We all know the saying, “no foot, no horse”, and how true it is too. But how often do we consider the importance of taking care of our own feet? Not enough, that’s for sure! I can attest that after 10 years of slopping around barns in all kinds of weather and terrain, I have given up any hope of becoming a foot model someday. (hey, we all have dreams, right?) I learned the hard way that keeping my feet dry and comfortable should have been number one on my to do list. The moment my feet would get soaked or cold, I was done- and the grinch would clock in. It doesn’t matter where you live or how long you spend in the barn, even in the best weather, your tootsies are going to encounter mud, water and a lot of poo. So, make sure you buy the right gear. After 8, or 10, or 14 hour-long days, you’ll be glad that you got the right footwear to keep up with the miles and miles of walking you’re doing.
My first job out of college was at a beautiful 900 acre farm in northern Virginia. The pastures were massive with lush green grass, there were natural streams running through the fields and all the farm roads were lined with beautiful old stone fences; its a horse lover’s heaven. -But what a disaster to walk through! My brand new barn shoes would get soaked in the morning dew, soaked again in mud or a stream, and then soaked when we had to bathe horses...and my feet would marinate all day. I actually developed a foot fungus! I was mortified. Since then, I only buy shoes that are definitely waterproof-- and what a lifesaver!
Unless you’re lucky enough to be a rockstar trainer who spends all day in a saddle and never steps foot in the barn, take my advice...You need to find boots that can handle three main purposes: 1) lots of walking 2) bathing horses & other water sports, and 3) riding, or the like. In my experience, you’ll need 2-3 different boots to make this work. I’m not going to advocate any brand, although I have my favorites, because different brands will fit certain people better than others. All I can suggest is... don’t go cheap. You’ll get what you pay for. Anything less than $70 is probably not worth it.
A few years ago, I was very fortunate to experience a season at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington Florida (also a horse lover’s paradise!). Each day at the horse show, I would walk our jumpers to and from the arenas, which was about a mile each way in loose sand...several times a day. - I calculated it once because I couldn’t understand why my dogs were barking; I thought I was in shape, but apparently not! My barn boots were a little too heavy for the warm temperatures and they were literally weighing me down. After doing a little research, I bought a pair of hiking shoes (waterproof, of course!) which ended up being the best barn shoes I’ve ever had. I couldn’t ride in them, but they were great for walking around the horse show and working long days in the barn. I met a trainer who bought golf shoes for the same reasons: they are lightweight, waterproof and have good grip on wet surfaces.
Whenever I pack for a horse show now, I make sure to pack 3 pairs of shoes: my tall rubber boots, my hiking shoes and my riding boots. Like any typical girl, I can never pack light! But having several pairs of boots has also made them all last longer, so I’m not going through a new pair every 6 months. (Those of you who spend every day in a barn probably have similar footwear woes.) Maybe you have another opinion on the matter, or maybe you’ve found a boot that can do it all-- still, I’ll stick to my methods. It’s been working for me so far.