MagazineNewsHorse SportsHorse CareCOTH StoreVoicesThe Chronicle UntackedDirectoriesMarketplaceDates & Results
 
September 29, 2011

These Boots Weren't Made For Walking Either

The new blue boots! Photo by Lauren Sprieser.

The days are getting shorter. This is the part I hate most about the end of the year: I hate getting on my first horse in the dark. A few weeks from now I'll be getting on my SECOND horse in the dark. It's just depressing.

The weather here has stayed surprisingly pleasant this fall. It's going to get cold this weekend (allegedly), but it's been so warm lately I even had my AC on yesterday. What it has been doing is raining like mad, which is a nice reprieve from this summer's dogged dry spells, but I haven't been able to turn the horses out on grass in a week—too boggy and wet. We only have four all-weather paddocks, so they've been spending more time in their stalls than I'd like. Everyone's riding well and not being too irritating in the barn, though, so they don't seem to mind.

The terrible humidity is also causing me a problem because my new boots came yesterday, and my legs are not exactly at their most petite. The new boots are to replace my defective Der Dau boots that I got before Gladstone two years ago, and their story is a testament to Dover Saddlery's tremendous customer service. The original blue boots didn't hold up well, and it's not like I wore them every day, or was super tough on them. I cleaned them with gentle products, usually just wiping them clean with a damp towel; I stored them with trees. I was good to them.

They were not good to me. The gussets stretched dramatically. The boots themselves got incredibly soft. And when I took them to the Der Dau tent in Florida to see what they could do, I was informed that they couldn't take them back. It had been more than a year since I bought them, and unless I wanted to pay to have them fixed (several hundred dollars, on a $1200 pair of boots?), I was on my own.

I really didn't want to do that, so I called Dover. No prob, they said. Bring 'em in, and we'll measure you for new ones from whatever manufacturer you'd like. And they told me to keep the Der Daus until the new boots came in. Want to talk about good customer service? Hello.

So my new Vogels are here, and I'd ordered them STIFF, paranoid that they'd be floppy like the Der Daus. Um, not so. They are like TREE TRUNKS. I could knock someone out with them. But they are stunningly gorgeous, also navy. And they're going to hurt like heck when I break them in.

Here's the Lauren Sprieser technique for breaking in boots:

1. Apply two coats of Urad, a leather conditioner. If they're really horrible, I'll go for three coats, but I always start with two. (These may be three-coat boots. We'll see.)

2. Put in a heel lift. I use Dr. Scholls' insoles, because then I'm also gellin', and who doesn't like gellin'?

3. Choose socks wisely. I normally wear regular thickness socks, as thick as a normal athletic sock (and usually in some annoying color pattern, but this does not affect the fit of the boot). Those were the socks I was wearing when measured for the boots. But during the first few rides of the break-in process, I'll wear a pantyhose-thin nylon sock, to save myself a little pain and suffering.

4. Take Tylenol. Pre-emptive strike, people.

5. Only one ride at a time. They're going to take as long as they're going to take to break in, and there's no way around it. I'd rather only torture myself for an hour a day for a week than seven hours a day in a day. And while you're at it, pick a horse who is both 1) light off the leg, and 2) in need of a light work day. Because you won't be able to apply your leg one bit.

6. Try not to cry.

Midge was a pro for me this morning, and a ride on Midge spent only on walk-trot-canter with a low neck is never time badly spent. And while it wasn't a sunshiny experience, I'm not bleeding yet. Of course, it's only Day 1.