Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Tall Boot Dilemma

 (WARNING:  this is a long but fairly comical story and hey, you may even find that my shopping experiences will help you find the perfect tall boot!)

I spent a great deal of energy on this "tall boot" dilemma and when I look back over the agonizing I've done, while attempting to find boots that I would actually keep (as in not returning them or selling them on ebay), I think I had and continue to have a borderline case of obsessive-compulsive disorder about the subject matter at hand.

I'd like to bring you back to a time in my equestrian history when the only "off the shelf" tall boots you could find were made by a company called Colt Cromwell.  These boots were very much unlike anything we have available to us in today's day and age, they didn't go up to or right under your knees, they were only made in Dress Boot style, they were considerably shorter than they should be and didn't have a Spanish Top, modified or otherwise!  Further still, they had a "spur strap" type of attachment around the top of the boots that you had to buckle this day, I still don't know what purpose that strap served but it was there so I buckled it!

Now, flash forward to the years 2007 - Present and to say that I have tried on, purchased, returned, ordered and re-ordered so many different brands of tall boots, I'm ashamed to blog about the details!  The truth is I don't know if I even remember the actual count but I'm certain of one thing, there were many! 

It's a darn good thing that I didn't want to show during that particular time period because I continued to wear my Ariat 1/2 chaps and paddocks for lack of ever being satisfied with any one pair of tall boots!  I used to think it was my calf size that was holding me back from getting a good fit but after much discussion with tack store employees and fellow equestrians, I don't actually think that they're that wide, they measure 15 3/4 but I'm also considered a "peanut" by many standards as I barely measure 5'4" in height so that also leaves me with the possibility of a height dilemma.  Anyway, from gazing at online size charts till my eyes became blurry, I checked out Fuller Fillies because they had bigger calf sizes but found that their smallest calf size was too big and the height was too short and then checked out the Mountain Horse Richmond or High Caliber Field Boot and while the footbed fit just fine, the calf was too wide; ahhh, what luck, huh?

So, let's start with me giving Ariat a big "thumbs up" as they have finally added a wide calf/short height to their size chart!  I often used to wonder if the boot making industry thought that only tall woman rode horses.  And, even worse, were they trying to discourage short people from riding by making sure that the boots would either go almost over the knee or bunch up behind the knee so one would just say, "O.K., I'm short, I can't find boots that fit so I'll just sell my horse and get out of riding all-together!".  Hmmm, I know that thoughts like this are a bit nutty but the truth is that although comical, when I got frustrated I sometimes thought that it was a plot to "get rid of short riders in the show ring" (where are the men in the "white coats" when you need them?).  Anyway, thanks Ariat, you have gone where no other off-the-shelf boot maker has been before!

1. The Olden Days - From childhood until my late teens, I wore the ol' Colt Cromwells.  Then the industry gave way to some unknown tall boot maker that finally realized the benefit of making an actual "tall" boot, rather than ending them several inches below the knee!  Anyway, this boot became available in my neck of the woods around the year 1977 and for a little over $100.00, the leather was nice and the break-in time was short but........still no field boots in sight!

Digression:  I have many old Dover Saddlery catalogs and my collection begins with the year 1984; so, I can't reference any further back than that.  At that time Dover offered three different boots, an off-the-shelf boot named "The National" and they touted them as, and I quote, "they look like custom".  These boots came in field (yup, finally field boots!) and dress for both men and woman and retailed for $159.00 and the other two styles were "The Sussex" for woman ($79.95) and "The Marlborough" for men ($135.00); however, they still didn't have a Spanish top, modified or otherwise but........"The National" did have "swagger tabs"!  In the 1987/1988 catalog, we saw the addition of "The Nouvelle" ($99.00 - $119.00) and the German boot maker, Cavallo, made "The 4000 & The 7000" ($320.00 to $350.00) and we finally saw the modified Spanish top!

2. Present Day - Prior to bringing Valie into my life almost 5 years ago, my last pair of tall boots were sold along with my wonderful Thoroughbred, Brandie.  I didn't bother to replace them, even though I still rode from time to time, but excited about being a horse owner again, I decided the time was right to shop and that I did, starting with

the Saxon, a great non-leather starter boot that fit nicely, looked like leather from afar but unfortunately just didn't hold up to the rigors of "my" riding and/or the way "I" worked around the barn!  We then went to

