Are chaps cheating? This is a "rule" from long ago, but I don't even wear my ariat half chaps because of it. It seems to me that schooling is about building strength and feel and I don't quite see how you can do that in chaps. In the olden days (no helmets, cotton pants and loafers were de rigueur) I rode 3-4 horses/day, would never consider chaps. Barnyard myth?
There are several good reasons for wearing chaps.
Show-ring requirements -- Western riders will understand this! Practical use: riding through brush, keeping your good breeches clean, etc. Riding in summer when you are wearing shorts -- on hot days, when nylon breeches are horribly uncomfortable and even the cotton ones are just too hot, you can get in and out of chaps very quickly, and enjoy the breeze when you aren't actually riding. Riding at any time of year if you are wearing jeans with seams that run down the inside of your legs!
You're right about schooling building strength and feel -- but chaps won't necessarily interfere with this, especially at the lower levels. There are thin chaps made from split hides, and even from ultrasuede -- if you're comfortable in them, why not wear them sometimes?
I'll admit that I discourage my riders from schooling in chaps unless they have practical reasons for doing so occasionally, because the "feel" is not the same as it is when they wear breeches and boots, and especially if they are planning to compete in shows, it's a bad idea to school in ONE type of clothing and show in another! Remember what used to happen to the riders who schooled exclusively in sneakers and chaps? On show days, they were slipping all over their saddles and complaining about their boots having shrunk since the last show...
And the people who used to ride in chaps because they thought it would help them "stick" to their saddles have moved on to other methods of "glueing" their seats in!
We now have saddles with deep seats and HUGE thigh blocks and calf blocks, designed to put (and keep!) the rider in ONE place. For the truly determined, there are saddles with suede seats, and breeches with suede seats (used separately or together!). And for riders who can't afford those extremes, there are the rub-on sticks that can be applied to breeches and saddles...
Most of these measures are designed to put the weekend rider (temporarily) into an approximation of the correct position that someone who rides more regularly will achieve through practice and balance.
Half-chaps are another matter entirely, especially the Ariat version. These simply allow you to wear your paddock boots all day (or your riding sneakers!) and still have the protection and support of a tall boot while you ride. If you have to get on and off multiple horses during a workday, it certainly makes life easier and more comfortable! And if you are jumping and need the support, or if you are schooling dressage and need to use the more definite aids that a tall boot will allow you to give, those Ariat half-chaps are VERY useful indeed.
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