Boots are without a doubt the preferred footwear of equestrians everywhere, but the boots that are best for riding aren't always the best for mucking stalls, stacking hay, and other barn chores. Don't you wish you could just slide on one pair of boots to take you from stall mucking to the saddle? It will take some careful shopping, but there are boots out there that will do the trick. Look for these characteristics:
Zippers on the outside or back.
Some of the best-looking muck boots initially look like they'd be saddle friendly, until you consider where the zipper lies. Unless you want your saddle to get scratched up (and your legs to get rubbed), the boots you wear to muck and ride need to have the zipper on the outside of your leg or at the back of the boot. Ideally, the zippers should not start until after your ankle. This way, you'll be able to walk through at least a little mud without water soaking your feet. Boots with laces tend to be too leaky, so while they would work for riding alone, they're not a good choice if you're looking for boots you can do chores in too.
No fur or fleece.
That little bit of fleece sticking out of the top of many of today's casual riding boots looks cool, but it's a bad choice if you're planning on doing chores in your boots. It will only take cleaning a stall or two before the fleece ends up laden with manure and shaving dust. If you want your boots to take you from mucking stalls to the saddle, look for ones that don't have any fuzzy material on the outside -- you want them to be entirely leather and/or rubber.
Soles with minimal tread.
This is where you really have to look long and hard to find a boot with some promise. You need a little tread for traction when you're doing chores, but you can't have so much tread that your foot will get caught while in your stirrup. Your best bet is probably a boot with a a relatively flat bottom and some basic, pimple-like tread. Deep, grooved or waffle tread would be too much for riding. When in doubt, you're better off going with less tread rather than more tread. Less tread may prove a hassle when you're mucking stalls and cause you to walk more cautiously through mud, but it's not a major safety issue. Too much tread is dangerous when you're riding and may cause your foot to jam in the stirrup if you fall off.
Ankle height or knee height.
Boots that come to the middle of the calf are not a good choice if you want to ride in them as well as muck, as this height may rub against your calf. You can either choose boots that come just past your ankle (these are often sold as paddock boots) or a style that comes to just under your knee. If you ride English, you can pair half-chaps with your shorter ankle boots to protect your calf. In colder climates, taller boots may offer more warmth as you're riding and mucking. In hotter climates, you might prefer ankle-height boots because they're cooler.
A toe that fits in the stirrup.
There are plenty of boots out there that initially look like they'd be great for working and riding, but once you try to ride in them, you realize that the toe of the boot is too wide for the stirrup. This is more of a problem if you ride English than western, since English stirrups tend to be narrower. Measure your stirrup width. Then, take a tape measure with you when you're trying on boots, and measure across the widest part of the toe. Make sure any boots you buy are at least 1/2 inch narrower than your stirrups.
If you're able to find a boot with all of the qualities listed above, you should have no trouble wearing it to ride (casually) and to also do barn chores. Your days of changing back and forth between two pairs of boots are about to be over.
For more information and options, contact a company that specializes in boots, like Central Farm.