Paddock vs. Tall Boots: What Riding Boots are Right for You?
Torn between the two different styles of horse riding boots? Wondering why certain riders prefer paddock boots over tall boots or vice versa? Check out the descriptions and pros and cons below to find out everything you need to know about these two english riding footwear options.
Paddock boots are ankle height boots with a heel. Many times you can find them in zip or lace-up versions—either one works great, it just depends on personal preference!
- Generally less expensive than tall boots
- Perfect choice for beginners and children learning to ride
- Easy to break in
- Easy to find the right fit
- No lower leg protection, half chaps must be purchased
- Certain disciplines and levels find them less professional than tall boots
Popular Types of Paddock Boots:
- Traditional Paddock Boots: Traditional paddock boots come in zip up, lace up, and even pull on versions. Generally they are made of durable materials like leather or synthetic leather like materials. Newer boots will often have moisture wicking capabilities to enhance comfort and longevity.
- Winter Paddock Boots: Winter Paddock boots are a great option for those freezing cold months. They generally tend to be even more durable than traditional paddock boots and made out of water-resistant materials. They also tend to be lined or insulated and have treads and extra grip in the soles to help with freezing temperatures and snow and ice.
Paddock boots with half chaps are acceptable in some lower level and schooling shows. For children, it is more than acceptable for them to be in paddock boots and garter straps (a leather band placed just below the knee meant to keep jodhpurs from riding up.)
If you are planning to show in paddock boots, make sure to check your specific show prize list for show rules to make sure you are in compliance with their standards. If acceptable, half chaps chosen should match the color of your paddock boots, and leather half-chaps will look the most neat and professional. For a complete list of things to remember for a horse show, check out our hunter/jumper show checklist (for horse and rider!).
Beginners. Most trainers will encourage riders just taking up horseback riding to start in paddock boots. It’s less of a financial commitment, so whether you are an adult beginner not sure where your equestrian pursuits will take you or if you are the parent of an ever-growing child you won’t have sunk too much money into your equestrian footwear if things change. The fact that you can zip up paddock boots or simply pull them on is also a great benefit so you or your child can get in the saddle and out of it quicker!
Tall boots are designed to cover the entire lower leg, stopping just below the knee. Many different colors, styles, and materials are available and can be found to suit any english discipline.
- Close contact with the horse
- Professional look in most disciplines
- No additional accessories (like half chaps or garter straps) required
- Generally more expensive than paddock boots
- Can be uncomfortable before they are broken in, which—be warned—can take some time!
- Depending on your legs, you might need to get custom boots meaning a pricier purchase
- While best for showing, you may need to ration how often you use your tall boots to keep them clean and in good repair
Popular Types of Tall Boots:
- Dress Boots: Dress boots are traditionally worn in the english show ring for anything from Hunter/Jumpers to Eventing and Dressage. Dress boots generally zip up or pull on, and do not have visible laces.
- Field Boots: Field boots are designed to have extra flex at the ankle to accommodate the leg position in shorter stirrups for jumping. Generally they will pull on or zip up with laces in the ankle area. They are most popular in the jumping discipline but can also be worn in the dressage arena.
- Dressage Boots: Tall dressage boots do not have laces in the front and are sometimes stiffer than other boot options to accommodate for dressage. Certain dressage boots are cut higher than other boots (as dressage riders ride with a longer leg than other english disciplines), especially on the outside of the knee.
- Winter Boots: Tall winter boots are generally the most durable and are made of more water resistant material. Many will be lined or insulated and certain versions will be made with a sole that can more easily handle winter conditions like snow and ice.
Tall Boots are the gold standard for showing and are the first choice for serious showers, especially those in the upper levels. When looking into purchasing tall boots for show purposes, make sure to keep your discipline in mind. Solid black boots will be acceptable in every discipline, while color on your boots might hurt your results in certain show rings. For example, the official USEF rule book for Eventing requires tall boots for every stage of competition without regulations on color, while USEF Dressage standards levels two through four call for plain black boots during tests.
Serious Showers. Tall boots are considered part of the uniform in the upper level show ring. If you find your riding skills progressing towards more advanced riding and showing, tall boots are a sophisticated and professional choice. While tall boots can reach upwards of thousands of dollars, there are many options at lower price points and it is an investment serious riders should consider making.
Choose the Pair that Seems Right for You
Your choice of boot really depends on a variety of factors. If you can only afford one pair of boots, definitely take into account your discipline, how often you ride, and if you plan to pursue showing.
Ideally, purchasing both types of English riding boots will help outweigh many of the cons of one or the other. For example: choosing to purchase and wear paddock boots for at-home schooling and training will save your tall boots wear and tear and help you keep them show ready.
Whichever style you choose (even if it is both!), if it is your first time buying either type of boot, make sure you consult someone who can help you find the right fit at your desired price point.