Friday, November 15, 2019

winter wine nights: boot care + ERM XC

Happy Friday, everyone. It's officially mid November. The days are getting shorter and shorter, darker and colder. The Holidays are staring us down unrelentingly lol.

And it's starting to get to be that time of year where I want nothing more than to cozy up on the sofa with the kitties, a glass of wine, some video entertainment, and possibly a mindless but satisfying task to occupy my hands. Like, ya know. Cleaning tack. OR, my tall boots.

QHP Sophia boots in action. these things take a lot of abuse!
I wrote yesterday about being head over heels (puns lol) in love with my QHP Sophia tall (or long, if you're all Euro) boots. These things are comfortable enough for all day wear, including speed walking cross country courses, and feel like a second skin when I'm riding.

In short, I want them to last forever. And ever and ever. The leather is actually pretty nice, and so far all the seams and everything are holding up admirably well. But they were still pretty inexpensive boots, and that savings had to come from somewhere, right?

Typically, at least in my experience, you see the quality sacrificed in areas like the zipper, elastic panel, and possibly the sole too.

i'm officially converted to using boot lasts to help keep zippers upright
So I've been trying to be proactive in helping safeguard those weak spots from succumbing to the rigors of the lifestyle I provide haha. Which... Yea, these boots get worn for everything. I'm not one for changing my shoes right before or right after a ride, even in nasty wet or muddy weather, or when I know I'll be bathing a horse.

Your mileage may vary there, but that's just kinda how I am. I really don't want to be thinking about my footwear while I'm doing other things. So instead I just do what I can in between wears.

Like using boot lasts. I actually asked for a new proper set of lasts for my birthday (hopefully will have an update on that soon!!) but to date had been using rolled up cardboard until I upgraded to these inflatable dealies.

The idea is that the lasts will keep the boots from folding over or collapsing too much at the ankle, which over time weakens and damages the zipper.

shoe care kit i won from year end awards! plus zipper wax i bought myself
I've also been trying to keep these boots cleaner than their predecessors. Especially in those weak spots like the zipper and where the uppers meet the soles.

Last winter I received this Shoe Keeper kit as part of my goodie bag from my local association's year end awards, and was kinda surprised to see it contained two different brushes. Brushes had never really been part of my boot kits before, but once I had them in hand it actually made a lot of sense.

this brush makes a substantially noticeable difference when trying to get a smooth zip
I keep the brushes near my door where my shoes live, and actually find myself reaching for them often. The moment I feel any resistance to pulling up a zipper on the boots, I pause to remove the boot and just brush out the zipper teeth. It's doesn't take any time at all, and actually makes a HUGE difference in getting a smooth zip.

My hope is that by routinely brushing out the zipper, keeping it clear of dirt, debris and hair, I'll be able to extend its lifespan. And fwiw I'm pretty sure any brush would do the trick - including an old toothbrush or whatever.

imo the brush works better than the wax, but i use both in hopes the wax will help prevent build up.
also plz ignore my weird finger tip. it, uh, got bit off by a surly lesson pony 10+ yrs ago lol whoops
Similarly, last time I was at Dover (to take advantage of national helmet awareness weekend!) I spotted this little wax stick in a random rack for like $1 or $2 and instantly snapped it up.

It's basically like an over-sized soft crayon, and I kinda just run it up and down the zipper teeth after they've been brushed out. To be honest I'm not sure it makes as much of a difference as the brush... Bc yea, the brush WORKS, yo, but it does seem to help.

I definitely spend a little extra time on the zipper before shows too, since we all know that on show days zippers don't zip, buttons don't button, and nothing works as it's supposed to work. Any insurance against that is just peace of mind, right?

i recently switched to using a thin towel instead of a sponge to clean and condition most of my leather. seems like more of the product gets where i want it to go!
I've watched a couple of those "Madden Method" videos on youtube recently too, and in their tack cleaning one she said she preferred using towels for applying soap and conditioner to leather. Which is something I've wondered about after feeling like so much product just kinda gets absorbed into sponges rather than transferring to my leather lol.

So I've been doing that lately, and using this Ariat boot conditioner. It's definitely a different type of conditioner than I'd use for anything else leather (like a saddle or bridle) since it has that water repellent additive. But I actually really like it for the boots.

They seem to get less dirty over time the longer I use this product. Which like, ya know, that's nice haha. Tho it doesn't do much in the way of "polishing," at least not for these brown boots. But that's ok, I kinda dig the patina look on the brown anyway.

So ya know. This routine is helping me feel like I'm doing my best to help these boots last. Without really having to slave over them, ya know?

Bc yea... My preferred method for tack and boot cleaning involves a fair amount of wine and attention split between the leather and whatever happens to be on youtube. Which, recently, has included binging the Event Rider Masters Cross Country Broadcasts haha.

