Saturday, January 12, 2019

tall boot shopping: Euro-style

Shopping for tall boots is a little bit like shopping for a saddle in some ways.

All that new leather. Fun detailing and accent options. Prices that range from "economical" (bunny ears fully intentional) to exorbitant. From off the rack to fully bespoke, and everything in between. And, naturally, multi-dimensional fit issues.

mmmmm boooots
At least with tall boots, it's generally a little bit easier for us to decide whether we can live with the fit of our boot, vs testing out various saddle fittings on the horse.

my first pair of brown euro boots - the mondonis. not a great shot of them in action, but a damn good shot of izzy <3
Personally, I tend to be a bit of a boring shopper. Virtually all of my tack is second hand. Like my PS of Sweden dressage bridle that used to belong to Aimee's Courage, before passing to Isabel and eventually Charlie. Or my Mark Todd jump bridle in the Dy'on style, passed down from Amanda's own big brown awkward-but-awesome Charlie.

my second pair, the HKMs.  yep i wear my brown boots with my black tack. sue me. 
Likewise, my Bates Caprilli jump saddle was purchased for Isabel (luckily it's a better fit for Charlie than it ever was for Iz), and my Hulsebos dressage saddle was custom made for my trainer P's well-loved giant old thoroughbred Torb.

Essentially everything else Charlie wears was either purchased on the cheap (I thank my lucky stars every day that the horse has very very decidedly specific tastes for elastic fuzzy girths haha) or purchased used.

L: Just Togs Kensington; R: Just Togs Buckingham
For instance, his Kentucky cross country boots and all of his bits (Herm Sprenger and Myler) are all high quality, and all purchased second hand.

Actually probably the only high-end piece of Charlie's gear that was purchased "new" are the Stubben Maxi-Grip stirrup irons I picked up at the Kentucky Horse Park last year. Bc I fully admit to being a bit of a stirrup iron junkie haha. But even those were acquired for a song after I bargained with the reps for the floor demos...

L: Mondoni Whitehaven; R: Eq Lusso Valente
When it comes to my own attire.... Well. It's safe to say I'm not exactly up to date on the latest trends haha. All my breeches are pretty old at this point, saggy and worn out. Desperately in need of updating.

But I'm one of those shoppers who can't bear to replace an item until it's totally and fully done-zo. Esp bc.... let's be real, I'm pretty hard on my gear and I don't take the best care of it anyway.

L: Horka Lizz; R: Horka Tiffany
Tall boots therefore are sorta an interesting item in my lineup. I prefer tall boots to chaps. And I happen to like them brown, thankyouverymuch. But I also want them priced around ~$200 or less, available in my size off the rack, comfortable enough for all day wear, and good enough quality to last around 2 years.

And during those 2 years? Those boots are gonna take a beating. They *will* trudge through the deep mud in Charlie's field, and be worn in the rain or for 10hrs at a time, and must survive long droughts between cleaning and conditioning.

L: Horka Sarah; R: Brogini New Capitoli
Shopping for those specifications (brown, my size, and ~$200) in the US has been.... basically a non starter. The two biggest options you see available are the Ariats and the Mountain Horse boots, but neither fit the budget. If you go outside the US tho??? It's a whooooooole 'nother ball game haha.

L: QHP Shiva; M: QHP Verena; R: QHP Sophia
Idk why. Maybe bc US equestrian style has been so fully co-opted by hunter jumper equitation? Maybe there just isn't enough demand?? Who knows. What's for damn certain tho is that if you start browsing around other retailers, esp those in the UK and Europe, right off the bat you can start filtering boot options by color.

who doesn't love that moment of bated breath before you open the box - hoping they're not duds!
And there are WAY more brands. Like, all sorts of brands I've never heard of (tho again, nobody is accusing me of being a well-versed style maven #fulldisclosure), at pretty good prices.

I got my start with overseas boot shopping with my Mondoni Kingstons from Divosa. Those were good boots that served me well over the years. When they finally finally died (probably long after most other reasonable people would have discarded them haha... actually, ok, I admit, they're still in the trunk of my car just in case of one of those days when, 'oops I need a pair of boots!'), I found myself immediately fed up with shopping the standard US retailers and brands.

first impression? *not* duds lol, and actually not orange at all either!
Nothing my price, and nothing that looked quite right size-wise. In fairness, my calves were at that time pushing the limit of what's reasonable to expect off the rack. But I was determined. And, uh, also broke haha. So back to browsing overseas again.

leather is soft, details are nice! elastic panel also key haha
To be honest, I don't know a lot about overseas retailers - it's not like I had a catalog of them to browse through, ya know? Turns out, tho, when you start googling some of those less-familiar boot brands (like Brogini, Mondoni, Horka, HKM, QHP) -- maybe looking for reviews or size guides - other retailers start popping up in your search results.