the Ariat Challenge and while they fit O.K., there was just something about the leather that felt stiff and uncomfortable!   However, thanks to my buddy, Lindsey Canesi, I was introduced to the Ariat Crowne Pro and oh, how that buttery, soft leather sang to me!  I had to have them so I browsed through ebay and found them on sale from $549.99 to $349.95 and as only a bargain can do to a person, I found myself "clicking on" ebay's buy-it-now feature faster than the speed of light!  They arrived and I was thrilled, each boot was encased in their own individual dust sleeve and there was an extra set of traditional (rather than the elastic permanent laces that came standard on the boot); so, if you wished to convert, you could easily do so!  I was in love, I didn't want to even try them on, I found myself gazing at them, opening the box every day and finally, at the coaxing of a family member who reminded me that my boots were not a new addition to my house decor, I was shamed into trying them on - immediately!  But wait, why didn't they zip up? The Challenge zipped up just fine, what was going on?  I went to their online size chart and saw that both boots had a calf size of 15 3/4, the mystery deepens!  I then did a visual side-by-side comparison in the catalog and after close inspection, I found that Ariat designed the Challenge with a shaped calf rather than the Crowne Pro's slimmer styling.  But as my luck would have it, I had wasted too much time "gazing" at my boots and not bothering to try them on.  Since I was too late to return them off they went to be listed on ebay and it was there that I sold them at a considerable loss.  At this point, after a failed attempt at purchasing Der Dau customs, I gave up for several months but when Tall Boot Fever hit me yet again, I decided to try

Mountain Horse's newest Field Boot, The Venice!  They looked so nice in the Dover catalog so off I went to the store but was, yet again, not satisfied.  I had a feeling that they would be a custom fit because of the vertical stretch-elastic insert located by the zipper.  And, although I must tell you that the fit was perfect, I did not like the leather at all, they reminded me of my Saxons but I loved the Saxons because they looked like leather and I disliked the MH's Venice because, to me, they looked synthetic (go figure!).

3. The End - After carefully checking as many online tack shops as I could, just to see if there was a brand I missed and then doing a Chronicle of the Horse (COTH) forum search on Tall Boots, I discovered the Treadstone Grand Torino Field Boot (not to be confused with Tredstep).  Ohhh, the online photos of these boots screamed, "classy", the leather looked ever so soft, the swagger tab has a button down brass-like insignia, they look like they have good ankle flexion and my list of "likes" went on!  But keep in mind that these were purchased sight unseen and even though the good people on COTH seemed to love them, with my poor tall-boot-buying track record, I should have resisted but....I didn't!  The order was placed, they arrived, I tried them on immediately (see, I do learn from past mistakes!) and I just love them!  Ahhh, I finally have "form and function" in a beautiful but durable leather tall boot.  The calf and height size feel like custom (deciding on sizing was easy due to Treadstone's vast array of sizes) and even the foot-bed fit like a dream.  The search is over, I'm satisfied and I highly recommend these boots to everyone!
                 We have a winner in the                   
Cathy's "Dare to Dream of the Perfect Tall Boot" Contest
Treadstone's Grand Torino Field Boots
Post Script: I received an email from SmartPak last week, it was an announcement by Tredstep to introduce two new field boot styles. I immediately tried to stop reading the details but sadly, my curiosity would not allow me to delete! As visions of "tall boots danced in my head", I began to think, "Ahhh, the Tredstep Donatella is gorgeous and who couldn't use two pairs of boots, I bet many riders have at least two, maybe even three so why not me? Shall I call SmartPak to reserve my pair, Yes, I will!"  And, as I began to dial the SmartPak order line, I was interrupted by the miracle of call waiting and with that, my attention was momentarily diverted and I was able to come to my senses by the time the call was over. However, I will still look for reviews of these boots as they hit the market later this month! Lastly, if you see me wandering around SmartPak in Natick, Massachusetts, you will faintly hear me chanting my mantra to the Tall Boot Gods, "Please allow me to remember how much I love my Treadstone Grand Torino Field Boots!".

Has anyone had a similar experience? If so, I would love to know that I'm not alone in my "Tall Boot Dilemmas" and/or any like subject!


TBDancer said...

I join with you in the tall boot dilemma. I bought my first horse in 1972 and in those days there were not as many "off the rack" choices in riding boots. Fewer heights, calf widths--and so, because I also have a very narrow foot, I opted for custom Dehners. I paid $350 for brown field boots. I was showing AQHA English and in those days, the first time English classes were offered in AQHA shows, there weren't as many rules about boot type and color as there are now.

I LOVED those boots, though I thought I'd never get through the "walking without knees" break-in period. ;o)

Fast forward to today: There are not only more boot heights and widths, there are also more manufacturers AND ... there are zippers!

I got back into horses in 1998 and bought a pair of Effingham field boots--because field boots can be laced tightly and "fit" the boot a little better to my leg.

I still have them. They are VERY broken in, but they "clean up good," and for schooling or "riding down the road," they can't be beat.

