Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stretching Tall Boots

Being an instructor who doesn't show much, my day-to-day gear revolves mostly around function and long-day survivability.

Oh, and my budget.

Getting ready for the horse trial in Fresno, I was missing some pretty important supplies. I mean, the USEA Rulebook doesn't really state that you need black tall boots...
Boots—black, brown, field, jodhpur or a black or brown full grain smooth leather leg piece and matching leather boots. Chaps and/or half-chaps are not allowed
So my beat up Smartpak Solstices would really function just fine. But I took this as an excuse to buy some affordable tall boots.

I know the truly value-friendly route is to buy used boots because you can buy higher quality boots and all that, but I've been pretty burned by used boots in the past, so I kept trying tall boots for under $300. Thank goodness for returns. That's all I'll say on that.

Anyhow, the Mountain Horse Venice Field Boots were on sale at Riding Warehouse, so I picked them up after some careful measuring. I ordered a 10/Tall and Slim calf.

I don't have slim calves, but for the size of my feet, my lower leg is too tall and the more customizable boots are out of my price range. When I measured, my calf would just barely fit in the slim calf size according to the website.

So they showed up, and they're lovely.

When I stuffed my calves + breeches into these bad boys, I promptly lost all feeling in my toes.

I did some research on do-it-yourself boot stretching and read all sorts of recommendations. "Just keep wearing them!" was the biggest reminder, but seeing as I couldn't feel my feet I really thought that was a bad idea.

Giving my sad calves a rest after trying the whole "just wear them long enough" thing for about two hours in my house
The next most popular idea was to use a hair dryer to heat the leather while you were wearing the shoes, then allow them to cool while still wearing them.

Busting out my trusty (cheap) hair dryer

I was really nervous about this method because there was the chance it wouldn't work and I'd need to send the boots back. If they're cracked or scorched, I really don't think RW would want the boots back. I carefully heated the boot until I could just feel the heat in my calves (the leather is really thick in these boots so it took way longer than I thought it would) and then walked about the house, trying to feel my feet. I repeated this process about three times and then took a phone call.

The phone call really allowed the boots to cool and I realized that I could feel my left foot! Winning! And it didn't hurt as much to walk on my right foot. Fab!

Further internet research recommended spraying isopropyl alcohol and water on the boot and allowing it to dry while wearing it that way. Eeks.

The more time I spent wearing the boots though, the more I liked them.

So I drove off to Walgreens, picked up from alcohol and a spray bottle, came home, and changed back into my breeches.

My supplies

I first sprayed water on the inside of the boot, just enough to moisten the leather. I followed it up by spraying the boots with the isopropyl alcohol, just enough to darken the leather (way less alcohol than you think it'd take). I forced the boot back over my leg and practiced my calve raises and distracted myself with applying boot polish to my sad, beat up Solstices.

Here's the thing about me and boot polish. We really don't understand one another. I have spent years of my horseback riding life thinking that polish didn't polish boots at all, and only contributed to covering scuffs and sort of evening color.

Turns out I'd completely forgotten the whole "buff the polish once it's dry" step.

And, surprisingly enough, it also turns out that boot polish does in fact make boots shinier.

Hanging out waiting for the boots to dry
Originally I started out just on the still too-tight right boot, but it worked so surprisingly well in about fifteen minutes that I did a light dusting of alcohol+water on the left boot to help with the continuing to be too tightness of it.

The alcohol and water procedure worked really, really well. We'll see how the boots dry out 100% but I think it was totally worth the time put into stretching them a bit now so the breaking in process won't kill me as much.

I also bought tan knee patch breeches (believe it or not, I didn't have a single pair in my closet.)

I ordered the "Romfh Lexington Euroseat Kneepatch Breeches" because... well because they were on sale. 

They're a slightly different color in person, but I don't really know how to explain it.

However, I feel like I could survive a nuclear war in these things. The fabric isn't super thick or anything, but it just feels intense and of really high quality. We'll see how they wear, but I'm happy just looking at them so far.

I tried to get a good photo for you so you could see the color weirdness. My only other qualm is that I ordered a size 32 which usually fits me quite well but either I've lost weight or these run large.

But who cares! I got them on sale and they're comfy.

And that's the tale of getting some more show clothes ready for Fresno.


  1. I'm going to have to try that on my also-too-tight-right-boot. My calves are different sizes after a riding accident my freshman year of college, and I've been lazy about working with my new right boot. Left one fits great. I just zip it up right before I go into the ring right now...if I remember...not the best plan.

    1. Try the isopropyl alcohol thing! It seriously worked wonders - the heat kinda worked but the alcohol made it so I could wear my boots ALL DAY saturday!

  2. good luck with the boots!!! this post is also relevant to my interests bc, um, .... calves are also things that i have... haha

    1. No kidding, right? It's like companies think everyone who rides horses doesn't ever use their calf muscles. Eck.