In this manner, I discovered the HKMs I eventually purchased from Tackville in 2017. Being real, these weren't really my favorite boots from an aesthetic perspective while I was shopping. The color was meh, they were dress boots when I would have preferred field boots, and they seemed kinda boring. BUT. The calf dimensions looked good.

they're gonna be a bear to keep clean but idc
And they were good! Those boots actually lasted a lot better than I would have expected, and were super comfortable. I wore them for everything. Trail riding. Trekking through the fields. Lessons. Competitions. All of it. But sadly, after about 18mos, the zipper (clogged with dirt, no doubt) finally bit the dust. Sadness!

I wasn't expecting a new boot purchase so soon, but them's the breaks. It works out tho bc considering the HKMs had been priced like the tall boot equivalent of Target skinny jeans, it wasn't really all that heartbreaking financially when they bit it.

the website made it seem like they could turn out pretty orange, esp with that 'airbrushed' patina effect. the color is nice tho! as is the leather. it should condition well.
This time around, I knew the shopping would be a little bit easier, mostly bc my calves are smaller again (finally, thank the lort). While I did do a cursory search of Riding Warehouse, Smartpak and Dover (just in case!) I didn't waste a lot of time there. It was right back out to the euro outlets, looking for my next pair of euro trash boots haha.

My searches took me back to the Familiar Divosa and Tackville mentioned above, but also further afield when a google search brought up Derby House.

it's a nicely made boot with attractive details and mostly pleasant materials for the price - but still a cheap zipper that will need to be handled with care lest it go the way of the HKMs.... #gonetoosoon
The thing I love about all of these retailers is that most of their sites have search filters for all the right features: foot size, calf size and color.

I'm an almost unbelievably standard US 7 in women's shoes, and have found this conversion chart fairly helpful. I'm also back to being just on the cusp between a regular and wide/full calf, generally choosing wide and not regretting it. And of course, as I previously mentioned, I'm interested in brown boots plz. lol...

they fit!!! #catapproved
This time around there were endless temptations. Mondoni has a knock off variation of the Mountain Horse Sovereigns, for instance. Horka had quite a few options on Tackville that looked nice, tho alas not exactly in my specifications. Brogini also had a couple that looked intriguing, and Just Togs had an option with silicon grips on the calf that were miiiiighty cool haha.

roomy in the foot bed, fitted through the ankle and calf, and actually a nice height (will get better pics eventually i promise)
I decided to take a little risk tho and go light. Cognac light, to be specific. On one hand, they could have shown up being pumpkin orange. On the other hand tho, presuming they were actually truly leather as advertised, they'd probably darken with oil if needed.

Plus, idk, I dig the detailing. So. The QHP Wide Sophias won my red rose this time around ;)

And? I like them! And they fit!

and obvi the best part of unboxing??
They were listed as a UK 5 / EUR 38, and the foot bed is slightly roomy but comfortable for my US 7 feet. The wide calf zipped up both boots on the first try (with breeches on), tho obvi I was a little careful haha. And the height is good - the backs of the boots don't dig in behind my knee, but meanwhile the Spanish top is pronounced enough that I'm not worried about dropping too far.

The leather is also a lot nicer than I expected - quite soft and not at all plastic-y like the HKMs were. These are definitely the nicest of my euro boot collection thus far, at $220 shipped (remember, US buyers don't pay the VAT included in prices when shopping over seas). Shipping took a slow-but-not-interminable 11 days.

cats in boxes!
So this isn't really a review of the boots, per se, considering they're brand new and unproven at this point lol. But in terms of reviewing the process? I give it 5 stars. Buying my tall boots from overseas retailers has been a resounding success, and clearly something I'm happy to repeat.

From a budgetary, fit, and style perspective, I'm very happy to be able to consistently find boots that satisfy my wish list. And this way it's easy to get boots that nobody else (in the US, at least) is wearing without having to go custom.

Have you purchased tack, gear or attire overseas? Did the experience leave you feeling satisfied and eager for more? Or did it turn you off? Or maybe you've had different experiences depending on what (or from where) you purchased?

Are you like me when it comes to shopping, frugal to a fault? Or maybe you swing the full opposite direction, investing whole hog up front so you never have to revisit the same well?

