Whether riding at home or competing at an event, many people assume that the best type of footwear is a pair of long leather riding boots. In a perfect world, this might be the case, but there are many different and very suitable alternatives now available.
Well fitting long leather riding boots are very elegant, and can also be incredibly comfortable and supportive, which is ideal for prolonged periods of time in the saddle. Not all that long ago, long leather riding boots were very expensive and therefore were only for ‘best’. In more recent times, this has shifted, with many companies bringing out leather look riding boots that are very well priced, and also affordable long leather riding boots.
Of course, long leather riding boots are not for everybody. Some people feel that they are restrictive, and it’s far from uncommon to hear of difficulty with sizing options. Where this is the case, a short paddock boot/jodhpur boot and gaiter combination could be perfect for you. The key thing is to make sure that these are allowed in the class or event you wish to participate in, and that the gaiters and boots that you choose adhere to the rules.
When it comes to boot selection, the range of jodhpur boots and paddock boots available is vast, with many of the leading manufacturers making their variation. Shorter boots, much like long leather boots, can have many features, they can be waterproof, feature steel toe caps, use a combination of lacing and elastic (in paddock boots), or even elastic and zips to make them even easier to fit. The great thing about short boots is that they can be worn all the time when riding, whether at home or competition, during all seasons. They are usually cheaper to buy than long leather riding boots, but obviously this depends on the features you require, the quality of the leather used and the manufacturer who’s made them.
Now, when it comes to gaiters, it’s very important to realise the difference between gaiters and chaps- gaiters are allowed in some competitions, half chaps aren't usually permitted. Although, just to make it a little bit more complex, some manufacturers do refer to their gaiters as half chaps! Essentially, half chaps are (usually) much more casual in appearance than gaiters. They can be in different colours, feature obvious broad elasticated panels towards the back, have visible pads that run on the inside of the legs, and have very obvious zips and sometimes press stud detail on the outside of the leg. They usually have a fairly basic shape, and can be made of all manner of materials including leather, but also suede, suede alternatives, and synthetic machine washable materials.
Conversely, gaiters are usually made from leather. They come in black or brown, but again, before you choose the colour you want, make sure it complies with the competition rules. Gaiters, in a similar way to long leather riding boots, usually mirror the contours of the leg, some have a special cut at the top that elongates the rider’s leg and, usually, the zip and other fastening detail is fairly well hidden. One of the things that you'll notice with gaiters versus chaps is the different sizes available. Often half chaps will be available in standard lengths, in sizes XS-XL, gaiters, on the other hand, usually have a number of other different sizing options to enable you to achieve the perfect fit. For example, some companies take the circumference of the widest point of the rider’s calf along with the height that they wish the gaiters to be. This might be measured in inches or centimetres. To ensure that your gaiters fit as well as possible, follow brand specific fitting guides. If you’re required to measure the widest part around your calf, do so, as this will mean that your gaiters will look as good as they should feel. Equally the fit can make a lot of difference when you're in a competitive environment if you have a longer lower leg, wearing short gaiters won’t create the appearance that you're after.