English Vs Western Riding (Riding Style Comparison)

In Western horse riding, the saddle is larger and heavier, thus allowing even distribution of weight across the horse’s back; however, an English saddle is smaller and lighter. Also, while an English rider uses direct contact of the reins with the horse’s mouth to aid the ride, a Western rider uses their weight and neck reins for speed and direction. 

Amongst the many types of riding, the English horse riding and the Western horse riding forms are the two most popular and prevalent. When it comes to the basics of English vs Western riding, they are, in fact, quite similar.

It is the subtle differences between the two that interest both amateur and professional horse riders. Let’s dive deeper and get a closer look to understand these differences.

Riding Style

If you’ve ever seen a movie featuring cowboys, you’d notice that most often, they hold the two reins of the horse in just one hand. The other hand is left suspended by their side or placed comfortably on their thighs. This is referred to as the Western horseback riding style. 

When it comes to English horse riding, the horse rider holds the reins of the horse with both their hands. However, as far as the rider’s position is concerned, in both riding styles, the rider should not lean in any direction and must be seated tall with a straight back. This doesn’t mean that you need to put extra strain on your back to sit straight.

In both English and Western horseback riding, the rider’s arms should be against their sides, and both their legs must fall naturally by the horse’s side.

Saddle

The saddle used in English horse riding is both smaller in size and lighter in weight. The rider’s body stays closer to the horse, which further helps in guiding and training the horse for obedience, balance, and flexibility. This saddle also helps with quick and agile jumping movements.

English Vs Western Riding

On the other hand, in Western-style riding, the saddle used is a bit heavier and comparatively larger in size. This enables the rider to distribute their weight more evenly across the horse’s back. This reason is why it’s easier for both the rider and the horse to go on long journeys when riding Western style. The English horse riding style has often been found to be tiresome when longer journeys are concerned.

Compared to a Western saddle, the English saddle interferes very less with the horse’s movements. However, for a beginner, opting for an all-purpose saddle has been found to be the best option. 

Gait

English horses are generally more “leggy”. They usually move at a variety of speeds and are more adept at jumping over obstacles. Because of this, the English horse riding style requires learning how to post. This means that whenever the English horse trots (when the horse strides with its forelegs), the rider needs to rise out of their saddle a bit to smoothen any jolts.

When it comes to a Western horseback riding style, the horse’s trot and jog are both very relaxed. They utilize small bursts of speed now and then, but the overall stride of the horse is consistently leveled for the most part of it.

Attire

A characteristic difference between English horse riding and Western horse riding is the attire of the rider.

In English horse riding, the rider wears a cap shaped like a helmet, a fitted jacket on top of a button-up shirt, breeches, and tall boots. 

The attire for a Western rider is considerably relaxed and more comfortable. Riders usually wear jeans, a loose and comfortable shirt, along with simple boots. Female Western-style riders also choose to wear a scarf around their necks.

Which Horse Riding Style Is Easier To Learn?

All in all, Western-style riding is considered to be easier to learn than the English horse riding style. There are several reasons that support this.

First, the English horse riding saddle is lighter, but it’s also smaller in size. This compact seat works very well for expert riders; however, beginners often find this seat too restrictive. Beginner riders find themselves on high alert whenever they sit on the English saddle. On the other hand, the Western saddle is more distributive in nature, and beginner riders find themselves more at ease when seated.

Second, English riders need to maintain a higher level of balance and coordination when riding. Moreover, English riders need to learn how to post to be able to ride easily and safely when the horse trots or gallops. This can be characteristically tough and tricky for novice riders. Since Western horses stride at a slower and consistent pace, the riders can very easily learn how to stay stable on the horse.

English Riding Style

However, there’s another thing one needs to understand here. If you plan on learning to ride via both the English horse riding and the Western horse riding forms, experts advise that you put in a bit more effort and learn the English horse riding style first. The reason behind this is simple.

Riders need to take care of numerous aspects when riding the English style. Special attention needs to be paid to the reins, your weight distribution, leg movements, hand and arm movements, and more. English riders also need to learn how to post early on and must make themselves comfortable on a smaller seat. 

You will face a little difficulty in the beginning, but once you get comfortable, the learning curve becomes quite steep. When you finally decide to learn the Western horse riding form after getting comfortable with the English horse riding form, the transition is considerably very smooth. However, if you choose to learn the English horse riding style after the Western-style, you’ll need to unlearn an entire form and start from scratch.

Which Horse Riding Style Is More Popular?

The popularity of a horse riding style majorly depends on where you live and what you are aiming to achieve by learning the style. The Western horse riding style is more popular in North American regions, where the cowboy culture is prevalent. Also, if you want to indulge in sports such as barrel racing and trail riding or are looking to use your skills on a farm, the Western riding style is again more suitable.

However, the English riding style is more popular in European countries where people indulge in games such as show jumping, saddle seat, hunt seat, polo, etc. 

Which Horse Riding Style Is More Expensive?

While both English and Western horse riding styles require a lot of skill, practice, and hard work, trying to learn either form can also be quite expensive. However, if the only thing holding you back is the cost, you might want to go for Western horse riding classes since they are usually much more affordable than English horse riding styles. An English saddle is also more expensive than a Western saddle. Moreover, English horse riding games are also far more expensive, especially show jumping. 

Cowboys Riding At Sunset

However, these are only general costs for each of these riding styles. Depending on what games you wish to learn and what level of expertise you wish to achieve, you will need to buy equipment and other tools.

There could be scenarios where a Western horse riding style might just turn out to be more expensive for you than an English horse riding style could have been.

Final Thoughts

There are loads of thoughts and considerations that do the rounds concerning the superiority of English horse riding style over that of Western horse riding style. The English riding style can be tricky and tough to learn at first and requires a great deal of coordination and hard work. Novice horse riders often choose to go for learning the Western riding style first. However, the transition from Western to English can be quite tough as well.

While both these styles eventually teach you how to ride a horse, you will need to make the decision of choosing between the two depending upon your agenda. If you are just looking to spend your summer on a farm and exploring the area on a horse, learning the Western horse riding style is the best way to go for you. It requires skill, but it is still more laidback and easy to pick up.

However, if you are looking for a long-term commitment to the sport, learning the English horse riding style is highly recommended. It helps you gain better balance and control over the horse from the get-go, and transitioning to the Western-style is superbly easy. 

In the end, you will need to evaluate your budget, agenda, needs, and learning capability to ascertain which style you should go for. Remember, learning to ride a horse takes time, skill, and patience, but it is not an impossible feat. Consistent practice and considerable patience are your best friends on this journey!