Monday, January 6, 2014

My Odd Compulsion - Polishing Boots

I have sort of addressed my moderate obsession with a well polished boot on this blog before (specifically when I'm proud of my efforts, like I was here) but I'm not sure I've ever fully disclosed how fully obsessed I am with getting a serious shine on my boots.

I'm not 100% sure where this obsession came from.  My first assumption is that it's some bastion of a holdover from Pony Club and the ever present fear of Formal Inspections. Lord knows I've overcome most other PC commandments, so either the boot polishing thing is that last neurosis standing, or it's totally unrelated.  Who knows.

Regardless of why, I just sort of relish obscenely well polished boots.  At shows I notice other people's polish jobs and my reaction ranges from a smug disdain of people who don't clean/polish around their laces, (or both actually buffing to a shine) to full out jealousy of people with a patent like shine radiating from their well worn boots.

At home I have an arsenal of polishes, brushes, clothes and the ever important old pair of pantyhose that contribute to getting my boots as shiny as possible.

Typically I keep whatever my current "show boots" are in pretty tip-top shape, while whatever I'm wearing to school in/stomp around the barn tends to collect sand and mud and splatters galore without getting much in the way of attention.

However, this weekend I got a bee in my bonnet and decided that all boots needed a thorough cleaning and polishing immediately.
All is right with the world.
My only complaint is that I am so out of shape that buffing each pair to a serious shine has left my shoulder screaming in pain.

I am not exaggerating.  I woke up probably 20 times last night because every time I moved my arm it throbbed.  Mind you, this is mostly due to the fact that I have several rotator cuff injuries from college volleyball which flair up from time to time - but pain after swinging and playing hard for hours on end is different form pain after sitting cross legged on the floor polishing boots while watching the NFL playoffs.... Not exactly heroic.

But back to the boots.  What I found moderately fascinating was how differently each pair of boots takes a shine.

Since I wasn't polishing for a show, but rather to condition, seal stitching, etc I went for my "normal" polish job that involves cleaning with a warm wet rag, polishing once with a regular cream ( I use an old rag to apply and initially buff, followed by a real buffing with nylons..) then repeating the process with a regular hard wax polish from Kiwi.

That combo gets you a pretty good seal, a decent shine and a good base that allows you to just wipe off dirt and whatnot for a couple weeks without having to re-polish.  It's my go to.

So.  This process involved four pairs of boots.

1) The pull-on Effingham Field Boots (circa 1996?)
2) The Konig Dressage Boots (purchase from old trainer for $150)
3) The pull-on Konig Field Boots (Purchased on clearance last year)
4) the Treadstep DaVinci's (Purchased this year as our show/lesson boots, but are now on sale in Dover for like $150 less than I paid - sniff sniff)

The Effinghams are by far my favorite.  They feel like slippers, I can pull them on and off without boot pulls or a jack, and the leather takes a shine beautifully.  They have been dying a slow, painful death, and I just noticed a huge blowout in the ball of my foot, which actually elicited a small squeak of sadness, but I'm hoping a good cobbler can patch it up ok.
Fallen Soldier.
The Konig Dressage Boots also take a shine reeeaaalllllyyy nicely.  Much like the Effinghams, they get to a patent, mirror like shine without too much work.  They haven't been getting much wear recently because they are stiff, stiff stiff and I'd probably break my ankle before I got my heel down or toe out in those things.
But, when I lined them up against all the other boots, they really are a full inch taller and do fit me beautifully should we ever venture back into the Dressage ring...

The relatively new Konig Field Boots are finally starting to get a good shine.  I remember showing in them in June and lamenting the fact that the softer calfskin just wouldn't shine up.  I could get the toe and heel buffed nicely, but the calf refused to really get that patent/wet shine on it.  I finally gave up and paid $20 to have them "professionally" polished at a show and took some solace in the fact that the career boot polisher couldn't do much with them either.  Most people might have felt like it was a waste of $20, but for me - to know the lack of perfect shine wasn't my fault? Money well spent...