55 comments:

  1. You know me, frugal as the day is long, but oooohhh those are PRETTY and you are tempting me into buying European boots that I sorely DO NOT NEED! I also LOVE the punch details... so classy. Enjoy them!

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    1. I’m excited about their debut at the barn haha! And yes you should totally check out some of these boots - ya know. For science. ;)

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  2. I love brown boots. Alas, in dressage they need to be black for showing. When my current schooling ones go belly up I’m going to check out these options. I love the tuffrider regsl dress boot. I bought a second pair on a Black Friday sale for showing. That way i can not worry about beating up my one pair of boots.

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    1. Oops- hit reply too soon. I meant to say that those are stunning. I would steal them but my foot is larger than yours.

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    2. I have a pair of black boots too but I just don’t love them. Idk why. But they’re there if I need them haha. And I always think about having separate show v schooling stuff but what ends up happening is I want to use the stuff I like the most, rather than letting stuff sit unused, and that means using it for schooling.

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  3. Those are pretty boots and what a price! I barely buy anything stateside let alone shop overseas but with deals like those it would be hard to pass up. I’m still an old school, like to get my hands on it, shopper and buying sight unseen makes me nervous. Are you able to return things bougt overseas or is the return shipping too costly?

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    1. Ha yea there’s definitely a bit of a risk in not seeing the boots in advance. The HKMs were kinda crappy leather (tho they lasted well!) but I sorta knew that going in, and was willing to live with it since they were the only off the rack boots that looked like the right size. With these new QHPs I was more nervous - I really wanted them to be nicer. Fortunately they are!

      Regarding returns, all of these places have pretty good return policies tho yes I think in most cases the international buyer pays return shipping. It’s worth reading the policies on the retailers website before buying. Personally when the first pair of mondonis I bought were the wrong calf size I actually originally tried to sell on eBay. Which did not end up working out very well (at all) so I eventually traded them to another horse person for goods and services. Selling on Facebook might have worked out better tho.

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    1. I’m so excited to try them out actually riding!!

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  5. I love those boots - they're beautiful!

    I think some of the reason brown boots aren't more popular in the US is that many people (especially your average adult amateur on a budget) want to be able to wear the same boot for schooling and for show. That's definitely the case with almost all of the adult amateurs riding dressage at 3rd level & under that I see at work. Trainers want a show boot they can wear with every horse and every jacket, which usually means black.

    I'd love a pair of brown boots and might have to look into l options from HKM and QHP - work sells both of the brands!

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    1. oooh you should totally look into the options!! i should have mentioned it in the post but part of what sparked additional research was when i went online to buy more pairs of the Montar breeches i originally bought from you (my white show pants are the same brand!) - so thanks for indirectly fueling my overseas research lol!!

      and re: boot color, i totally get using just one pair of boots for showing and schooling bc..... *i* use one pair of boots for showing and schooling, and that pair is brown lol. outside of the hunter ring, i haven't found rules explicitly barring brown boots from recognized competition. my impression, however, is that the US market is somewhat dominated by hunter equitation styles, and considering black is also overwhelmingly popular in dressage, black is what we get.

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    2. Grown boots aren't barred in the hunter ring - they are considered a informal so you wouldn't wear them in a derby stakes or classic but you can wear them (otherwise I never would have put together a brown outfit for showing )

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    3. Lol brown **** stupid autocorrect

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    4. Oooooh really?? I did not realize that (tho admittedly I’m not exactly brushed up on ushja rules lol). One of these days I really want to take Charlie to a local hunter show - tho I had in my mind a small derby, so probably would still go the black boot way even tho it’ll be unsanctioned.... and I completely forgot about your brown outfit !!!

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    5. Anytime you have a hunter rule question I got your back girl!

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    6. Thx ;) Lort knows I need the help haha

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  6. So many pretty boots - and definitely a few that would match my tack! (Not that I shop for things that would match my pretty brown tack. Nope. Not me.)

    But, sadly, I'm just... gonna sit over here and be jealous of people that can fit off the rack boots and half-chaps. lol At my skinniest, my calves were at the upper end of wide for the height of my shins...

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    1. Ugh yea I feel ya. It can be so hard to find this sort of apparel for less..... adolescent figures haha. But yes to matching boots and tack lol!!

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  7. I'm a nervous Nelly when it comes to shopping - so I definitely consider you a brave soul for shopping overseas! If you do oil them up you'll have to do a post before and after since I'm infinitely curious however that would turn out!

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    1. Ha yea I get that. Personally I’m not much of a stickler for luxury leather or whatever - and when I pay cheap prices I generally am not surprised when I receive a cheap product. But it’s nice to be surprised in the other direction - these boots at first blush appear better than expected! I’m not sure yet about oiling them, but I’ll certainly document it if I do!

