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English Vs Western: What Is Right For You?

Learn the differences between English and western riding styles.

December 01, 2017

When you decide to start horseback riding, you’ll have to decide between English or western. These two riding styles can be hard to pick between. Luckily, they have quite a few differences. Eventually, you might try both to see what you prefer in the end. Most riders like to specialize in a specific discipline, but there’s no rules against being an all-rounder.

  • The equipment varies greatly in English and western riding. You can expect a smaller, lighter saddle in the English world and a larger saddle when riding western. You’ll also notice one with a saddle horn and the other without. Sometimes, western saddles will have a more plush, comfortable seat.
  • English riding tends to have a closer contact feel.
  • Western riders usually have a lighter contact on the reins. Many times, the reins are held in one hand and the horse is neck reined.
  • The disciplines are different. English consists of jumping, dressage, equitation, and hunter, while western can include barrel racing, pole bending, roping, trail riding, and reining.
  • Both can be ridden on a competitive level with trophies, ribbons, and prize money.
  • The terminology can vary from walk, trot, and canter to walk, jog, and lope in the western world.
  • Western riders also wear different attire compared to English equestrians. You can expect a cowgirl hat, boots, spurs, and casual shirt/ jeans, instead of tall boots and breeches.
  • Even the horses can vary. While many horses can successfully ride and compete in both, there are some breeds that dominate specific disciplines. Warmbloods are popular in the dressage and jumping show ring. Paints and Quarter Horses do very well in western pleasure and speed events.

Both have many advantages. Ultimately, it’s your decision which one will work better for you and your horse. It’s a great idea to talk to other equestrians and see what discipline they like and why. What’s your vote: English or western?

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