Feel like you want to start Horse riding? While it’s an excellent sport that not only helps develop core strength, balance, coordination and mentality agility, it can also be pricey when purchasing the correct equipment. As is the case with many sports, a particular costly area is footwear. The two prime options are the traditional Tall Boot and the Half Chap, which is forever growing in popularity.
What are Half Chaps?
Often worn on a rider’s lower leg, Half Chaps are there to provide a level of support and protection. They help to prevent rubbing and chafing which can be caused by stirrup leathers and riding pant legs that could otherwise twist, wrinkle, rub or rise up. In recent times popularity has skyrocketed due to both fashion and functionality. They also often are a lot more similar to tall boots than their full chap counterpart, with many styles that imitate the feel of tall boots.
Why wear Half Chaps?
These are pieces of leather or suede that go over a short pair of jodhpur or paddock boots and wrap around the lower half of your leg to protect you from getting rubbed by the stirrup leathers when you ride. They can sometimes offer a little extra grip too, which is useful if you’re riding young or fresh horses. When paired with paddock boots, half chaps offer the functionality of tall boots.
They tend to be used for everyday schooling or more informal events like fun rides or low-level competitions. Horse riding half chaps are a cheaper alternative to tall boots and so often work out more practical for use on a day-to-day basis.
Also, when looking at cost, even the most pricey half chaps cost less than a pair of Tall Boots made of leather. In many cases, riders would be better off purchasing a good pair of paddock boots and half chaps for around the same price as an average pair of Tall Boots. However, it is important to note that at recognized shows and events they are deemed illegal. If you are going to be entering into such competitions, it may be worth training in half chaps and then only using tall boots when really necessary.
How to Wear Half Chaps
You’ll find they usually come in traditional black and brown. Black is slightly more formal if you’re planning to wear them in at a noncompetitive ground event, but the standard thing is to match them to your boots. As the popularity of half chaps grows, it has become the norm to co-ordinate them with paddock boots. This is known as ‘systems’. It’s mainly done for fashionable purposes, with the same styled and coloured paddock boots and half chaps. However many believe it also does a great job in replicating the feel of tall boots, and excellent money saving when it comes to horse riding attire.
It’s important to find the material that works best for you and your style of horse riding. Some have a bulkier feel, whereas others have that more skin-like feel. Chaps made from suede or synthetic materials are the most informal. Those in leather can be matched quite well to your boots and certain styles are available that are cut high on your leg to give a more leg-lengthening and elegant finish. Dressage riders tend to like these. These combinations are acceptable to wear in more formal competition and can be easier to fit than a tall boot. The elastic that is often built into half chaps can make them very comfortable and easier to wear than a tall boot alternative and require almost no break-in period, are hardwearing with little care and are quite comfortable. Half chaps also work with any type of horse riding trouser, including pants, breeches, and jodhpurs.
How to fit Half Chaps
If worn correctly, half chaps can protect the rider’s legs from abrasive rubbing that can occur when horse riding in loose-fitting apparel. To put your half chaps on, simply slip your foot into the elastic stirrup at the bottom of the chap. This settles in front of the heel of your boot. You should always ride in a boot with a heel so that your foot can’t slip through the stirrup iron, putting you at risk of being dragged if you fall off. Half Chaps are designed to be snug, and it’s important to take into account that half chap size charts are done with a tight fit being the norm, so if you’re looking for a slightly looser fit (although that is often not advisable) , it may be best to go a size up.
The different types of chaps have either a zip or velcro to fasten them on the outside or back of your calf. Zips on chaps should be tough to do up. If you can easily fit the circumference of the boot around your leg, there’s a good chance they aren’t the right fit. There have in the past been issues with the zippers of half chaps. With the growing popularity, they have been improved, but as a word of warning, they do tend to wear away with regular use. While this can be expected across many sportswear items, it may always be worth checking the returns policy or hanging onto your receipt when purchasing a pair of half chaps.
For more information on choosing half chaps, click here.
Tall boots are generally worn for competitions or more formal riding occasions such as clinics or lessons. Some people, often professional riders, prefer the feel of a tall boot to ride in every day. They serve the same purpose as half chaps in protecting your legs from chafing from the stirrup leathers. They also have a more polished look which makes them common attire for competition.
They are available to suit different budgets, in everything from synthetic material to luxury leather. They can be pulled on or have a zipper up the back which helps to give a snugger fit for those with slim calves. If you have the pull-on version, you’ll definitely need a boot jack to pull them off. Your other half may get very fed up with pulling muddy boots off otherwise. You’ll also need the help of boot pulls – which contrary to the name help you get them on rather than off. You hook a boot pull into a loop handle each side of the boot opening to give you the leverage to pull it on. So you can see why people tend to only wear tall boots on special occasions like shows.
Types Of Tall Boot
Tall boots come in three main styles; field boots, dress boots and dressage boots.
Taking their name from the field officers when they were part of the cavalry, these are commonly worn by hunters, eventers, and showjumpers. Field boots are generally made of supple leather and have elasticated ankles with laces at the front, making them flexible and provide a fair amount of movement and freedom. It has what is called a ‘Spanish Cut’ which means that from the ankle upwards, it stays pretty tight to the leg of the rider, creating an elongated leg look. Either field or dress boots are fine for the lower levels of competition in any discipline.
Made with either soft and supple or slightly firm leather, Dress boots are similar to field boots in that they are fitted to the leg. They have a flexed ankle and a shorter, jumping leg position and a square toe and a high cut top and tend to be used by dressage riders who want the most elegant boot possible.
These types of boots are a lot stiffer than the other members of the tall boot family, especially on the outside of the leg, and often have a straighter fit down the leg. Dressage boots also do not have laces and are quite rigid outside of a small strip around the ankle which allows the rider some movement. It is not recommended for jumping or work in the half-seat, as they encourage a long leg, which would be made for uncomfortable riding with shorter, jumping-length stirrups.
When you buy tall boots, it can be a good idea to also buy some heel risers to go in the back of them. This is because the boots tend to start out stiff and you should buy them so that they aren’t too comfortable at the beginning as they will crumple little where they wrinkle at the ankle and shrink in length. A little heel rise at the back can make them more comfortable while you break them in, especially if you have a shorter stirrup length as you would for jumping.
Half Chaps vs Boots Summary
A quick rundown of the differences between Half Chaps and Tall Boots.
- Half Chaps are great for horse riding ‘exercise’ but unlike Tall Boots, they are not legal in competitive events.
-Both great for preventing rubbing and chaffing from the stirrups leathers and for providing extra grip on the saddle.
- The combination of similar coloured and patterned Half Chaps and Paddock Boots is known as ‘System’ and is great for replicating the feel of Tall Boots for sometimes a fraction of the price.
- If you do opt for Tall Boots, they can often be quite stiff at the start (unlike half chaps and paddock boots ) so it’s worth buying heel risers to stop them wrinkling, crumbling, and shrinking in length.
So that’s the difference between half chaps (and boots) and tall boots. It’s possible you’ll need both and then you can wear the appropriate footwear on the appropriate occasion! Now all you need to decide on is what look you’re after and what colour to go for. Happy shopping.