The Differences Between Riding Styles: English vs. Western

The Differences Between Riding Styles

English vs. Western


So what gives? What makes one riding style better or worst than the other? Horse people are notoriously passionate about their riding style and discipline. We tend to back up our preferred style. That being said where is there an unbiased look into the different styles of riding, styles, and disciplines? Well here is one.


Each discipline has its advantages and some disadvantages. Making the decision on what riding style you would like to pursue takes time and a willingness to try new things. For a western rider to switch to English there is a lot of different terms and positions as well as the obvious differences in the saddles.


English Riding


English riding is a general term to mean any riding done in an English type saddle. Dressage, Jumping, Saddle seat are different disciplines of English Riding. The original idea behind the English saddle is to make it easier for the rider to clear fences to allow for hunting. With less material to get in the way of the rider and for the rider to better facilitate the horses actions. Dressage requires a close fitted saddle with a deep seat and knee rolls to help maintain body position. This is ridden with a longer leg than the other English disciplines. Saddle seat is also ridden with a long leg and exaggerated position. These saddles are very close contact and positions the rider further back on the horse to improve shoulder function and action in gaited or high action horses. Jumping and Hunt seat have similar leg positions. On these saddles there are knee rolls and pads to help keep the riders leg in position. When a “western” person first sits in an English saddle they notice how little leather is under and around them, it can give an exposed feeling. Western saddles are designed to protect the leg of the rider when on trail or in the wilderness. With all of these the basic principal is the same. Heels, hip, shoulder of the rider need to be inline.


Western Riding


Western riding, just like English riding is done with the rider still maintaining the same posture, heels, hips, shoulders. The leg is longer in a western saddle, very similar to a Dressage rider. The leg in a western saddle will be bough forward slightly just based on where the stirrup sits. However the same form is maintained. The western disciplines all focus around ranch style work and games. Reining could be compared to Dressage in that a set pattern is used and each horse and rider judged on how well every maneuver or pattern was completed. Barrel racing and Pole bending require top speeds and a saddle that is built to hold the rider in on sharp turns. Roping relies on the western saddle with a strong horn to tie or dally the cow to. An English rider trying western saddle notice a lack of contact with the horse, with the extra leather on a western saddle for protection you do loose some contact. The western saddle does provide a sense of security with a high cantle and horn you do get this wrapped in leather feeling. A good seat however is still necessary for proper riding in any saddle.