English Riding vs Western Riding

Table of Contents

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

    So one of my favourite articles on the blog is my piece on the difference between English and Western Riding. I love being able to explain something like that for you, and answering all of your questions.

    But there was one question I kept getting: which one did I prefer?

    I didn’t really want to get into that in that post. I wanted to keep that one nice and informational, and as objective as I could be. So instead I figured I would write this post, where I could give you all of my personal opinions on English Riding vs Western riding.

    Before we get into it: I think this post will make a lot more sense if you know the basic differences between English Riding vs Western Riding – so definitely go and read my explainer post (if you haven’t already that is), then come back!

    My English and Western Experience

    To start, I should give you a little disclaimer about my own experience with both styles of riding.

    When I was learning to ride, I started off with English. 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. 

    What I like about Western Riding

    So as you can probably tell, my experience learning Western was a little tricky. But at the same time, I really enjoyed the process.

    After so many years riding English, changing things up made me a more rounded rider, and better overall.

    English Riding vs Western Riding: Western Example

    But there are also things that are specific to Western that I really like.

    For one, I have had problems with ankle mobility all my life. I find that Western stirrups are a lot more forgiving, because they’re longer, pushed forward and more relaxed.

    But at the same time, I don’t know if I would’ve taken so much trouble to improve my ankle mobility if it weren’t for my experience with English riding.

    I also really like trail riding, and for that I love the Western saddle. Its larger shape is so much more comfortable, and the horn is excellent for mounting saddle bags to (a girl needs her snacks, you know).

    Finally, single hand reining was a good thing for me to learn. It really helped me to think about how much I was relying on bit pressure. Over time that meant that I could be more nuanced in both my Western and English practice.

    What I like about English Riding

    I’m just gonna come out and say it: English is like my first love. It’s always going to be my favourite.

    I definitely like Western, but if I had to choose one style to ride for the rest of my life, it’s English all the way.

    There’s something about the balance that I think feels more natural to me. And maybe that’s because I trained my body to balance that way from a young age? But I don’t know – having my heel down and grounded, and using my core to keep myself in the smaller English saddle just feels right.

    English Riding vs. Western Riding: English Example

    I also love the English competition disciplines. Jumping and dressage are great to watch and participate in. I just think they look so elegant and controlled – everything I aspire to be!

    Don’t get me wrong, cutting loose Western style is so fun. I just think I marginally prefer the whole look and feel of English.

    And the Verdict is…

    So it’s probably obvious, but for me, if I had to choose, then English is the winner of the English Riding vs Western Riding debacle.

    But I will say two things:

    • I am super biased, having been raised to ride English.
    • I don’t want to have to choose! I think English and Western both have their place. If you are able to ride both, that’s what will bring you the most enjoyment, and make you the best rider.

    So now I’m interested to hear what you think. Which is better out of English Riding vs Western Riding? Let me know in the comments below!

    Happy riding 🙂


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    8 thoughts on “English Riding vs Western Riding”

    1. This is awesome but wether the English riding style of Western riding style, I don’t think I will ever give it a try.

      Growing up, my uncle sustained a very serious injury from one of the horses in his ranch which made me pretty scared of horses.

      I am positive maybe when I see a good rider, I will learn. Albeit, thanks alot for this beautiful piece

    2. Oh, here you go sharing information about the two styles of riding by making a good allusion to your previous  ride too. It’s a good one really.and I am looking to also learn the western riding after I perfect my English riding. It seems to me that English riding is easier to learn though.

      • Hi John, nice to hear from you again! Typically, Western riding is easier to pick up actually. The saddles are bigger and thus much more supportive. You require less balance and the riding style is generally more relaxed and passive. English requires more active work on your part and more balance and core engagement. Becoming good at either is a lot of work but I find beginners will gravitate towards Western, especially if you’re learning as an adult

    3. Hello there, thank you for the sharing this wonderful information with us all and it’s been a pleasure reading through all you have said here. I have travelled to so may places and I have witnessed horse riding and I have never been as fascinated as western riding and in reality do not know why. Seeing more about it now gives me some more understanding of it

    4. What a lovely and insightful article, thank you! I grew up in Texas, so riding was a pretty important thing for me. Over the last decade, I’ve lived on 4 continents and somehow horse-riding occurred in all of those places. I always found it intriguing to see what type if riding various countries embraced. I did a good amount of bareback riding in Italy and surprisingly, it didn’t feel that much different to riding English to me – I had somehow managed to never try bareback riding in Texas as a boy (probably because we had a lot of semi-wild Arabians haha!). Here’s my question for you – do we know if the names of the riding styles is directly related to its origins?  

      • That’s what I would assume. I think English riding originated from England and Western from America (i.e. the west). 

        I think English developed in England and Europe, serving both a showmanship purpose and more practical purposes (hunting which requires a lot of jumping). Western developed in America where cowboys were working in the fields with the cattle all day and wanted to be as comfortable as possible. The saddle is therefore larger, more comfortable and features a horn for helping with cattle wrangling and with catching wild horses to break. 

    5. I know English riding is different from western ridding. But I never knew the difference could be so significant. I find more significant the saddles built very big to ensure comfort in western ride making it different from the smaller once in English ride. Also there functional advantage is different. While the big once help in race, the smaller one help in jump discipline 

      • Yeah definitely – depends what type of race too. Like for example in a barrel race where there are a lot of sharp turns, a bigger more supportive saddle helps the rider stay secure. But in horserace where for the most part it’s straight ahead, you want as small and as lightweight a saddle as you can get


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