What’s the Difference Between English and Western Riding?

Sportby Mashum Mollah02 August 2021

Difference Between English and Western Riding

English and western riding styles are two entirely different ways to ride a horse. They both evolved out of the need to use a horse for various purposes and functions, and the formalization of each riding style resulted in an effective horse and rider combination.

Both riding styles share a similar seat, but how you use your upper and lower body differs, and is dependent on the riding discipline you’re engaging in. Following is a look at the major and minor differences between English and western riding:

The Basics of Western and English Riding Styles

Both English and western riding each have their own branches of riding styles, but the key differences between the two are how you sit in the saddle.

English riding saddles, whether it’s for jumping, dressage, or country pleasure, are designed to put you into a position where your seat is further forward than the western saddle. The basic function of an English saddle is to hold you right behind the withers of the horse and allow your leg to “wrap” around the horse’s barrel.

When you ride English, regardless of the sub-discipline, you need to ride using your thigh and calf while staying off your knees for positioning. This allows you to keep your hip level and push down with one side or the other to help signal a direction change when necessary.

Having less saddle between you and your horse enables you to meet obstacles at a moment’s notice and clear them successfully.

Western riding has its origins in ranching and working horses, which necessitates a heavier saddle and a seat that allows the horse to move freely while absorbing the shock from roping livestock and withstanding scrapes from the brush.

A standard western saddle has a high pommel and a low cantle which gives it an angle that goes from high in the front to low in the back when looking at the seat. The angle is an important detail of the western saddle because the rider uses their seat to direct the horse and ask for engagement of the hindquarters.

The details of the saddle change depending on their use, IE a barrel racer needs a saddle that’s as cut down as possible while still retaining the western seat while a roping horse needs a heavy saddle with solidity to help it hold livestock in place.

You may go through: 5 Ways Jockeys Make Their Horses Run Faster

Collection of the Horse

Collection of the Horse

Both English and western require a horse to carry themselves in the collection, but each is done very differently from one another. In English, riders take hold of the reins and draw the horse’s nose back towards its chest.

The rider has as straight of a line of contact with the bit as possible from the elbow through the wrist and maintains a soft contact. The rider sits straight in the saddle, puts their shoulders back, and maintains level hips. Hunter/jumper riders maintain a bend in the knee that allows them to clear the pommel of the saddle for a two-point position while dressage riders have a leg that’s almost straight. When a rider puts all of this together, they can ask the horse to move forward and bring its rear underneath itself, lifting the front end.

Western riding also requires a horse to balance through the collection but seeks a different form of self-carriage. The rider uses their seat and trains the horse to move away from pressure as opposed to a combination of seat and mouth contact to achieve collection.

In western riding, the reins are allowed to drape low, but not so low that the horse can step through them. Depending on the horse’s training, a snaffle bit or ported bar is used for control and contact. In some types of western riding, weighted reins help transmit the direction with the rider applying the rein to the right side of the neck to go left, and vice versa.

A western rider sits tall the same as English, but typically has a longer leg similar to dressage, and uses their seat to push down on the horse’s back to make the horse engage its rear while lifting its front.

Western and English Have EvolvedInto  Different Disciplines and Different Purposes

Western and English Have EvolvedInto  Different Disciplines and Different Purposes

Riding styles evolved out of the need to do a job while on horseback. The modern English saddle has its origins in England and Europe whereas the western saddle has its origins in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. Here’s a look at the origins and uses for each style of the saddle in common use today:

English and English-style Saddles

English and English-style Saddles

The English saddle gets its name from England where the purpose of the saddle was developed for riding to the hunt. In contrast, the design of the dressage saddle has its origins in European warhorse training and riding and has been distilled down to a focused style of riding that demonstrates harmony between horse and rider.

The Lane Fox saddle has U.S. origins and was created to free the shoulder and withers of the horse for maximum movement to maintain a gait without interference. In addition to this saddle style, English Riding requires specific riding equipment and apparel for participation in competitions and events.

Western Saddles

The modern western saddle evolved from the vaquero saddle used by Mexican and American cowboys. The vaquero saddle has a large, flat horn and rounded skirts that are almost non-existent. Over time, saddle makers added skirts and stirrup fenders to help protect the horse as well as make it easier for a cowboy to carry saddlebags and other gear.

Modern western saddles come in a variety of designs and cuts that aid the rider’s purpose. Cutting horses need a saddle that lets them move their shoulders and withers without interference, whereas a trail horse should wear a saddle that offers the most comfort for horse and rider.

Both disciplines have their challenges and pleasures. It’s just a matter of deciding which is most appealing at a given time.

Ultimately, there’s nothing that stops a rider from learning how to ride English and Western rider and become proficient in both. In fact, many a horse has been trained to go from the hunter ring to the western pleasure ring and pin. Overall, learning how to ride in either discipline can make you a more effective rider.

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Mashum Mollah

Mashum Mollah is the man behind TheDailyNotes. He loves sharing his experiences on popular sites- Mashum Mollah, Blogstellar.com etc.

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