Splish, splash… splat? How to avoid this common rookie mistake.
Boots are boots, right? For popping out to grab the mail or meeting a friend for coffee, sure. For horseback rider in the saddle? Not so much. Many rookies know that flip-flops and tennis shoes aren’t suitable for riding, but the lines get blurry when it comes to rain boots. After all, they are “boots” and waterproof–both characteristics which sound suitable for the barn.
Equestrian sports put unique demands on clothing and footwear, and the boots you wear impact your effectiveness and safety as a rider. Rain boots are designed for a unique purpose, but many of the qualities that go into good riding boots are absent in galoshes (and vice versa). Can you wear rain boots when horseback riding? In limited circumstances, maybe. Should you? Ideally, no.
Puddle Jumpers vs. Show Jumpers
Splashing your way through parking lot puddles is very different to galloping toward a three-foot oxer on a jumping course. (OK, that’s not something most of us rookies are doing quite yet.) You get the point though.
Dealing with moisture is a frequent challenge in the riding community.
Whether you’re mucking out stalls, picking your way through the mud to catch your horse (who will, undoubtedly, stand in the far back corner of the paddock pretending not to notice you), hosing off a hot pony after a summer workout, or caught in the rain on a trail ride far from home, you want to be prepared.
That means wearing waterproof boots that can brave the elements.
What that doesn’t mean is wearing your typical rubber boots to the barn or in the saddle. (Keep reading for 10 reasons why.) Most galoshes simply aren’t made to withstand the rigors of barn chores, the weight of horse hooves (ouch!), or protect you while riding.
The good news? There are plenty of waterproof (and water-resistant) riding boots that provide all the benefits of your rain boots–and tick the additional boxes for an equestrian.
Bottom Line: You don’t have to give up the fashion or function of rain boots when it comes to riding boots.
10 reasons riding boots are better than rain boots
- Safety: Horseback riding boots must be closed-toed, which most rookies already know. Riding boots should also have a distinct heel for safety reasons. Many rain boots have a shallow heel that could allow your foot to accidentally slide through your stirrups–resulting in you being dragged if you fall off. On the other hand, boots designed for riding will have a “safety heel.”
- Durability: Though rubber boots are waterproof and made to withstand occasional rain showers and puddles, they aren’t as durable in the barn environment as a true , or . (Learn more about proper muck boots here.) Riding boots are made to withstand changes in temperature, long hours in the stirrups, mud, grit, and grime, and an occasional misplaced horse hoof.
- Comfort: I love my rain boots for walking the dog, working in the yard, or running errands on wet days. They’re made to be comfortable while standing or sitting flat-footed. They’re not designed to be comfortable when you slide your foot into a stirrup and press down into your heel. A or is flexible in all the right places, especially around your ankles.
- Grip: Riding boots typically feature significant tread on the bottom of the sole. This helps you keep your feet in your stirrups, navigate varied terrain around the barn, and increases the longevity of your boots. Rain boots only have enough grip to help keep you upright on wet surfaces.
- Fit: Rain boots tend to be looser at the top, and riding boots (especially English riding boots) are meant to be fitted. It’s not all about style either. As a rider, you want your leg to be in close contact with the horse vs. having a lot of extra boot material between you and your equine partner.
- Waterproof: Since leather is a popular riding boot material, not all options are waterproof. But, you’ll have no trouble finding a riding boot that’s also waterproof if you’re worried about rain. (My all-time favorite riding boot is just one example.)
- Tangle-Free: Some riding boots have buckles or laces, but they’re strategically placed to minimize the risk of them getting tangled in your tack. Rain boots sometimes have design features like straps or buckles that could be safety hazards.
- Muckable: If you’re riding horses, manure WILL be part of your life. (Sorry if this is a surprise!) I’m not about to get my adorable floral rain boots covered in horse poop or caked with arena dirt. I don’t worry about that happening to my barn boots because that’s exactly what they’re for. (Remember to get a good pair of muckers if you’ll be spending a lot of time at the stable.)
- Discipline: Your boot should match the type of riding you’ll be doing.
Dressage, cow work, trail riding, basic pleasure riding, and endurance (just to name a few) put unique demands on your shoes–and none of them support wearing rubber boots!
- Legit: Looks aren’t everything, but if you’re trying to fit into the equestrian scene, wearing rain boots won’t exactly have you passing as a pro.
Note: If you’d like more guidance about picking a good pair of beginner horseback riding boots, check out my favorite options here.
When it (might be) OK to wear rain boots horseback riding
As someone who lives in a town with plenty of moisture (16”+ annual precipitation and 70”+ of annual snowfall), owning a good pair of rain boots is a must. For all the reasons I mentioned above, however, they’re almost never the right boot for horseback riding.
“Wait, you said almost never?” Yes, there are a few limited circumstances where you can wear rain boots riding, even though donning a true riding boot is still preferable.
- Your rain boots have a distinct heel that’s deep enough that your foot can’t easily slip through the stirrups. (These Hunter rain boots are a great example.)
- You’re only doing a single ride (e.g. going on a one-off trail ride on vacation).
Note: I discuss a much better boot option for vacations here.
- You’re riding bareback (i.e. no saddle) or without stirrups.
Note: There are still better boot options.
If you do choose to ride in your rain boots, make sure they’re in good condition, have a safety heel, and that you don’t mind if they get filthy or stepped on.
Fashionable horse rain boots? Gimme!
