English Riding vs. Western Riding

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…

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.
  • 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.
English Riding vs. Western Riding: English Example

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.

Happy riding! 


2 thoughts on “English Riding vs. Western Riding”

  1. 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


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