However, yesterday I noticed a significant gain in the shine I was able to get on them.  I think the leather is breaking in, and I'm finally sealing the pores with polish and laying the base for a better finished shine.  I'm also really happy with these boots in terms of utility (aside from being slightly too short), they are distinctly grippier when I'm riding than the Treadsteps and I really don't mind the look of a pull on boot (though I know it's a faux pas in the Hunter Ring).

Finally, I polished the new Treadsteps.  Much like when I first got the Konig Fields, the Treadsteps have had me trying all my tricks trying to get the newer leather to shine up.  The foot of the boot is polishing well, but the slightly more textured leather on the calf is a total pain in the ass in terms of polish.  At this point there are small parts of the leather that are smoothing out and shining up more than others which drives me absolutely insane, but hopefully is indicative of what will come with a bit more wear and tear.

In case you think I'm crazy and all boots look the same when polished, here is a comparison of my oldest boots (the Effinghams) and the newest (the Treadsteps) and their appearances after the same application of polish/elbow grease:

The Treadsteps:
Clean, Shiny, but not blow your socks off polished...

And The Effinghams:
This makes my heart happy.
That, my friends is what drives me slowly insane about polishing boots.  I know it's possible to get that patent shine, but it depends on the leather.  It's texture to begin with, how treated it is from the manufacturer, how broken in, how many years of polish are laid down as a base, etc.

My goal in life is for my boots to always look like they are dripping wet patent in the ring.  I just... love that.

In other news, it's a good thing I don't have a lesson for a couple days because I literally cannot lift my right arm from the shoulder.  I am broken.  Lamest "horse related" injury ever.


  1. Were you the one to break in your Effinghams? A friend gave me a pair of BNIB Effinghams for free, and I think I'll like them but holy crap they kill me just wearing them around the house!

    1. I was! But it was also close to 20 (!!??) years ago so who knows what changes happened between mine and yours... I was also so thrilled at the time to have a pair of "tall slim" boots that *sort of* fit me, that I probably wouldn't have noticed if they killed my feet. :)

    2. My Effinghams were PAINFUL to break in, but now look a lot like the ones shown above...well loved! I bought a pair of barely used ones on ebay a while ago and am so glad they're already mostly broken in.

  2. Lol. I probably shouldn't admit that I like more of a matte black for my boots...

  3. Like SprinklerBandit, I too like a more matte finish for my boots. That said, you should/should have done a step-by-step how-to on how to make your Effinghams look like that. DAMN that is impressive!

  4. I too love SHINEY boots but that can be attributed to the last 20 years in the Marine Corps! LOL Gorgeous boots!

  5. Sending my boots your way to polish!

  6. Come to my house any time. I'll bring you noms and you can polish/teach me how to get my boots polished. I either suck at it or they hate polish because they do not shine AT ALL.

  7. Does hosing them off count? Seriously- it's in our "lesson rules" to have polished boots- yet....all I can ever manage to do is wipe them down. For a show. What's your address ;)

  8. I am blinded by the last photo!

    My old pair of field boots used to shine up really nicely, but sadly they don't for my calf anymore. I didn't realize there was so much to a good shine. Why the nylons?

  9. Umm yeah i'll mail mine to you right now :)

  10. I'm a matte girl, 100%. If I was a high-shine girl, I'd probably get patent boot, haha.

  11. I second the request for a full, detailed "how to polish your boots" post. Including product recommendations. I don't know that I want a full patent look in the hunter ring, but rather a fully clean gloss (not fully matte). I'd love to know your process so I can start to tinker with my own preferences. I usually just clean and condition well *hangs head in shame*

  12. I love that I am not the only one with TONS of tall boots

  13. This makes me really want to go out and buy new boots

  14. I'm the worst when it comes to shining my boots. I'm just so lazy about it, and that Urad creme works pretty well so I just wipe it on and go. It still shines though!

  15. That’s a really gorgeous set of boots you have there! Those Effinghams really do need a good patch up job ASAP. Perhaps a leather restoration expert would be of more help.

    Peter @ Colourlock


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