When the zipper on one of my DeNiro boots needed a minor repair, I was left with nothing to ride in for a few days (I rode anyway, sans stirrups). After riding in tall boots regularly, I knew I didn’t want to go back to half chaps. I started looking at buying a pair of tall boots that would be suitable for schooling, and really started coveting a brown pair, like everyone else right now. Ultimately, size charts determined my fate more than any other factor, as I did not want to spend the money on custom tall boots for a schooling pair. I ordered the Ariat Heritage Contour Field Boots in Sienna, which retail around $290.
This is my first experience with a pair of Ariat boots, of any kind. Long ago, I had tried on paddock boots and they simply did not fit my foot–the arch was way too high and the foot bed a bit too narrow. I came back to the brand only now because Ariat had not one, but two brown tall boot options, and out of any brand, the Heritage size chart came closest to my measurements.
Out of the box, these boots made a decent first impression on me, but I didn’t fall head over heels. The color is lovely–a rich, deep, reddish brown. The leather is pliable, very soft on the inside of the boots, moderately thin, and moderately soft on the outside of the boots, although on the outside it occasionally gives off that papery quality of bridle leather made in India. However, I am inclined to say the quality of the leather lines up with the retail price of the boot, similar to other tall boots at or near this price point.
Trying them on, I could tell the calf fit well and tightly, but the boots would need to drop about an inch before I could fasten the snap tabs over the tops of the zippers comfortably. The foot bed, surprisingly, had ample room for the width of my foot. The boots seem to run large in the foot, so if you don’t have a wide foot, you might consider going down a half or even full size.
The zippers themselves? Zippers are no longer optional on tall boots–every stock and custom pair I have seen has them. The zippers on these boots disappoint me, unfortunately. They come off as clumsy, unrefined, and gauche–big, black, and plastic-y.
A feature I absolutely love is the calf gusset running the length of the boot. This is an excellent feature for a pair of schooling tall boots, and may even be passable in the jumper ring, but I personally wouldn’t show with them. The gusset gives the boot a fit more closely custom than I think the boot might fit otherwise, and the elastic is a heavy weight and only slightly stretchy–a good sign of it lasting a while and not stretching out too much. The boots also have the more traditional gussets at the top to accommodate the angle of the knee while in the saddle. The hardware of the snap tabs is sturdy, but the spur rests are poorly placed–they need to be just a bit higher or lower for my tastes and how I use my spurs.
After a week of use, the left boot fits extremely well and feels just about broken in–I could stand for it to drop about 1/4″ more. Sadly for me, my right foot is having a wrestling match with the right boot, and the right boot isn’t dropping as well. But the fault there is partially mine for having an odd-shaped right foot, not Ariat’s, and I am doing some after-market mods with band-aids, gauze pads, and an orthotic insert for plantar fasciitis.
There is one last thing about these boots, and I truly dislike it:
Made in where, Ariat? Really? Then who cares if they are handcrafted? Based on a glaring number of manufacturing issues and recalls of products of all kinds made in China, products with life-threatening defects at times, I am extremely disappointed that a pair of English field boots were made in China. The only thing to indicate country of origin on the Ariat website was in a miscellaneous FAQ, indicating, “We currently manufacture our product in several countries.” That all being said, these boots are not the only things I have that were made in China, and I am not so morally scrupulous as to return them based on where they were manufactured alone. So, I can’t hold Ariat to any kind of standard along those lines–I got what I paid for, but I am still disappointed.
If this review reads like an emotional roller-coaster of a love-hate relationship with a pair of tall boots, then I have communicated my feelings about these Ariat field boots accurately. They’ll work for schooling, and they’re pretty in that Monet, don’t-get-too-close sort of way.
Please understand that I have deliberately not compared these boots with my DeNiros–the significant price difference indicates to me that a comparison would be wholly unfair and any expectation of similarity would be unfounded.