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.
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.
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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