Monday, July 11, 2016

Product Review: Dublin 'Husk' Boots

I was hesitant to review these boots as my first 'product review' because I have such mixed feelings about them. They retail in NZ for $339.99 ($245.45 USD, £188.90 GBP) which places them towards the mid to top end of the paddock boot market; 'Horze' and Saddlery Warehouse's 'Cooper Allan' sell cheaper, though arguably less stylish, variations. The only real competition for top spot that I've found are the 'Sergio Grasso' Baxter 60200 boots, which retail for more than twice the price of the Husk boots. 
Dublin issue a boot care guide with their boots to prolong the life of them, and recommend you wipe mud off boots after use, treat with leather conditioner and use an occasional weatherproofing treatment as they are marketed as waterproof. 

In honesty, I opted not to follow the care guidelines. I purchased the waterproof paddock boots as a casual winter boot that would save my nice Mountain Horse's the damage that winter generally inflicts. As paddocks usually turn to pugged up mud baths over winter, wiping the boots daily after use would defeat the purpose of purchasing them. I could maintain the condition of my regular riding boots that way, and those are incidentally easier to clean and quicker to dry afterwards. So I neglected my duties as a responsible buyer in that regard. 

Conditioning and weatherproofing in proportion to the cleaning advice also represents a further monetary investment, so if you're a strapped for cash student like me, I'd recommend a nice pair of gumboots instead; also sitting in the casual paddock boot category and much cheaper/easier to maintain over the winter.  

The Dublin's do have an advantage over regular gumboots- being fully functional riding boots too, complete with a smoother sole, tidy heel and even handy spur rests incorporated into the design. They are also more flexible than other paddock boots, giving you a better range of leg motion in the saddle.

However, the calf area of the boot eventually began to sag and sits in a really unfortunate position when I'm riding - bunching right into the bottom of the saddle flaps on both my jumping and dressage saddles. Whilst this is only a minor inconvenience, as my leg is generally still anyway, it gets irritating asking for a canter transition moving one leg slightly back, and feeling the boot pull away from its sticky position. Perhaps storing these with boot-fillers would be a good idea?
- If you're one of the naughty riders who rides in gumboots, you'll be a million times comfier in the Dublin boots. For me, they're just not as snug and seamless as I'd anticipated and the only time I don't switch them for my usual riding boots is if we're going on a bareback hack.  

Finally, I do think the boots should be marketed as water resistant as opposed to waterproof. Whilst I have indeed chased down the odd hard-to-catch horse across a puddle infested paddock without a damp sock in sight, these boots have had a really easy nine months. They've been exposed to perhaps ten days of accumulative bad weather, the rest of the time they've been on dry ground, and stored in a dry and airy space. I've never cleaned them and you can see above the layer of dirt they've collected over that time period. It's not too bad for a pair of winter boots, right? So, I'll be generous and say that they've faced a fortnight of winter weather without being cared for as suggested, and they've started to leak. Slowly but surely my socks are getting slightly damp after crossing a couple of gateways to catch my horse. This makes me a little skeptical as to just how much weatherproofing would be required to keep them waterproof throughout a normal winter; because let's not forget that we've had incredibly dry weather this year. 

Crunch time; despite being less comfortable than usual riding boots, and not as waterproof as I imagined, I would still repurchase these boots for three reasons.

The first, and most significant reason is that they are potentially the comfiest pair of boots I have ever worn; and I thought my Mountain Horse's would be impossible to beat. They're like a pair of warm and toasty running shoes. The mandatory breaking in period for new shoes is not necessary for these guys, just slip them on and they snuggle into your feet like outdoor slippers. Wearing gumboots on particularly wet days, because as I said - these are losing their water resistant capacity - feels a bit like I'm punishing my feet. The Dublin Husk's have turned me into a bit of a princess, and now gumboots feel cold and very tough on my delicate feet!

Secondly, the accumulative fortnight of treacherous weather that I've put these guys through was bad, let's be fair. The mud was relentless and these boots kept my toes entirely warm and dry. So they're not just waterproof, but cold-proof too. I'm disappointed by how long they stayed waterproof, but as I mentioned, I haven't taken the best care of them. And warmth. It's a big deal for me. I'd for sure spray a bit of waterproofing spray on my next boots every now and again and see how that works for me. Maybe you have a pair of these and can say yours have held up better than mine? If on the other hand, you're thinking of purchasing, do yourself a favour and spray them every now and again. They're warm and comfy; keep them waterproof and you'll be away laughing on a fast camel. 

The final reason I'd repurchase, and I've kept it to last because it's entirely trivial, is that they just look good. The design really is beautiful, and whilst Dublin have created different variations in style (the River boots, the Harroways, the Estuarys), the Husks are a firm favourite of mine. They are not true to colour, so if you like the deep chocolate colour that is displayed on the Dublin website, you may find yourself disappointed, but they absolutely still look fabulous. I've had compliments on mine whilst out walking the dogs, and so they get the non-horse person tick of approval too -- perfect for those of us who prefer to look more like an equestrian than a farmer.  I'm not at all knocking the red bands here, but I know I'm not the only rider that's half townie at heart.. even if we do like to keep it on the down low! 

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