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  8. Ohhhh, I have been lusting over brown boots lately for some reason but am feeling cheap haha. I love my Ariat field boots and have a pair for schooling and just bought a new pair for showing only last summer for a song. I am a hard fit with tiny size 6 feet and a wide calf, but I will have to look into these overseas options.

    Also, I have replaced MANY zippers on boots over the years. There is a cobbler about an hour away and for $12 he has saved my boots even just days before a show! So worth considering if you have boots you love and the only thing wrong is a broken zipper.

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    1. Ooooh definitely check it out and let us know if you find anything !!!

      And re the zipper I’m hoping you’re right that it’s axtually an easy cheap fix bc those HKMs could still have some life left. It takes me for actual ever to get around to stuff like that tho so we will see lol

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  9. Can't wait to see there in action! That cognac color is gonna look 👌 with your black tack, too!😍

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    1. so i rode in them today and they were really great - super comfortable and still gave me a good feel for the horse despite being brand new and not broken in yet! plus they match my jump saddle haha!!

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  10. I'm pretty cheap when it comes to some things (I mostly school in riding tights for example) and I keep stuff until it's basically completely broken.. but one of the few things I don't go cheap on is tall boots because I've never had a cheaper pair that didn't end up in wearing all of the skin off my heels. Now that I have a nice pair of tall boots I can't go back! Granted it has gotten the zipper replaced to give it extra life (going on 10+ years, but they were only used at shows for a while).

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    1. that's awesome to have boots last that long!! my old pull-on pair through college were like that -- actually they're still technically in excellent shape but they don't fit my calf anymore (sadness!) and nobody wants to buy a pair of pull on boots any more. le sigh....

      it's worth noting tho that these last couple pairs of boots have broken in much easier than some of the sturdier built-to-last boots that i've had. like this pair above, i rode in them today and spent quite a bit of time walking around in them and they feel great! i guess it just depends on the boot....

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  11. I've had such trouble fitting all sorts of clothing. I don't tend to think that I'm an odd size but things are never consistent. I don't do much purchasing online unless they have a free return shipping policy. So I'm pretty sure that limits all overseas places for me. :(

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    1. I totally feel ya on clothing. While I have purchased breeches online, I generally try to stick with either brands I know, or brands that have been reviewed by someone with a similar body type to mine. It’s still hit or miss tho. Footwear imo has been easier. Most of these boots have size guides that is fairly explicit in terms of foot bed length, boot height, and calf diameter. So all you need is a measuring tape against your own foot and leg to see if it looks good. There are still some tricky pieces tho - like whether the widest part of your calf is the same proportionally to the widest part of the boot calf. Generally tho, I’ve found footwear sizing to be more consistently measured than most other attire. Ymmv tho!!

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  12. The last couple of years I have been buying pretty much all my gear from Derby House, and haven't had a dud yet! The low prices for nice things is not good for managing my saddle pad addiction tho :)

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    1. Ooooh that’s good to know!! I am always a little nervous about placing an order at a new-to-me overseas retailer but I haven’t had a bad experience yet. Derby house had a nice website and was mostly easy to use (tho occasionally slow to load lol) and I can definitely foresee buying from them again!

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  13. Ummm...you're a genius. Teach me your ways. My schooling boots are on their last season as we speak (currently you can see my sock through the boot if you look closely at the top of the foot...). I'm so in love with brown leather, but as you mentioned the selection here is abysmal. Plus, I have the problem where I can't find anything tall enough in the brands that actually make brown boots in my price range. Mountain Horse is way too short. Ariat is tall enough but I'm looking for dress boots. Ovation makes brown, but I didn't like the quality AND they were too short.

    Soooo I'm gonna take a page from your book and do some more searching :) Thanks for the idea! Can't wait to hear how your new boots wear. And I think the color is pretty!

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    1. yesssssss go shopping and let us know what you find!!! i was talking to my trainer yesterday and she mentioned finding a pair of blue deniro dressage boots on consignment and now i've got this crazy idea of getting something like that too haha, and you better believe i'll be looking overseas for that!! for brown dressage boots, i actually kinda liked the Horka Sarahs above, tho the calf looks a little weird in the picture. anyway good luck!

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    2. Follow Centerline Style's consignment. They often have Deniro's on sale there. Usually custom orders. I've seen some crazy boots in there!