I bought a pair of Ovation field boots online, and when they arrived, I instantly hated them. They had zippers, but the calves were "shaped," and I looked like I had a cantalope stuffed behind and about six inches below each knee. They went straight to a consignment shop.

I want a nice pair of dress boots--thought I'm still very lower level dressage and field boots are acceptable.

My problem with dress boots is I have to like the "look" of the foot on the boot. (Silly, I know, but what can I say?)

I detest DerDau--I think they look clunky, and at that price, I want PRETTY. I like the looks of Petrie and Cavallo, though I don't see the point of opting for Cavallos with the "built-in spur," which looks to me like it's in the wrong place. The spur rest on most boots is too high, frankly, and this spur placement looks too high, too.

Ariat and Mountain Horse: Ariats are just too wide. Their B-width is more like a B-plus. Many of their boots feel wider than a regular B and my feet swim in them. Mountain Horse: Haven't looked at them lately, but I remember their dress boot looking about like their winter insulated boot--clunky. I mean, I appreciate sturdy as much as the next person, but with a DRESS boot, I'm thinking it should be "refined."

Needless to say, I haven't bought anything. (I do agree with you about the Tredstep field boots, though ;o)

The Thoroughbred Hunter Lady said...

"....Ohhh, TBDancer, I just loved reading about your tall boot experiences and when you think about it, many people must go through the same dilemmas! I actually didn't list all the brands I've tried but when you mentioned the Ovation Field Boots with the shaped calf, I instantly knew what you meant. I tried the Dublin Aristocrat Field Boots and could not believe the shape of the calf when I took them out of the box! And when I tried them on, OMG,I had this big bubble behind each leg - too funny!" said...

This is a riot! Your commentary should appear in the Dover Saddlery and Smartpak directories to give everyone a true sense of what they're getting.

And could there really be a conspiracy against short riders?! I'm only 5-feet tall and wear a size 5, narrow, shoe. My Ariat paddock boots are, I believe, a 2.5 child's. But they fit beautifully, as do the gorgeous Dover Saddlery half chaps with cream piping.

But my tall boots are another matter. They're the only ones that fit. I believe they're by "Dublin" and are about as cheap as they come. They're attractive, and I'm grateful they zip up. But still, not a lot of choice.

Now I need to go measure my calf and plot my next move!!!!

gretchen said...

OH, I am SO with you int he tall boot dilemma!!!! And, here's my problem. Not only am I short, I have really small feet! So, even though they make short and wide widths nowadays in tall boots, they start makign them in SIZE 7! Size 6, nope! Only skinny tall people must wear a size six. you can get six, short hieght regular widith or you can get six wide width, regular height, but you can't get six short wide. sigh. I left dover in tears after that disovery! (even though the people there were FABULOUSLY helpful and I tried on every boot in stock!)
So, I totally feel your pain!

Carol said...

Thanks for following my blog. I'm happy to find yours - I've found so many interesting blogs about OTTT's since I began blogging and have become quite intrigued with them.
I can relate to your boot story - try buying dressage boots here in NS. Then to make it more of a challenge, my husband started dressage so I needed to fing men's too. We had to order in from the US and ended up with Mountain Horse. They fit, but the leather isn't soft ...

Gaia Vincenzi said...

Hi =)
thank you very much for your nice and really kind comment. It's a pleasure for me too to have you into my followers.
I'm sorry if I write to you with really later, but I was in the Caribbean for holidays :D
This is the link for the saddle, yes I think they can ship to usa. Please contact me if you need moore informations or help, here I am :)

Gaia Vincenzi said...

thanks for following my blog (:
let me know what do you think about my last pictures and national competition
see you soon

Allison said...

tall boots are way far off in my future, but the "study" has already begun..thanks for the helpful post!

The Thoroughbred Hunter Lady said...

for OTTB's, Gretchen, Carol and Allison: Thanks so much for commenting on the Tall Boot Dilemma! I "gotta" say, I truly enjoyed your responses and to know that I am not the only one that has been traumatized by Tall Boot shopping makes me feel sooooo much better!

Story said...

I just recently wrote about my own close encounter with tall boots: How about a little lard?

For my adventure I've decided to try to try to get them adjusted since for now I'm just looking for boots to school in, but I know the time will come when I will need some nice new boots for showing. After reading this I am already afraid lol.

Corinna said...

oh the hunt for the perfect pair is the worst! My latest pair I bought for the zipper in the back, but as one overly honest trainer said: "they make your legs look like stovepipes!"
So I've decided, I am going to save my pennies and go custom! Yes, $700 or so is RIDICULOUS, but the hunting and crying searching for the right boot is more than I can bear. So in the fall/winter I am going to go on the hunt for an affordable custom boot-maker!

appreciate the story of your trials!