The 3 Most Important Purchases You’ll Ever Make
If you ask me what the most essential items are when it comes to riding gear and equipment, I’ll tell you they are your 1) helmet 2) saddle and 3) tall boots. While things like bridles, show coats, and breeches are still important to have fit well and of good quality, today there are many options available between various price points, evolving trends, and showing/riding habits. The items that are worn by a teenager attending her first 4-H show, Weekend Warrior trail rider, amateur-owner at a B-rated Dressage competition, or a professional competing in the 1.40s at the Washington International Horse Show could drastically vary depending on his or her personal needs, style, and budget.
A correctly-fitted helmet is the only thing that will keep your noggin safe in the event of a fall or riding accident, a properly adjusted saddle is the basis to an effective riding position and comfort/proper bio-mechanics of the horse, and it’s essential to have correctly fit boots so as not to distract, interfere, or deter from your riding. No matter what your riding goals and interests these three things – the helmet, saddle, and boots – are vital to your riding comfort and safety.
It’s worth mentioning that just because you’re investing in these items it does NOT mean you have to spend an arm and a leg on them – no pun intended. As long as you properly clean, store and care for these items and keep up with routine maintenance if needed (especially saddles) you could potentially enjoy the same pair of boots and saddle for 5, 10, 15, or more years! Helmets are the only exception to this rule. These should be replaced a minimum of every 5 years (or 2,000 hours of ride time) and ABSOLUTELY should be replaced after a fall in the event of cranial impact.
Types of Tall Boots
There are three main types of tall riding boots – Field Boots, Dress Boots, and Dressage Boots. Each type of boot has a specific purpose, depending on the discipline you ride. Over the years, much like the rest of riding gear within the equine community, styles have evolved, but the biggest change was the introduction of zippers and stretch panels. This allowed for a much closer fit as well as an easier time putting on and taking off tall boots.
There are accessories to create the look of a custom tall boot, without the price tag associated with it. Available in a variety of fun colors, prints, and designs, you can mix and match with Boot Crowns to create the custom-look you’ve always wanted!
Most tall boots are made of leather, although vinyl is still being used in economy boots, and more technical materials are starting to be seen in all levels of boots. Black is still the most popular and traditional color, however more colors have been seen in the rings as of recent, including brown in the hunter/jumper arenas. In fact, there is a whole rainbow of colors and materials available that are appearing more in the Jumper, Dressage, and Eventing show rings, or even for schooling. From blues to burgundy to crocodile to patent leather and more custom boots are meant to make you stand out in a crowd. Just be careful, you don’t want it to be for the wrong reasons. If you intend on competing, make sure it’s within the guidelines and rules of your discipline.
Custom boots are a fabulous way to express one’s personality and put all eyes on you. Depending on the circuit and discipline you show in, they’re an exciting way to keep up with the latest trends and make a fashion statement. It’s a thrill to pick and choose the colors, details from toe-punch to custom embroidery or engraving, and crystals or exotic leathers to make your boot fantasy come to life, and even more exciting when you put them on and enter the ring! The most important thing, however, is that custom boots are exactly that – custom. People that may have issues with fitting a particularly wide calf, high arch, wide footbed, or find that their tall boots are never “tall” enough, fully custom boots are made-to-measure with intricate detail and done in a one-on-one setting to make sure they are carefully and correctly designed. Custom boots are hand-made and hand-stitched, because these aren’t an off-the-shelf purchase but are made just for YOU. When the boots are done, there is usually a second fitting to ensure that the boots are exactly as ordered. In addition, you generally are working with a representative the entire process to answer any questions, resolve any issues, and to make sure you are completely satisfied in your investment.
Some companies like Konig, Vogel, and Dehner have been making custom boots for over 125 years, either for military or everyday wear purposes. In modern days, there are a multitude of boot makers from all over the world including Italy, Germany, France, United States, and others. Representing thousands of equestrians on both the world-stage and in the comfort of one’s own backyard, these master cobblers’ generations of craftsmanship and artisanship are built into each pair that they make.
What to Expect?
Big Dee’s represents The DeNiro Boot Company, Königs, The Dehner Company, and Cavallo as their custom boot makers. Ms. Lisa Goretta is one of the flagship members in the Big Dee’s Showroom and has been extensively skilled and involved in the equestrian industry professionally for over 30 years. Currently, she serves as the President of the United States Dressage Federation. She is our custom boot fitter here in the store and highlighted the most important things to keep in mind when preparing for a fitting appointment. Click here to hear first-hand about her experience at Big Dee’s.
Fitting Process: Generally, the measuring itself takes around 30 – 45 minutes. You’ll be measured beyond your basic foot and calf size, but also the exact height of your leg, width of the ball of your foot, and the depth of your instep are all carefully considered in the design of your boots. Depending on the boot you’re looking to design and the use you have for them, the boot maker, and deciding from the customizations available, some appointments can take up to 90 minutes to finalize the design change.
What to Wear: If you wear full seat fleece-lined breeches and wool socks in the winter and thin tights and thin socks in the summer, bring those. You want your boots to fit perfectly, so it’s important to wear what you will most likely be riding in them with when getting measured.
ETA: Depending on the manufacturer, boots can take 8 – 10 weeks for DeNiro (Italy), 8 – 12 weeks for Cavallo (Germany), and 10 – 12 for Dehner (USA). Patience is a virtue, but it is worth it!
Final Touches: In Lisa’s 30+ years of experience with custom boot fittings, 90% of the time there are no issues. If there is a minor issue, it can generally can be fixed in the store at the final fitting. In rare situations, the boots may need to be sent back for reworking. However, these are usually in extreme cases.
Cost: “We charge $500 at time of ordering and the balance is due when they arrive.” Because each boot is custom selected, measured, and designed by you, the final price tag can depend on the features, materials, and brand – and if custom boot trees are ordered.
With your new boots, it’s vital they are stored properly, kept free from moisture and excess sweat, and cleaned/conditioned/polished routinely. If you keep up with basic care and necessary maintenance, you’ll be thrilled with the lifespan of your new boots. In fact, Lisa’s custom Dehner boots from 30 years ago are still in use – “They’re old, but I love them, and they look just as good as custom boots today!”
Enjoy the ride,