English Versus Western Riding - What's the Difference?

Many people thinking about learning to ride ask about the differences between English and Western riding.
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Many people thinking about learning to ride ask about the differences between English and Western riding.

There are differences and similarities between English and Western riding, the most obvious being the tack the horse wears.

Courtesy Horse & Rider

As explained in my Saddle Facts article, the Western saddle is larger and heavier than the English saddle. It's designed to spread the weight of the rider over a larger area of the horse's back, making it more comfortable for long days out chasing cows or riding fencelines.The English saddle is smaller and lighter and designed to give the rider? closer contact with the horse's back.

To learn more about the differences between English and Western riding, download a FREE guide?English Riding versus Western Riding: An Overview of English and Western Riding Sports and Saddles.

As far as riding, the main difference is that English-style riders maintain direct contact with the horse's mouth via the reins and uses them as "aids" (along with the seat and the leg) to control speed and direction. Western riders neck rein their horses and use seat, leg and weight to communicate with the horse.

The position of the rider is much the same in both English and Western. The rider should sit tall and straight, leaning neither forward nor backward. The rider's legs should hang naturally against the horse's sides and the arms should be relaxed and against the rider's sides (flapping elbows are frowned upon in both disciplines).

In English riding, the rider takes a rein in each hand, whereas Western riders take both reins in one hand, allowing the other hand to fall naturally at the side, or lie on the thigh.