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 (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], 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.

HalfChaps2
By Montanabw [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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.

Conclusion

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!!

Keeping a Stable Record Book

Keeping a Stable Record Book

For alumni of 4-H or Pony Club, maintaining a horse record book is something that you’ll remember doing as a kid or a teen. The clubs provide the books and the guidance, and the rider adds and updates the data. For those “uninitiated” to the practice, a stable record book provides documentation of a horse, his care, and expenses over time. It can be a daunting task, but is well worth the effort.

Keeping a stable record book

Why Bother?

Maintaining a stable record book might just seem like one more thing to keep track of in an already busy world… why bother adding another update to your daily routine?

  1. Emergency Preparedness: These kinds of records are invaluable in case of emergency. In a missing horse situation, you have the ideal photos to identify your animal, provide to authorities, or share on social media. If your horse falls ill, you have baseline vitals for comparison, healthcare history, and daily care notes to help your vet reach a quick and accurate diagnosis.
  2. Better, More Efficient Care: No more wracking your brain to remember what dewormer you used last. You won’t have to guesstimate that it’s about time to schedule your farrier. You can predict when you will need to buy feed and bedding next. All of the information that you need to keep your horse and run your barn is organized and contained in one place.
  3. Financial Planning and Budgeting: By tracking your horse-related expenses, you know exactly what you spend on this aspect of your life. You will be able to make wiser purchasing decisions for not only the “wants” like those new polo wraps, but also “needs” like feed, bedding, and farrier work.
  4.  Goalsetting: By tracking and recording your horse’s exercise, baseline vitals, show calendar, etc. all in one place, you can create useful and attainable goals for your horsemanship skills and your horse’s fitness and athletic ability.

As you can see, the question is less like “why bother,” and more like “why am I not doing this?”

What is in the record book?

A complete record book includes several sections. Ideally, the record book allows any person reasonably versed in basic horse care to take up the maintenance of the horse if needed. It can also be an invaluable resource for tracking your horse’s care and condition over time. You will have his detailed history at-hand and in one organized location in the event of an emergency.

Stable Record Book Girl Caring For Horse
Photo by Vadim Fomenok on Unsplash

Basics

Basic general information include the names, addresses, and contact details of the humans in the horse’s life. At bare minimum, that includes rider, owner, farm owner/manager, vet, farrier, and likely an instructor or trainer. At a more expansive level, it may include an equine dentist, chiropractor, massage therapist, and horse/farm insurance information. This information should be at the front of the record book, easy to find in case of emergency.

Identification and Horse Details

This allows quick and accurate identification of the horse being recorded, and serves a couple of purposes. First, it is good practice to be familiar with the ways that a horse is described; colors, markings, patterns, breeds, etc. Secondly, in a situation where there are multiple horses on one property, it allows a horse to be identified from the herd.

Animal’s Sex, Color, Pattern, and Markings

This is the most basic way to identify a given horse.

Age, Height, and Weight

This provides a bit more detail, but these facts can be changeable and should be updated routinely. Even adult horses can measure different heights with improved or diminished condition. Copies of any height certificates should be included.

girl and horse
Photo by Kenny Webster on Unsplash

Color Photos

Color photos of your horse are indispensable, and should be updated regularly. The photos should be “conformation shots” that represent your horse clearly and accurately, standing square from all angles, and also show any particular distinguishing features such as scars or distinctive markings. Photos should be updated annually at minimum. If your horse changes color dramatically with the seasons, it is wise to include both summer and winter examples.

Breed and Bloodline

It is also wise to include a copy of any breed registry certifications in this section. If the animal is a grade, it is worth noting as such, perhaps adding a type descriptor (i.e., grade sport horse, grade stock horse, grade pony, etc.). If the horse is unregistered but the breeding is known, include what specifics you are able.

Other Associations and Affiliations

Copies of certification or registration with other associations that your horse is enrolled with are worth including as well.

Baseline Information

Baseline information is documentation of what is normal from day-to-day. This is the section of the record book that is the most useful for someone unfamiliar with your particular horse. It holds all of the information that will allow an “outsider” to take up the horse’s daily care without confusion.

Feed Schedule

Horses eating from bucket
Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

This should show the times of feedings, weights of feeds provided (roughage and concentrates, if applicable), and any supplements provided at those times. It is also worth documenting changes to that feed schedule and “menu,” as well as the reasons for making those changes. I include a feed bag tag or label in this area for each product in my horse’s ration. If you have had a hay or pasture analysis done, include the results here, too.

Routine Care Documentation

This area is for tracking vaccinations, deworming, farrier work, dentistry, etc. Don’t fear detail in your entries — include type of dewormer and dosage, size and type of shoes, vaccine injected and dosage. Also track the costs of this care. This is also a great place to record baseline vital signs; pulse, temperature, and respiration. Another item to include here is any specific medical condition your horse may have, and the general support plan for that condition. These would be something like arthritis, heaves, Cushing’s disease, etc.