While I don’t recommend wearing them horseback riding, I DO love rain boots that show off my love for all-things-horses when I’m out about town. Here are my top five designer horse rain boots:
Joules Welly Print Horse Rain Boot
- This “Navy Scribbly Horse” design makes this the cutest women’s rain boot I’ve ever seen. (They immediately went onto my Amazon Watch List…and into my cart.)
- I love the navy and silver design combination, and it would look amazing with jeans or breeches. (Not to mention, my riding color is navy.)
- If you do end up needing to ride in these, they’re tall boots with deep heels, which minimizes the chances of your feet slipping through the stirrups
Joules Ajusta Horse Rain Boot
These tall boots will protect your leg if you do end up riding in them, and feature a deep enough heel to prevent your feet from slipping through the stirrups.
- Not only is the hunting horse design subtle and classy but the dark color means these boots will go with virtually any outfit.
- There’s a gullet at the back and a buckle you can use to adjust the size/tightness around your leg.
- It also comes in a mid-calf option if you prefer a shorter boot.
Sloggers Waterproof Horse Rain and Garden Boot
These boots are super popular here in Montana, and the “Horse Spirit Black” design is tailor-made for horse lovers.
- If sore feet tend to be an issue, these have a comfortable insole you’ll appreciate.
- They’re made from 100% recycled materials, so it’s a boot you can feel good about buying.
- They don’t have a deep heel, so they’re a no-go for riding in my book. (But two thumbs up for puddle jumping!)
Western Chief Women’s Waterproof Printed Tall Rain Boot
Western Chief have been creating durable and comfortable footwear since 1891 so clearly know a thing or two about boots.
These tall boots feature an eye-catching wild horse design but only have shallow heels, which could make riding in them dangerous.
They’re undeniably stylish, however, and will keep your feet dry and comfortable in unpredictable weather.
- This boot features a funky style and colors that will go with any outfit.
- I wouldn’t recommend riding in these as the heel isn’t deep enough to stop your feet from slipping through the stirrups.
NORTY Women’s Hurricane Welly
Love jumping or make your living as a “Gallop Girl” (i.e. exercise rider for race horses)? You’ll love the fun racers on this boot.
- They have an adjustable side strap so adjusting the size is easy.
- If you do end up needing to ride in these, they’re tall enough with a decent heel, which minimizes the chances of your feet slipping through the stirrup.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can you ride a horse in the rain?
Absolutely! Riding in the rain can be refreshing on a hot day and most horses won’t object to riding in a light to medium shower, although you might want to invest in a pair of waterproof horse riding pants and a good rain jacket if you plan on doing it regularly.
If you plan to ride in the rain, be aware of the potential damage to your leather tack. I used to ride in a synthetic all-purpose saddle which was fine to get wet.
Be aware that rain can make the ground slick and that puddles can be deeper than they look. If it’s windy or raining hard, visibility can be hampered, so ride with caution.
Never ride your horse when there’s lightning or thunder, as both create an unsafe environment.
Q: Does rain hurt horses?
Rain isn’t directly harmful to your horse, but it can cause a few potential health issues (along with some annoyances). Rain creates mud, which horses love to roll in, so be prepared for some extra grooming time.
If your horse is exposed to rain for prolonged periods, he could develop rain rot (a skin infection caused by bacteria—easily treated, but very annoying).
Standing in mud or water is also bad for your horse’s hooves. Prolonged exposure to wet conditions can lead to thrush, white line disease, hoof cracks, or even abscesses.
Q: Can you wear wellies for horse riding?
No, Wellington boots (Wellies) fall into the rainboot category and aren’t safe for riding. They are an excellent footwear choice for wet, muddy conditions, or mucking out stalls!
Q: Can you wear any boots for horse riding?
When looking for an appropriate pair of boots to wear horseback riding, you’ll want to find something with a 1″ heel, hard sole, and closed toe.
Have questions? Reach out to a knowledgeable friend, ask a riding instructor, or check out this article for more tips and information on appropriate riding footwear!
Q: Can you wear Crocs horseback riding?
Crocs are a hard no! While they are super comfortable and great for many activities, we don’t recommend crocs around horses. The sole is soft and won’t protect your foot from a puncture, and the toes don’t offer enough support in case of getting stepped on.
Q: What is appropriate footwear for horseback riding?
The best footwear for horseback riding is a boot with a hard sole, closed toe, and heel to keep your foot from getting stuck in the stirrup. Avoid “chunky” footwear that may not fit in the stirrup.
Additionally, not all “closed-toe” shoes are created equal. You’ll want some sturdy leather or thick material that will protect your foot in the event of getting stepped on by an errant hoof. The right footwear makes a big difference!
Q: What’s so special about horse riding boots?
The classic riding boot is long enough to protect the lower leg and prevent the stirrup leather from pinching the skin. It also has a sturdy toe to protect the rider’s foot on the ground, and a notable heel that stops the foot from sliding through the stirrup.
Make a Splash
Horseback riding should be fun, and that’s hard to achieve with wet socks! Just because you shouldn’t step into the stirrups in your rain boots doesn’t mean you can’t have boots that are weather-ready AND rider-ready. Hopefully, this article helped set you up for success.
Head out to the barn, but leave those galoshes at home!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
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- Best Boots for Working Hard & Playing Hard
- 5 Bone-Dry Waterproof Horse Riding Boots
- 9 Rookie Approved Boots for Beginners
- 13 Best Horseback Riding Boots for Lessons
- $hit Happens: 7 Best Boots for Mucking Stalls
- 9 Best Boots for Western Horseback Riding
- 10 Best Pull On Work Boots