Horseback riding as a skill and a form of exercise and recreation has a great deal of history. Most people learn skills such as horseback riding easier when they are young, and learning to ride can also be a great way for children to build character. But part of getting a child on a horse is getting the right gear for the child.
Not only are certain types of clothing and footwear required for competition, but a rider's shoes must meet certain safety requirements as well. Especially for parents who do not have experience with riding, a basic introduction to riding boots can help with figuring out what their boys need and how to prioritise gear purchases. Riding boots for children are similar for boys and girls, except for minor stylistic differences. For the most part, a boy should wear the boots he likes, as long as they fit well and meet the safety requirements for horseback riding.
Types of Riding Boots
There are several different types of riding, and therefore there are several different types of boys' riding boots.. For the most part, boot type is not a matter of choice but instead depends on the type of riding and, to some extent, the age of the rider. All good riding boots have certain things in common, regardless of boot type, but a boy learning to ride does need the right boots for the specific discipline he has entered. True riding boots, of any style, are different from fashion boots designed to look like riding boots. Fashion boots look like riding boots, but they do not provide the protection or durability that a rider needs.
Western Boots vs. English Boots
Western style riding developed in the United States during the cattle drives in the late 1800s. Western saddles are designed to meet cowboys' needs for comfort and practicality while herding cattle. Western boots are designed specifically to work with the riding style that the Western saddle dictates. Western boots also provide more protection for the lower leg from rough brush and poisonous snakebites.
It is possible to buy ankle-length Western riding boots, but calf and knee length are traditional. Western style riding is not as popular in the UK as it is in the U.S., but it does have its enthusiasts. A boy learning Western style riding should wear Western boots, not only because they are required at Western style events, but because Western boots are comfortable enough for both riding and barn chores. English saddles,, in contrast, are designed for comfort and ease of movement on the part of the horse. English style riding also requires more human skill than Western does. Just as Western boots are required for Western show events, English-style boots are required for other types of riding.
Paddock boots are ankle boots normally worn for barn chores or for casual riding. People often wear them for pleasure rides with knee-high gaiters or half chaps to protect the leg, but long boots are required for shows for adults and adolescents. Children younger than 12 wear paddock boots in shows and wear garters to keep their breeches from wrinkling up uncomfortably.
Field boots are knee boots that tighten with laces across the foot but the laces do not close the boot. Instead, field boots must either be pulled on or closed with a zipper up the back. Boots without the zipper have loops inside them. To pull on the boots, which should fit fairly tightly, the rider should grab the loops with boot hooks and pull. Field boots are worn for hunting, jumping, and basic horsemanship. Some riders prefer them over paddock boots for their added protection and support, but they can get uncomfortably hot.
Dress boots are very similar to field boots except they lack the tightening laces. Like field boots, they either zip up or pull on with the help of boot hooks. They are required in shows for anyone more than about 12 years of age.
Other Riding Boots
Particular sub-disciplines and event types sometimes have their own types of footwear, plus there are less riding boots designed for greater comfort. These are popular among those who enjoy combined riding and running events. Even with all of this variety, it is not strictly necessary to wear riding boots except at formal events whose organisers require them. What is necessary is to wear footwear that is adequate for the rider's safety and any boot that does that works as a riding boot. Yet the boots designed for riding are usually best and children should use them whenever possible.
What to Look for in Boys' Riding Boots
A good pair of riding boots is expensive, but it is worth the price for its improved comfort and durability. A good general rule is to buy high quality boots, if one can afford. Children are an exception to this rule, however. A boy does not need boots that will last five years if he is going to outgrow them in one year. However, wearing uncomfortable boots could discourage a boy from riding and children especially need safe footwear. Part of a parent's job is to learn how to prioritise the most important aspects of boot quality without spending money where it is not needed.
Boys' Riding Boots Safety and Design
All riding boots, whether Western or English, have certain features in common. The tread is adequate but thinner than in boots made for walking and the toe is somewhat narrowed to prevent the boot from catching in the stirrup and trapping the foot. There is a raised heel at least an inch high in order to prevent the foot from sliding forward in the stirrup and again trapping the foot. The boot is always fairly tall to protect the foot from brush and other hazards, with the exception of paddock boots, which are normally worn with protective half chaps. The job of a riding boot is to protect the foot against being stepped on, to prevent the foot from sliding out of the stirrup by accident, and to allow the foot to slide easily out of the stirrup when needed.
Boys' Riding Boots Construction Materials
Both paddock boots and tall boots are available in leather, rubber, and synthetic materials that resemble leather. There are also combination leather and synthetic boots. Some boots also come in insulated versions that are very helpful in cold weather. Rubber boots are very hot and uncomfortable except in cold, wet weather. Leather is not only the traditional option, but also durable and, in most circumstances, comfortable.
Modern synthetic options look very much like leather and in some cases are more breathable, but leather still offers much higher quality overall. There are two reasons to choose synthetic instead of leather: either the buyer objects to using leather on principle or the buyer wants something more affordable. Well-designed synthetic boots have the same safety advantages as their leather counterparts but at a much lower price. The only disadvantage is the shorter lifespan of the boot, but for growing boys, synthetic boots are the better bet, especially since there is no guarantee that the boy will stay with riding long enough to really take advantage of quality boots.
Deciding When and Whether to Shift to Tall Boots
Children do not need tall field or show boots because by tradition everyone younger than 12 or so uses paddock boots. Boys who do show shift to tall boots at the same time they shift to long stirrups. Even older boys might only need paddock boots to start out with because beginning riders needs at least several years before becoming ready to enter a recognised show; schooling shows for beginners and more casual riders typically permit paddock boots worn with half chaps for riders of any age. And of course, not all boys who take riding lessons go on to enter recognised shows at all. Some lose interest and others become lifelong pleasure riders without any interest in showing. Some people never wear tall boots at all, even as adults. A boy who is older than 12 and preparing to enter a recognised show needs a good pair of synthetic dress boots. An adolescent who shows sustained interest in riding should be offered a pair of tall boots so he can decide whether he likes them.
How to Buy Boys' Riding Boots on eBay
Buying through eBay offers great deals and often a wide selection. The purchasing process is also simple and straightforward. Begin by typing 'boys' riding boots&' into the search box. Bear in mind that the search results may also include motorcycle boots, and even wellies, none of which are safe for horseback riding. Most of these can be filtered out using the menu options, but some may get by. Another approach is to research boots independently and decide on a particular brand and style. Then you can use look for specific keywords or look for boys' riding boots and refine the results using the categories provided. The main difficulty with buying boots online is that the recipient cannot try them on. Because sizes vary slightly from one manufacturer to another, it is a good idea to look for a money back guarantee. Each seller's return policy is listed on his or her profile page along with a feedback score and a contact link for any questions.
Horseback riding can be a great sport and hobby for boys, one that can grow as they grow and follow them into manhood. But to ride a horse, a boy needs the right boots. The wrong boots could catch in the stirrups and cause an accident or simply be so uncomfortable that the boy decides not to get into riding after all. And of course proper footwear is required for organised equestrian events.
Parents do not have to get high quality boots for growing boys, a proposition that could quickly get expensive as the boy grows out of one set of boots after another. Riding boots have to fit properly, so there is no buying a size or two up to grow into. Instead, a decent pair of synthetic paddock boots that are comfortable and safe can be a good choice, at least to begin with. Later, a boy may want a pair of dress boots in order to compete in shows with adults or a nice pair of leather field boots if he stays involved with riding and finds tall boots comfortable.