Tutorial: Boot Polishing

Oh man guys. Ask and you shall receive. I included a pic of my polishing party yesterday as a fun sidenote, but got a whole bunch of interest in the whole process. Here I’ll present you with two different ways we polish our boots- one is a shorter process that we do regularly, and the other is a much more intense process that’s usually done before shows or special occasions. Or because we’re dorks and polish our boots a lot (legit we’ve made Facebook events called “Boot Polishing Party”).

These are both pulled almost word-for-word from the instructions Assistant Trainer sent me, so all credit goes to her!

Weekly Polish


Tin of wax-based black polish
Polish applicator
Boot brush (usually horse hair)
Soft buff cloth
Latex/vinyl gloves

Note: you can usually find all these things in a kit at really any store- I use Kiwi brand

Other note: wearing the boots makes polishing them easier, and cuts down on chances of getting polish all over yourself/clothes/etc.


  1. Make sure boots are clean and dusted off- don’t use too much soap or conditioner. Just scrape off the worst mud and then use a little glycerin soap (like old school orange bar saddle soap) and very little water to get the rest off. (*Note: once your boots have been polished a bunch and have a solid layer of polish on them, all you’ll have to do to clean them off is wipe them down*)
  2. Wearing gloves (to keep fingers polish-free), use applicator to layer on a good amount of polish onto boots everywhere EXCEPT the inside of the arch, heel, and calf (so you don’t get black polish on your saddle or pony)
  3. Let polish dry. The dried polish will give your boots a matte finish, which will make it easier to see if you missed any spots.
  4. Taking the boot brush, use quick strokes and start buffing across the polish. Use a light pressure- if you’re leaving drag marks from the bristles, you’re pressing too hard. This should start putting a light shine across the leather. Break a sweat, buff a lot!
  5. Finish the shine by using the buff cloth. Drape cloth across boot, grab on either side, apply firm pressure downward, and pull side to side briskly. Make sure to slide the cloth up and down while you’re going back and forth. Keep breaking a sweat!
  6. TA DA! Quick polish and shine. Now just make sure you don’t cross your boots over your knees if you cross your legs, or you’ll leave black smudges on your breeches.

Mirror Polish


Tin of wax-based black polish
Latex/vinyl gloves
100% cotton tshirt (cut some large chunks and a couple strips out of it)
Polish applicator brush
Small bowl of water
Lighter (or two)
Nylon stocking
A dumb movie you don’t have to pay attention to
Drink of choice

Optional: something to protect your floor. Also optional: expression of total disgust.


  1. Clean and dust boots (see above)
  2. Wearing gloves, wrap your first finger in a chunk of the tshirt, and use the shirt to start applying liberal amounts of polish to the toecap in small, circular motions with even pressure. Use the applicator brush to help get the polish into the crease where the boot meets sole. I usually just do the toecap first, then the rest of the boot after.
  3. After a layer of polish is on the toecap, dip the polish cloth into the bowl of water, then put a drop of water on top of polish on toecap and rub in over whole toecap using even pressure. (the water and circular rubbing help the polish to soak into the leather more.)
  4. Take lighter, and use the flame to heat the polish on the toecap. (if you’re terrified, breathe, it’ll be okay. Move flame across the polish quickly, and I promise you won’t set anything on fire.)
  5. Boots not aflame? Super! Breathe!
  6. Repeat Steps 2-5, at least 4 times minimum.
  7. Final layer will be of polish, let polish dry for a few minutes.
  8. Rehydrate yourself and stretch.
  9. Take strip of tshirt and buff across toecap.
  10. Ohhh shiny.
  11. Take nylon stocking and buff across toecap again. (the secret is the nylon really smooths everything to the finest degree)
  12. Admire your reflection in the toecap.
  13. Repeat Steps 2-5 on the rest of the boot (EXCEPT the inside of the arch, heel, and calf), 2 times at least. **this is the point where the double lighters come in handy, because the lighter top will get hot heating half of the calf, so switch to the second lighter to heat the other half so you don’t burn the crap out of your thumb. Or you can use one of those lighters with a long neck to reduce finger singing.**
  14. Finally, repeat Steps 7-11.
  15. HUZZAH! Your boot now almost looks like patent-leather!
  16. Now repeat everything on the other boot!! YAY!
Ooh shiny!

What have we learned lately?

Surprise weekend post! I realized that I’ve been soaking up helpful tidbits like a thirsty little sponge lately, and I wanted to get them all in one spot. Without further ado, here’s what I’d like to get in my muscle memory:

  1. Large circles with a counter-bend to small circles with the correct bend help give a lot of suppleness and softness at the trot. Changing the bend often is a great way to break up stiffness and resistance.
  2. Long warmups at the walk, both on and off the contact, are great for getting Beastly’s back moving and getting in the right mental state. Show up a little early for rides so we have plenty of time to do big stretchy circles before getting into more strenuous work.
  3. When the Unicorn tries to lean on my inside hand and get unbalanced around corners, give her a good push with my inside leg to force her into my outside aids.
  4. However, don’t overdo the bend. Keep a very strong feel on the outside aids around corners.
  5. Pick my hands up- bracing on her mane does absolutely nothing except ruin my position and take away control. Hands should be at hip height for now until I learn to let them be more independent.
  6. Sit up straight and sit deep. We may have fun at hunter shows, but a light seat doesn’t help us. Nor does leaning up the neck until I’m lying on my face. As my trainer tells me so often, “Ride like ze Germans!”
  7. Take deep breaths on the approach to a fence. This has a 100% success rate of getting us to a nice distance. I can still sometimes find a decent takeoff spot if I’m not breathing regularly, but it happens much more naturally if I’m actually taking in oxygen.
  8. Half-halt with my thighs. This has recently changed my world. Suddenly my half-halts are actually accomplishing something pretty dramatic! Remember to back it up with a lot of leg.
  9. Leg leg leg leg leg leg leg. It is OK to soften when things are going well. Softening does not equal taking leg off. As soon as the leg comes off, we lose brakes, steering, gas pedal, all sorts of control. Leg must be on at all times.
  10. As stated, soften when things are going well. Don’t be clinging to her face or half-halting every other stride if we’re balanced and comfortable. Correct her just enough to reach a good place, and then reward her by getting out of her way. Re-correct as necessary.
  11. Use all the releases in my toolbox. If we have a very tight turn as soon as we land, an 80s style gigantic jumper release probably isn’t the right choice. Our automatic release has proved to be a fantastic choice most of the time, but there is still a place for the familiar crest release.
  12. Get Drafty McDrafterson to stop trying to pull from her front end like her plow-horse ancestors, and get her instead to push from her hind end by doing tons of extension-collection transitions. Collection needs SO MUCH LEG to encourage her to pick herself up and channel the energy more roundly instead of just forward.
  13. Give My Little Pony infinite kisses and treats for challenging me and teaching me, all while making sure I stay safe. She has saved my butt countless times as I try to put all the pieces together. She earns all those cookies.