Western vs. Australian
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. Even western to an Australian stock saddle is a change horn or not.
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.
The Australian Saddle takes the best of both the English and Western and combines them in style and some function. The Aussie saddle having no horn allows for the rider to be able to move with the horse as they tackle tough terrain. The added “knee pads” help to keep the rider in the saddle on sudden stops and down hill descents. The high cantle, and pommel help to hold the rider in. The stirrup position on the Aussie saddle is a little more forward than in a western saddle. The seat position is changed in that the legs are in front of the body. This makes it more comfortable for long hours riding and with tough terrain. One of the few issues with the Aussie saddle is the stirrups leathers, if not wide enough the leg can get pinched as the leathers lie out side of the flap and against the leg.
So a little bit to help you choose your next path in the riding world. Try new things, There are other disciplines out there, driving, sidesaddle, vaulting. Don't limit your mind and your options when it comes to the different equestrian styles. Good luck, and Happy Trails!