If you're not familiar, the ERM is a championship CCI4*-S series over in the UK and Europe with something like 7 or 8 legs spread across the season. It offers substantial prize money to riders who earn the most points over the series, and thus attracts world class talent, like:

Piggy French, Gemma Tattersall, Michael Jung, Chris Burton, Jonelle and Tim Price, Oliver Townend, Julia Krajewski, Liz Halliday Sharp, Maxime Livio, Ingrid Klimke, and and and... so many more haha.

i have to arrange my screens to prevent my cat from more... active participation 
All the broadcasts since 2017 are available on ERM's website and youtube channel, including the dressage and show jumping broadcasts, plus all the additional promotional content they produce along the way.

For me, tho, my interest is generally in watching the cross country haha. And as such, I've pulled all those specific broadcasts into one binge-worthy play list. I've already watched most of them, but honestly they're fun enough to watch that I don't mind repeating them too.

Possibly the most interesting factor in the series is that they run dressage on Day 1 (duh), then first show jumping then cross country on Day 2. And cross country, the final phase deciding the winner, is run in reverse order of merit. So the top placed riders don't go until the very end, making for a lot of exciting tension haha.

Nicole Brown's commentary is really enjoyable, plus they always have a rep from EquiRatings too (usually Diarm Byrne) who's always going agog about the stats lol. And there's usually riders in the commentary box offering their perspective on the riders, horses and courses. In particular, listening to Ludwig Svennerstal's commentary makes me feel like I'd try to audit or ride with him if he ever did a clinic in my area. Jonelle Price too.

So yea. This is exactly the type of entertaining content that is great for watching over the off season haha. And my friends and I mayyyy or may not be planning to have occasional relaxing wine nights with these videos (each about 2hrs) playing in the background haha.

Hope everyone else is looking forward to a fun weekend too -- perhaps with some virtual spectatorship and/or boot cleaning? Maybe you have some other fun horsey series or videos you like to watch online too??


  1. Drinking and watching TV while cleaning tack is LITERALLY MY FAVORITE ACTIVITY. Ahhh. So relaxing!

  2. I wish it was easier to get my tack home bc i would drink wine and clean tack every friday.

    when i got my dehners the ladies at the saddle shop told me to use a boot brush to brush the dust out of the crack where the boot meets the sole. apparently when dirt (especially stone dust) gets lodged in there it can wear the stitching and thats what makes your sole separate.

    Of course some unwashed heathen took my boot brush so I've been using one of my horse's brushes.

    1. yea most of my tack cleaning gets done at the barn too bc it's just easier that way.... every now and then tho it's nice to have a little all out session at home!

  3. I love tasks I can do while also being a couch potato. Rolling wraps from the laundry falls under that category as well!
    But I have to ask... how did you shine your boots in the past without a boot brush?!

    1. an inside out sock!! worn like a mitten haha, works like a charm ;)

  4. I love using old socks for boots and conditioner. I use one to polish my boots and another for conditioning my other tack. There's always old, unmatched or holey socks around.

    1. i'd always used old sock too, but then switched to sponges a few years back bc i thought it was the "right" way. but yea i actually like the socks / rags better it turns out!

  5. I was just catching up on this season's ERM videos last night! They're so well done, and the venues are gorgeous.

    1. i love watching them - they're SO DIFFERENT from the major international events i attend as a spectator here in my area

  6. My mom and I love The Nanny so I recently had a tack/boot cleaning day where I cleaned all my tack and my boots while the both of us laughed hysterically with Fran Drescher. I've been keeping my boots upright as well to save the zippers, but I'll definitely have to look into that brush. I don't have one, and considering the amount of dust Vegas has, that'll be a really good thing for me to have! I also use the wood boot trees. My feet sweat so much and if I do all the things you mentioned in the tall boots, the leather around my foot shrinks like crazy haha. Now I'm just working on breaking in my black boots!

    1. oh man, the brush really seems like it's been a life saver with the zipper! i'm pretty sure an old toothbrush would work just as well, too

  7. Love the boot cleaning tips! I need to do a through clean post Ireland. Talk about getting mud in the zippers! Yuck!

  8. I learned to polish boots from my dad - who was in the military. So it was a spit shine polish, which involved a tin of shoe polish, water in the lid (flipped over), a cloth and a brush. And usually done in front of the tv.

    Now I have a set of paddock boots with the rear zipper. The left one is a bit sticky about a third way up from the bottom. I'll have to look for that zipper lubricant stuff!

  9. There is something about cleaning tack at home with (or w/out adult beverages) cats, friends and some tv/videos... I tend to do mine in the winter with the fireplace and all the cats mucking around in my stuff. :-) Doesn't say much about my tack in the summer tho! lol Good idea to brush out the zippers and where the stitching meets the sole - I never thought of that!

  10. I hang my boots. No, seriously. I put an elastic hair band on around the top snap (at the knee-height) and then the boots hang by the elastic. Like a pair of sneakers tied together and thrown over a high wire, kind of. I am lazy and also my inflatable boot jacks were deflating between tall boot wearings because I only drag them out for show and fancy clinics.

  11. What is this zipper balm you have? I must get some!


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