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How A New Pair of English Riding Boots Improved My Riding

By Christine Churchill, Five Star Ranch Staff Writer

I still jump horses. I probably shouldn't at my age, but I crave the thrill and adrenalin rush of taking a handsome hunter over a jump course.

These days my personal horse herd is made up of quiet trail horses with super-sized hay bellies. Fortunately, I have friends who are still active on the hunter circuit and let me borrow their horses for an occasional round or two to get my "fix."

I recently discovered something that made a huge difference in my jumping. I wish I'd learned about this years ago when I was still competing. Its something subtle, but it's a foundational thing - a change in riding boots.

All my life I've had smooth soled English riding boots. The wisdom was that if you fell off your hourse, your foot would come out of the stirrup easier if the sole was smooth so you wouldn't get dragged. Smooth soled boots were therefore suppose to be safer.

I guess growing up I never thought much about the soles of my boots. My riding instructor was old school and we were required to spend 7 minutes a day riding without stirrups. I suppose looking back it made me a better rider but I never was comfortable jumping without my stirrups even though we were required to do that sometimes in lessons. Our instructor felt jumping without stirrups prepared us in case we lost a stirrup riding a course in a show. It was a good confidence builder, but I never liked it.

When I got my hunt colors at 14 everyone in the hunt field had smooth soled boots. When I competed in shows everyone wore smooth soled boots. I had several pairs of custom made riding boots from the big name boot companies - all were smooth soled. That was the only option and everyone had smooth soles.

High Tech Riding Boots

A year or so ago I saw an ad for grippy soled riding boots. I had never seen or heard of them but since I was in the market for a new pair of boots I thought I'd give them a try. Wow - what an amazing difference. The first time I wore them over a jump course I was totally surprised by how much more secure my lower leg felt- and I have fairly stable lower legs to start with. I couldn't believe the difference.

I'm not trying to sell a specific brand, just the tip that if you're jumping, you might check out these grippy soled boots. There are a number of brands out on the market - I've only tested one brand, the Ariat, but I can tell you, I'll never go back to the smooth soled boots for jumping. I'm totally sold on the concept.

If you think about it it makes sense. If you're secure at the foundation, you'll be more secure all over. I never realized how much my foot slipped until I went to the grippy soled boots. To be safe, if you do go with them, make sure your stirrup safety latch is down so the stirrup leathers will come off the saddle if you do fall and your foot gets stuck - that's good advice whether you use the grippy soles or not. Also, you might consider riding with safety stirrups.

Happy jumping.


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