English Riding vs. Western Riding

Okay, so this week we’re just talking about English Riding vs Western Riding! 

I learned how to ride in English and bareback, so I remember when I first rode Western I was bouncing around so much! It shocked me – wasn’t this supposed to be easier? I did not understand how the other riders had no problem trail riding all day long. 

I had got used to either really feeling the horse’s movement in bareback or over-relying on grounding myself using my stirrups in English. With the bigger saddle between me and the horse and the longer, more relaxed stirrups, I realized that I didn’t know how to sit deep and feel the horse’s movement. 

A simple trick I learned was that I was holding my lower legs too far back. 

Once I pushed my lower leg forwards, I was able to “balance myself” between the stirrups and the back of the saddle. Then I started feeling the movement of the horse. 

A list of practical differences…

Western Riding:

  • Stirrups will be pushed more forwards.
  • Generally you ride with longer, more relaxed stirrups.
  • Larger stirrups also mean they’re usually against the heel of your boots.
  • Single hand reining where the horse responds to rein pressure on the neck rather than bit pressure.
  • Bigger saddles built for comfort. These also help with balance during speed events or events that require a lot of manoeuvring (such as mounted shooting).
English Riding vs Western Riding: Western Example

English Riding:

  • Legs directly beneath your centre of gravity. If the horse were to suddenly vanish, you would land directly on your feet.
  • Thin stirrups mean that you really want the stirrup on the ball of your foot with your heel down. This will help with grounding and balance.
  • Two hand reining, therefore horses are trained to turn their heads and flex based on bit pressure.
  • Smaller saddle suitable for jumping disciplines. This allows the rider to assume a two-point position without a horn in the way and to allow a lighter, less burdensome saddle for the horse.
  • Smaller saddle with less support requires increased balance from the rider.
English Riding vs. Western Riding: English Example

If you want to learn more about English Riding vs Western Riding, I have a whole post on the differences between the two that you can check out.

Happy riding! 


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