At Shelby Ranch, we offer Western riding lessons and trail rides, but what does that mean, and how does this type of riding differ from English style? The divergence stems from Western riding’s origins in cattle ranching. In this post, we’ll outline the major differences between Western and English riding.
Tack and Clothing
One of the most obvious differences if you look at a person riding Western versus English is the gear that they use. The larger, heavier Western saddle distributes the rider’s weight over a greater area for safety and comfort even during a long ride. A Western saddle also has a horn traditionally used for attaching cattle.
A Western saddle tends to contain strings for attaching equipment. The stirrups - the rings where a rider rests her feet - also tend to be larger to make it easier to mount and dismount.
By contrast, an English saddle is smaller and lighter, allowing for closer contact with the horse’s back and more freedom of movement for the horse. Both Western and English saddles come in a range of designs to suit different sports and disciplines.
Western riders often wear a more casual get-up, such as a cowboy hat, a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and Western-style boots. An English rider, meanwhile, may wear a hunt cap or helmet, a dark-coloured fitted jacket, pale breeches, and tall boots with a low heel.
Horses and Riding Style
Although most horses can perform either Western or English riding, some animals are more suited for one style over the other. The horses used for Western riding tend to be compact and able to travel at a steady pace over long distances, with the occasional burst of speed. Horses for English riding are often taller and able to move at various speeds.
Western riders hold both reins in one hand, leaving the other hand free for lassoing and other actions. An English rider, meanwhile, holds one rein in each hand.
In general, Western horses move more smoothly and consistently, while English horses are expected to have more variety in their gaits. Western horses often move at a jog, which is a smooth gait slightly faster than walking. During bouncier English trotting, the rider often posts, or rises up and down to match the rhythm of the horse.
When it comes to cantering, Western horses often stick to the lope, which is a slower canter. English horses, however, often need to perform various speeds of canter.
Western and English riding also have different disciplines associated with them, such as barrel racing and roping for Western and dressage and jumping for English. They’re too numerous to explore in detail now, but keep an eye out for a future post!
Is the distinction between Western and English riding clearer for you now? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.