Do I need reinforced boots?

Dressage riding boots


Should I buy a reinforced dressage boot, do I ‘need’ a reinforced dressage boot? We are asked this question frequently from dressage riders who think that following tradition you really, really must wear hard boots if you are to be taken seriously as a rider and competitor. This might have been true many years ago when you required a reinforced panel to simply keep your leg still but back then most boots were rock solid all the way around too, meaning you had practically no contact (feel) with your horse or your legs in a lot of cases! Fast forward to today and the fit of our boots really does give you all you need in terms of support and stillness and so then why would you require the hard panel? The truth is you don’t really, really ‘need’ one, it’s more down to personal preferred style and the options you want to add to your boots.

The Passage and Amazona 

We recommend the super hard reinforced models to those already used to the feel of a hard boot or those not put off by breaking in or mastering new skills by way of walking (can feel rather odd) or riding (getting on can be a challenge initially). However, that said our reinforced boots do have a soft matt inside panel so you will always get a superior close-contact feel with your horse meaning our hard boots aren’t quite so hard to break in. From experience, clients are generally competing in them within a week or two (or a day or two if you are Anna Ross) are happy and very comfortable within a month.

The newest dressage model, the Amazona is almost identical to the Passage in styling but is super hard and is not for the faint hearted. The only real difference in styling is the stitching around the heel and the ankle and most clients would not notice this if we didn't point it out. 

Polo Passage

As a nod to the beloved Polo boot we introduced the Polo Passage a few years ago which bridges the gap between the regular and the reinforced models with aplomb. Supremely stylish this boot feels like a regular model generally (depending on leather used) with soft but supportive ankles but with the reinforced outside panel. Note, these can feel very hard initially and whilst every client is different, most will most definitely know they are wearing these from the get go. 

The Bia and Bella 

Clients will often ask if you can compete in the Bia or Bella and the answer is yes in the UK! If you are outside the UK please check with your dressage governing body to be sure! Our best selling models are available in both reinforced and regular models and they look identical - even the regular (non-reinforced) model is super firm so very few of us will actually need the addition of the stiff panel. 

Of all our hard models the Bia will be the most comfortable to break in as you can loosen the laces and add thicker socks if necessary! Worth a thought if you really want a hard boot but want to be able to take the pressure off if necessary! 

The Olivia, a softer alternative.

For dressage boot newbies another model to consider is the Olivia, which looks almost identical to the Passage but has the stitching and style additions borrowed from the Diogo - along with all the soft panels. Maintain the traditional look and feel of a dressage boot but take pleasure in this super soft but structured version that will feel practically perfect from day one. You can add an elastic panel in boots with regular leathers too for additional flexibility in hot summer months or winter when additional layers are required. For a firmer feel choose a polished leather to add a noticeable stiffness!

The detailing you need to consider.

The last and final important factor is the leather you choose and if you are looking for the more traditional glossy look, then you really would benefit and we really do like to insist, from the reinforced panels as they work better with patent, gloss and other treated leathers. These panels won’t wrinkle (so much) and will have the smoothest, smartest finish. We never put the gloss on the inside panel either as they would not only squeak like mad but be super slippery! A bit like putting wallpaper on a wall, if you were to try and put the wallpaper on your sofa, you could do it but it just wouldn’t look quite as nice! It’s worth noting that our patents finishes won’t ever crack as we only use the finest, highest grade leathers available but there could be creasing in the ankle area (over time) as this is almost unavoidable.

  • Super hard outer panel - Amazona 
  • Hard outer panel - Passage 
  • Hard outer panel - Polo Passage 
  • Hard outer panel - Bia 
  • Hard outer panel - Bella
  • Firm outer panel - Oliva with polished leather 

So the answer is not quite so simple but if you want a super smart dressage boot worthy of any podium and a sash, it’s your first pair and you desperately want the traditional look and feel but haven’t had experience with hard boots, we would always suggest the Olivia or any panelled regular model (zippers in the front) with a polished firm leather. If you really, really want the stiff boot feel then we’d recommend the Passage or the Olivia in a polished leather!  However, if you are a dressage diva who will not tolerate anything other than reinforced boots you will simply love our collection of hard dressage boots, which will leave you wondering what to do with all the time you would have usually set aside to wear them in – maybe plan another pair? 

Watch out in 2020 for a brand new unique dressage model - more to be revealed soon.


Image (L to R): Polo Passage, Passage, Bella