Asking how to get a pair of riding boots to shine like black glass will instantly inspire debate among horse-folk, as everyone has a different technique.
Regular attention to cleaning and polishing will prolong the life of your boots and preserve their shine. Regardless of discipline, clean, polished boots will make a good impression both in and out of the saddle. Boots are something that we all wear to the barn – paddock boots, tall boots, cowboy boots, hiking boots. We have to care for them – otherwise the leather fails – cracks, dulls, looks and feels terrible. In the show ring, your boots had better be shiny because judges look into the effort you have made.
A black glass mirror-shine does not happen over night. This process takes hours of elbow grease and work. Let me give you a small example with photos! The first photo is of a normal clean boot the second is of a boot with elbow grease.
• A Sylvette or fine polishing cloth
• A pair of ladies nylon tights (trust me on this!)
• A couple of tins of shoe polish (Kiwi Parade Gloss is best), one for brush polishing and one for “bobbing”
• Two good bristled shoe brushes, one labeled “on” and the other, “off”
• An old toothbrush
• An old wet rag
Method of Choice for Me
- Start with a clean and dry riding boot. Remove excess dirt and dried mud from your boots – use a wet rag if needed – and use the toothbrush to get into the nooks and crannies where the leather meets the sole (welts), or round any lace eyelets. Don’t forget to clean the sole too.
- Apply a good quantity of polish from your brush polishing tin using the “on” brush
(TIP: make sure your polish is warm – I like to heat it gently using body heat or over a small flame)
- Leave to dry (5 minutes is usually sufficient)
- Using your ‘Off’ brush, polish the shoe vigorously until a nice shine appears.
- Repeat steps 1 – 4.
- Roll the tights into a ball and buff vigorously.
- Dampen your Sylvette or fine polishing cloth in cold water and then dip it into your bobbing polish.
- Apply to one section of your boot at a time, rubbing in circles, slowly building up thin, even layers. Reapply polish when the polishing cloth starts to looks grey or blue-ish.
- As you continue to apply polish and water you will begin to see a dull shine.
- As the polish builds up the leather will start to shine. At this point, the secret is to reduce the amount of polish you’re using and enlarge the circles. This is called “finishing off” and requires a little practice at first to avoid smearing.
By now, your boots should be gleaming. If you wear spurs, don’t forget to pull some polish along your spurs straps and buff up any steel work (Tooth Paste is great for cleaning spurs and stirrups). If you’re at a show, a great tip is to ask your groom (or patient friend) to wipe down the soles of your boots after mounting. Nothing ruins clean and tidy turnout like exposed muddy soles.