There is a divide in the equestrian community when it comes to half chaps. Some riders live in their half chaps, while others brush them off as unnecessary and stick to their tall boots. Some prefer traditional full chaps; and a handful of riders couldn’t even tell you what half chaps are. Personal preferences aside, half chaps have a purpose and place in the horseback riding world. Developed in the 19th century, half chaps were inspired by gaiters, which are garments that are worn over the lower pants to protect the lower leg. Gaiters are still worn by some today while hiking, walking, and running in rough terrain.
Equestrian half chaps were a common fixture in field calvary uniforms; however, the half chaps worn by soldiers were most likely much thicker and rugged than your pair of everyday Amara Half Chaps. Although horses are no longer used in battle, half chaps are still wildly popular. For many, half chaps serve as an alternative to tall riding boots, which can be uncomfortable and difficult to walk around the barn in. In addition, wearing half chaps also gives you the option of wearing jeans while you ride; you can simply wrap the half chap around your pant leg and zip. If you walk into any schooling arena, you’ll likely see many riders sporting a pair of these chaps fastened over their short paddock boots. This style creates the same visual effect as tall boots from afar, in addition to still providing the grips with protection and grip against the saddle.
Many riders opt for a half chaps and paddock boots combination, since this is generally much cheaper than investing in a pair of high-quality tall boots. This is especially true for parents who have young riders in the family, since they’re likely to outgrow any pair of boots within a year or two. However, splurging and purchasing tall boots may be a smart decision for those who plan to show their horse regularly and properly maintain their boots. While completely acceptable for everyday riding, half chaps are typically looked down upon in the show ring, and can cost you style points. However, if you don’t foresee entering in shows anytime soon, you shouldn’t feel pressured to break the bank by buying an expensive pair of tall boots.
Some riders argue that the stiff outer leg of their tall riding boots allow them to keep their legs straighter and more stable. Other riders argue that wearing half chaps over paddock boots helps them to feel more connected to the horse, and allows them to keep their leg position supple. In the end, it is a matter of preference, and your own comfort. Many riders reconcile these two options by schooling their horse while wearing their half chap and paddock boots, and only donning their tall riding boots when they step into the show ring.