Hard vs. Soft: What makes a “Dressage” boot?
Ah, the age-old question. What is a “dressage” boot? The short answer is, “ANY boot can be a dressage boot.” Yes, you heard me. ANY boot can be a dressage boot. Stick with me here…
Typically, people categorize “hard” boots as dressage boots. Not all dressage boots are hard boots! Some of the top riders of our sport ride in boots that are not hard! It is NOT necessary to have a hard boot to do dressage, although it can help, which will be discussed below.
Now what is a HARD boot? Spoiler alert: it has NOTHING to do with the leather. Leather can be made thicker or thinner, thus feeling harder or softer, but the “hardness” actually refers to a reinforcement panel that sits between the inner liner of a boot and the outer leather. Depending on the brand, this panel might start/stop in different places on the boot. On a Kingsley boot, for example, the reinforcement panel is located only on the OUTER shaft and stops above the ankle (to maintain comfort and feel of the horse on your inner leg and ankle). On an older Konig boot, however, the reinforcement panel continues to the INNER shaft and through the ankle.
Will a hard boot help my riding? It depends. Here are the potential benefits to riding in a boot with a reinforcement panel:
- The reinforcement panel can help to lengthen the leg and keep the leg still.
- A lot of people feel as though the reinforcement panel helps to stabilize the ankle
- I like to think of the reinforcement as a shock collar! When I scrunch my ankles or my knees too much, that panel hits me, and I am then cognizant of my riding faults.
- The reinforcement panel helps keep the shape of the boot, which is aesthetically pleasing!
How do I know if a hard boot is right for me? The easiest answer is to try a few of them on. They are a totally different feel! Additionally, I would ask your trainer what they think is right for you. I always try to involve trainers in their clients’ fittings.
So, in summation, a dressage boot is a boot that is worn when the rider is riding dressage. This boot may be hard or soft depending on the rider’s preference :) Now go ride your horse!
Dressage boot: Any boot used by a dressage rider to ride dressage.
Hard boot: A boot that has a reinforcement panel located on the outer shaft (and sometimes inner shaft) of the boot. The reinforcement is a plastic panel placed between the inner liner and the outer layer, keeping the shape of the boot.
Soft boot: A boot that has no reinforcement panel.