Farrier filing hoof
Photo by Jonathan Bean on Unsplash

Emergency Care Documentation

This area is for less routine care. It might include serious injuries or illnesses that require emergency attention from vet or farrier. It might also include less serious first-aid situations that you are able to treat yourself.

Note: It is a good idea to be able to handle basic “first aid” for your horse yourself. Some things just don’t merit a farm call. HOWEVER, I am NOT advocating becoming your own vet, here. Knowing when to bring in a professional is imperative, and it is always better to be safe than sorry!! When in doubt, call your vet!!

You will be much better able to help your vet help your horse if you have immediate access to information such as baseline vitals (in comparison to worrisome readings), medication history including dates and dosages, and feed information. All of these things can assist your vet in coming to an accurate diagnosis and prescribing the best treatment.

Be sure to note the date of emergency care, the nature and symptoms of the illness or injury, care provided, and costs of materials and medication if applicable. This information may be useful to have later.

Conditioning Plan/Event Schedule

Pinto horse and rider
Photo by Sarah Bedu on Unsplash

If you are asking any type of athleticism of your horse, you should have some sort of conditioning plan. This is where you document your horse’s current condition and the activities that you pursue to improve it. For example, you might note that you are working on flatwork, with a focus on circles and introducing basic lateral work, the number of minutes per session, and the number of sessions per week. This area should also document changes in condition, based on body condition score and changes in vital signs at rest and at work. The key to improvement in any field is to record progress so that you can see it.

You can also add planned events to this area; lessons, clinics, shows, organized trail rides, etc. Note the dates, details, participation costs/entry fees, and outcomes.

Expenses

This is the “painful” part, and pretty self explanatory. I break my expenses up into “feed/board” and “tack and equipment.” Feed and Board includes routine purchases that are usually pretty stable from month to month. Grain and hay, supplements, bedding, and fly control are on this list. Tack and Equipment are less routine purchases, and I also include things that I purchase for myself like riding clothing and helmets in that section.

Income

If you are lucky enough to earn any income at all from your equestrian pursuits, congratulations!! Maybe you earn some money offering your horse as a lesson mount, or as a lease. Any competition winnings, scholarship money awarded, etc. can go in this area.

Other Considerations

Multiple Horses?

I personally keep records for two horses in one record book binder. Sections that typically apply to both horses (feed and board expenses, tack and equipment expenses) I separate under a “General” tab, and each horse has his own tab for his specific information for easy reference. This system can easily expand to accommodate as many animals as necessary.

Formatting: Analog or Digital?

Ah, the eternal question… should you keep your record book in an “old fashioned” book or binder? Or as an electronic file, using an app or creating a spreadsheet?

Digital takes up less space, is easy to edit, and may include the option to keep your records on your phone for near-constant accessibility. However, template options are less plentiful; you will likely need to design your own system. Depending on your level of tech-savvy, designing your system and layout yourself might be a bonus.

Analog may be bulkier, but offers consistent accessibility. You’ll never have to worry about dead batteries, and you’ll still have all of the information even if the power is out or you don’t have WiFi. There are also a number of published planners and diaries as well as Google-available documents that you can print and use as a template, including 4-H Record Books and Pony Club books.

How Long?

Another consideration is how long to keep your record book. I personally keep a “live” book for each calendar year, starting a fresh one in January. I pull the previous year’s pages out of the binder and “archive” them in the file cabinet with my other horse-related documents. There are merits to starting at different points in the year; a spring kickoff for the new riding season, or wrapping a year in the fall at the end of the busy season both make sense. That really is up to the individual and what works.

Storage?

Where to keep your record book? The barn is often the easiest location to keep the book for in-the-moment updates… however, unless you are blessed with a barn office/lounge or a climate controlled tack room, the barn is usually where paper goes to die.

I keep my record book in my house at my personal desk. Less immediately convenient sometimes, but I avoid losing info by getting it wet or dirty.

Conclusion

Formal recordkeeping is a habit that I picked up early through 4-H, and is also promoted through USPC and other organizations. There are a number of benefits to keeping detailed records of our animals. We then have a detailed health and maintenance history for reference. We can spot trends and more accurately provide the care we need, when we need to. Tracking expenses allows us to more wisely budget for our equestrian needs. In case of emergency, we have everything we need to help our professional support team help our horse. With all of these benefits, why would you not want to keep a record book for your horse?

Do you keep a stable record book? Did you pick up the practice through a program like 4-H or USPC? Is it something that you started doing on your own? How has your record book helped you make your horse’s life better? Is a record book something that you don’t use now, but want to start? How do you think it will benefit you and your horsekeeping? Share your thoughts in the comments, or drop an email!

Thanks for reading, and, as always, I 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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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.