All the coolest people from history have ridden horses: knights, cowboys, the top portions of centaurs. Relive history with this Groupon.
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- $55 for a guided horseback nature tour for two ($100 value)
- $99 for a guided horseback nature tour for four ($200 value)
The Cowboy Boot: A Different Kind of Horse Shoe
A heeled boot is important in the saddle. If you’re considering investing in a pair of cowboy boots, read on to learn why they’re made the way they are.
The archetypal cowboy is a free spirit, cutting a striking image in his hat and boots as he rides tall through the West. The boots he wears, however, may have their source in a much more regimented context: the military. Many of the first cowboys were former Civil War soldiers who would have brought their military-issued Wellington-style boots with them out West. These hard leather boots had a simple shape similar to that of a classic rubber rain boot, with a slight heel and a relatively straight calf-high shaft.
An alternative theory places the cowboy boot’s origins in the riding boots of the Spanish conquistadors. But regardless of whether they spread from the east or the south, the boots soon became excellently adapted to the original cowboys’ routine of riding for hours at a time, days on end. The tall leather shaft kept the lower leg and ankle from rubbing against the stirrup while protecting the rider from rocks, barbed wire, thorns, and snakebites. Meanwhile, it kept water from splashing in on rainy days or while crossing streams.
Cowboy boots are also designed to make it easy for the wearer to get out—out of the stirrups and out of the boot itself. The round and narrow toe, coupled with a slick and treadless sole, makes for a swift dismount. The shaft’s loose, stiff construction acts as a sort of quick-release mechanism from the horse: should the cowboy fall from the saddle, it’s safer for his feet to slip from the boot than to get stuck in a stirrup and risk being dragged by the horse. The angled heel—made from stacked pieces of leather and wood—also helps prevent this scenario, keeping the foot from sliding forward through the stirrup. That heel is helpful on foot, too: it can be dug into the ground when trekking on steep terrain or trying to lead a stubborn rattlesnake down the trail.