I have never seen any of the Western boots in an actual store, only on-line or at fairs (and they didn't seem to be good quality).
That seems to be an unfair statement to make, since you have indeed NOT seen them in person. Yes, cheap western boots (under $50) tend to be cheaply made and won't last long. But a nice quality Western boot will last you decades
, if you take care of them.
I have a pair of Fat Baby's that I bought about 9 or 10 years ago. They are SO comfortable; just like tennis shoes. And they look just as good today as they did when I bought them. But I take care to condition the leather every couple of months.
1. Can she / should she keep on riding in her English paddock boots because she's used to them? There will be some local training shows in the summer. Is the type of the boot important?
You will have to check with the local rules of the shows you plan on entering. Some may require a Western boot.
One other thing to consider is that I honestly would not
consider a paddoack boot to be safe
in a western stirrup. And this is the reason why: Look at the where the fenders on a western saddle end, and where the top of the paddock boot will fall. If is very easy for your short boot to get trapped with your heel down, if the edge of your boot gets stuck under the edge of the fender. You never want your foot pinned in a stirrup; ever. It's just not safe.
Hence why I will NEVER ride in a short shaft western riding boot (like the Justin Gypsys). It's too easy to get your foot caught.
English saddles don't have fenders, so it's a non-issue there.
2. How do Western Boots fit and feel differently compared to English paddock boots? She has wide feet, and is very picky about what is comfortable. She's also size adult 7.
They will feel stiffer and bulkier for the most part, but once you get used to them, I doubt it will make much difference.
The nice thing about western boots is that they DO come in different widths (That's the A, B, C, D, etc listed behind the number size). They can be hard to find, but if you truly need to find a wider boot, it can be done.
3. I read here that the Fatbaby boots aren't a good choice, but they seem the ones that are wider? Are they wider? Why aren't they a good choice?
Fatbaby boots should NEVER be ridden in. Period. I don't ride in mine.
Fatbaby boots have no heel on the sole, so there is nothing to prevent your foot from sliding all the way through the stirrup and getting yourself dragged and hung up, if you should fall off.
Western stirrups don't have that breakaway rubber side on them like most English stirrups do, so if your foot goes all the way through, that makes for a dangerous situation. Never ride in a western saddle unless you've got a proper heel on it.
Plus you are still dealing with that short shaft on the boot that can get stuck under the fender.
4. How do you buy boots if you can't try them on???
Each boot fits so differently. You have to try them on. I never order any kind of shoe online. I've got to try them on.
Or at least, order from a website that has reasonable shipping and a good return policy, so you can return them if they aren't comfortable or don't fit.
5. Is Ariat the best brand? What else is decent quality for a child taking lessons / doing small shows and not too expensive?
Each brand is personal preference. Ariat is one of the common name brands.
There are cheap off-brand western boots out there that are sometimes a good choice for a growing child taking lessons. Or, check out EBAY! Lots of great used stuff on there.
I personally, love Ariat. I didn't do this on purpose, but I just noticed last year that out of my 7 pairs of western boots, 5 of them are Ariats. I guess they just fit my feet well!!
5. Also, if she does a training show, can she wear just a regular button down shirt? And how a "western shirt" from an equestrian store might be different?
Again, check with the show rules to see what is going to be required.
Western shirts are going to be long-sleeved with cuffs and a collar, and of course, button down.
You could get away with buying a regular "dress" button down shirt from Target (for example) because the judges are not going to check the brand name of the shirt, as long as it meets the button down and long sleeve requirement, is clean, and properly pressed.
You do not have to get expensive with western show clothes, but you should still make sure everything is neat and clean for good presentation. Even something as small as polishing the BOTTOM of your boots (which the judge sees when you walk away from them in a halter or showmanship class) can really show that you went the extra mile to look professional.