Some fairgrounds are better about maintenance and will see to any repairs you may discover a need for. Others, especially smaller local venues, run on a more volunteer and “if you see it, fix it” basis.
  3. Garden hose — for the community wash rack. I like the collapsible “pocket hose” type for fairs; they travel and store a lot better in close quarters
  4. Extension cord(s)
  5. Folding saddle rack and collapsible bridle hook
  6. Basic Leather Care kit. You probably don’t need an extensive array of cleaning gear, but leather wipes and metal/silver polish for touch up and periodic wipedowns are helpful.
  7. Baby wipes. These are great for everything.
  8. Hand sanitizer
  9. Fair Premium Book, and any division-specific rulebooks necessary
  10. Horse treats. 😉

Did we miss anything? What can you not survive a week with your horse at a fair without? Share your favorite must-have’s in the comments!