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 applicable 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, too. Many of the qualities that go into good riding boots, however, are absent in galoshes (and vice versa). Can you wear rain boots horseback riding? In limited circumstances, maybe. Should you? Ideally, no.
Puddle Jumpers vs. Show Jumpers
Splashing your way through parking lot puddles is a lot different than galloping toward a three-foot oxer on a jump 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 amongst the riding community.
Whether you’re 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 everyday rain boots–and tick the additional boxes for an equestrian.
Bottom Line: You don’t have to give up 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 being dragged if you fall off. 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 in your heel. A or is made to be flexible in all the right places, especially around your ankles.
- Grip: Riding boots typically feature significant tread on the bottom of the sole. It 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 likes 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 a deep heel, which minimizes the chances of your feet slipping through the stirrups
- Read Customer Reviews
Joules Ajusta Horse Rain Boot
If you do end up needing to ride in these, they’re tall boots with a deep heel, which minimizes the chances of your feet slipping through the stirrups.
- Not only is the hunting horse design subtle and classy, the dark boot will go with virtually any outfit.
- The back is gulleted at the top with a buckle to easily adjust the size/tightness around your leg.
- It also comes in a mid-calf option if you prefer a shorter boot.
- Read Customer Reviews
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 comfort 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!)
- Read Customer Reviews
LoneCone Patterned Mid-Calf Horse Rain Boots
The thing I love most about LoneCone rain boots is that their designs (like the “Moroccan Horses” option) are created by local artists in Boise, Idaho.
- This boot features a whimsical style and colors that will go with any outfit.
- If you do end up needing to ride in these, they’re tall boots with a decent heel, which minimizes the chances of your feet slipping through the stirrups.
- Read Customer Reviews
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.
- Read Customer Reviews
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 everyday 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:
- 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