Okay, so this week we’re just talking about English Riding vs Western Riding!
When I was learning to ride, I started off with English riding. Then, once I’d progressed a certain amount, I learned bareback. But for some reason, I didn’t try Western until I was with some friends in my early teens.
So I remember pretty vividly my first experience riding Western. The biggest thing for me was that 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 riding. 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…
- 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).
- 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.
- The English saddle is smaller, making it more suitable for jumping disciplines. This allows the rider to assume a two-point position without a horn in the way. This also makes the English saddle lighter and less burdensome for the horse.
- Smaller saddle with less support requires increased balance from the rider.
If you want to learn more about English vs Western Riding, I have a whole post on the differences between the two that you can check out.