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  14. I love those! Maybe I should meet up with you one day and try them on? I’m sort of worried about calf as I fall in between wide and regular and usually need the full... but I do want brown boots that don’t cost $$$ and I wear size 7 too...

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    1. hell yes!! maybe we could meet up for a trail ride and i'll just bring all the boots lol - considering i still have the mondonis (beat up tho they are) and one of my HKMs still has a functional zipper, so you could try those too.

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    2. Sounds great! And a good excuse for another trail ride too.

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  15. I always shop Europe because buying from the US to Canada is brutal for exchange and import fees, I can always get stuff from the UK cheaper than buying in Canada. Its crazy. I just recently bought a QHP saddle pad and I love it, so looking forward to hearing how the boots hold up.

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    1. it never really occurred to me before Theresa from Gingersnap mentioned it above, but it makes total sense that shopping from europe is way more common in canada haha. so far i'm really happy with the boots, can't speak to their longevity yet obvi but i really like them!

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  16. Holy beautiful boots! Thanks for giving me a slew of new retailers to check out!

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    1. yesssss definitely check these sites out!! even window shopping is fun occasionally lol

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  17. I LOVE THESE OMG

    and I love brown boots. But I am an almost unbelievable 7.5 and my calves naked measure 16" around so unless they are boots for elephants I'm probably not getting in.

    I got really randomly lucky (it's luck if you stalk ebay, right?) and got brown DEHNERS in my size for 175. over christmas I freshened up the dye job and they look brand new!

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    1. ooooh that's so exciting about the new dye job on your boots - those were SUCH a find, i'm glad you're still so happy with them!

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  18. Answered my question on your latest post -- oops! Love these! I can't do the mountain horse versions because they are too baggi in the ankles! Maybe it's time for me to start shopping abroad too!

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    1. you should definitely check some of these out, there are so so so many more options!

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  19. I have a shopping problem, and own way too many of the boots you posted to admit... I do have a pair from this brand, the Shiva, but I got the gray and black ones. I haven't worn them yet (which I shouldn't even admit) so I'm curious to follow along with how these hold up! I was considering these in black to show in maybe when my Parlanti's die.
    I shop overseas a lot actually, and find so many great things for so much cheaper than here even with the extra shipping costs. My most recent order was to Equiport for some De Niro boots for $400 shipped. I'm not sure I'll survive the eight week wait, but I think it will be totally worth it!
    These are gorgeous, and I hope they ride as nicely as they look!

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    1. wow $400 shipped?! that's pretty amazing haha. and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a tall boot habit lol, we all have our little things, right?

      re: these boots, i've only worn them to the barn once so far so i probably can't really speak immediately to their quality and longevity, but i'm REALLY happy with them. probably actually happy enough with them that i might take better care of them than i typically do with my boots, bc i want them to stick around. they're very very comfortable, which is often issue #1 for me. and even in their first ride i was still able to have a good feel of my horse's sides. i'll probably update intermittently on how they continue to break in and wear.

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    2. I'll definitely follow along!
      Yes, $400 shipped! And they're NAVY with snakeskin! I actually just blogged about them last week, you can see them here:
      https://amateuratlarge.blogspot.com/2019/01/truthful-tuesday_8.html

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  20. Oooooooooo sooo pretty! I love me some brown boots! What a pretty color!

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  21. I got my Airowear Outlyne from overseas because none of the US retailers carry their larger sizes for women (thanks pregnancy and boobs and chocolate). I was pretty pleased with the experience, all told.

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  22. I'm all for brown boots as well and recently bought brown Cavallo paddock boots from Germany for about what I would pay for Ariats here. Getting a pair of tall boots has eluded me though - no one makes them short enough without going custom. The short heights are usually still 2" too tall. Not to mention needing xtra wide calves to go with the super short height. Sigh. One day.

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  23. Um I really really love the detailing!! I'm still on a tall boot hunt, so maybe I'll take a page from your book and look more overseas!

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  24. Sure, there are a boat load of things to mention in this post. However, all I could think about when I finished reading was, "But really - those boots . . . mmmm get on muh feet!" Ha! They look amazing! Also, ha! I want a reason for the snakeskin ones!

    Cheers!

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  25. LOVE THEM! omg if I could fit off the rack boot (I'm too tall) I would want ALL the ones you pictured. So many options! I've never even heard of 90% of those brands. Great find!!!

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  26. Boot shopping is quite tricky for me (short girl with tiny feet and muscled calves from riding). I bought my pair last minute in high school for a pony club event. They fit well enough riding, but there is an extra inch or two in the toes that make walking extremely painful. It's paddock boots and chaps for me!

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