The Feeling of Riding English
 
 

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The Feeling of Riding English

This is a discussion on The Feeling of Riding English within the English Riding forums, part of the Riding Horses category

     
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        09-20-2009, 11:49 AM
      #1
    Guest
    The Feeling of Riding English

    The Feeling of Riding English

    The problem with an English saddle is that there is so little of it.
    The advantage of an English saddle is that there is so little of it.


    To ride a horse well, the rider needs to feel what the horse is thinking. There are two ears to watch and they act like semaphores. Then there is the angle of the horseís nose; pitched anything from 5 o/c to 10 o/c. There is the pressure put by the horse on the bit. However it is what is felt that matters most. It is the riderís job out on a ride to decide where the pair are going; the horseís role is to carry the pair to the destination. So to perform the human must know whatís going on in the horseís mind by deciphering through the legs and thighs the signals emanating up from the horse. In this way the rhythm, the fitness, the strength and the mood of the horse is transmitted up to the rider. So the smaller the saddle, the better.


    In competitive jumping the riderís job is to steer the horse round the course and to put the horse in the optimum position for take off. It then remains for the rider not to interfere with the horseís landing. In dressage the riderís job is to tell the horse which move comes next in the programme; the horseís job is to perform the movement instantly. The dressage rider must give instructive aids sensitively. In both sports, subtle communication, backwards and forwards between equine and human, is essential.


    When hacking out, what is going on the horseís brain is of paramount importance for the rider to recognize. If the horse is going to freak out then the rider welcomes some warning. With most horses, the rider can feel the tension building. It might have been a slight hesitation, or perhaps just a flicker. The head might turn. The horse might grab at the bit. The rider has to pick up the vibes before it happens. Any instantaneous shy will have to be absorbed by the rider. On the other hand, in a good partnership, the rider feels when the horse is happy and all is going well. The rider then knows if he can take a few chances. The communication is not verbal, it is sensed. The feeling passes through the thighs, the calves and the hands.


    A sure footed trail riding horse is a fabulous creature to ride English. The rider chooses the route which the eager horse negotiates with gusto. If the horse should falter, the rider will pick the horse up and vica versa. They become a pair. The pathway twists, turns and undulates. The horse picks its way through the obstacles. The feel yet again transmits from horse to rider and back again. The riderís aids are instinctive, maybe just a hint of pressure, or a slight hesitation; a nudge of the calf or a subtle shift of weight. The instructions from the rider pass back down through the hands, the calves and the seat. Who, even if watching closely, would know?


    Whatever the merits of a Western saddle and there are many, nothing beats the small English saddle for Feel. What lies between the rider and the horse should be the minimum of leather to keep the pair glued together, whatever the movement and despite the disruptive forces of motion. However to enjoy this communion, first the equine and the human have to come together to know each otherís idiosyncrasies and that takes time and familiarity. But Feeling is everything and too much leather deadens the transmission of it. Which is exactly why I prefer to ride English, even though those Western saddles are so comfortable.

    HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE SUBJECT?
    Barry G
         
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        09-20-2009, 12:21 PM
      #2
    Started
    It's interesting that you should post this topic today, Barry. My pony came with a Western roping saddle, but, as my dad frequently quips, we bought a saddle and got a free horse. Scout has gained weight all summer, working in English tack, and only now appeared wide enough to try fitting the saddle that he came with.

    I tacked up this morning, carefully checking everything on the "new" saddle. I had to move the cinch down from the shortest hole to the longest one (A true testament to how far Scout's condition has come; the last time the saddle was on a horse was in May when my sister test rode Scout in that same saddle and cinch). I was fairly pleased with the fit, but concerned about the width of the pommel, and potential pressure points. I put Scout's bridle on and led him to the arena for a short ride, to see if my weight helped the questionable area at all.

    Scout was full of himself, as is usual when I don't do much pre-ride groundwork, or when I ride before his breakfast (both the case this morning). I stuck like glue, but I felt like I had somewhat less control than in my English AP under similar circumstances. Like I didn't feel what he was doing fast enough to efficiently correct or compensate, and like he didn't feel my cues as clearly or respond as crisply as he did yesterday evening. Plus, the big roping-saddle horn was interfering with my "new" classical seat hands .

    The pressure points are no better, I didn't ride long. This saddle needs a different horse. I have a semi-QH tree pleasure saddle that might fit him better if I want to play cowboy, and there's always my green cordura barrel/trail saddle that fits him like a gem.

    Unless I'm going for a longer trail ride, or I think that I'll need the extra leather to hang on to, I go for my English saddle.
         
        09-20-2009, 01:04 PM
      #3
    Guest
    Scoutrider - a western saddle is a working man's tool and from the way you write and from what you say you are not a working girl.

    You'll be writing next that you have more than one type of English saddle.


    Barry
         
        09-20-2009, 08:10 PM
      #4
    Started
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Barry Godden    
    You'll be writing next that you have more than one type of English saddle.
    Hmmm... I own one horse and 4 saddles... wow. And only one of them is English style. I think that needs to be rectified... lol.

    Again, you read my mind. I'll actually probably end up selling the roper saddle to a good home (or gifting it to sis's bulldoggy QH) and looking into a legit dressage saddle. That should make things even.
         
        09-21-2009, 04:35 AM
      #5
    Guest
    See, I knew you would.
    I've got a Pathfinder dressage cut saddle, soft seat, universal fit for the wider back horse, in the tack room.
    Its a pity you can't try it out.

    Barry
         
        09-21-2009, 08:48 PM
      #6
    Yearling
    I have only one saddle, one of these : Premier, which I have used on the three horses I have owned and assorted others I have had to ride for people. The beauty of it is that the flexible panels means it fits most horses -- in fact that was why I bought that thing in the first place 13 or 14 years ago, as I was getting aggravated as hell trying to fit saddles as horses lost or gained weight and muscle. The disadvantage of it is that it's a *bear* to ride in (leg position? What leg position?) and everyone else who has ridden my horse has usually expressed their distaste for it. Luckily I have gotten so used to it that I hardly notice how much it sucks.

    For a while I owned a wee German jumping saddle I'd bought for $300, which I quite liked and I started my youngster in before burdening him with the Orthoflex. It fit my mare for a few years and then she developed more back muscle so it stopped fitting and I started jumping in the Orthoflex. Yes, you really can jump in that monster.
         
        09-21-2009, 10:23 PM
      #7
    Weanling
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Scoutrider    
    Like I didn't feel what he was doing fast enough to efficiently correct or compensate, and like he didn't feel my cues as clearly or respond as crisply as he did yesterday evening.
    The opposite is true when you are used to a western saddle and you switch to english. I am comfortable with both disciplines, I showed APHA youth classes in both. However I rode western since I could walk, and I did english two years, just to earn some points on an old show mare I had.
    Today I test rode this horse that I was thinking I may lease. He was flighty and sensitive, and I felt EVERY MUSCLE in his body, his head movement seemed intensified because I could feel it before he would toss his head or anything.
    I felt really unsteady because I COULD feel everything he was doing before I was prepared to correct it. He felt everything I did intensely, too. I barely applied pressure or adjusted my seat and he would change his movement dramatically. Granted he was a HIGHLY sensitive horse.
    Anyway, just interesting. I don't knock english or western, I love both, but it's truly amazing how different they are. I had almost forgotten what the feeling of riding english was, until today. :)
         
        09-21-2009, 11:45 PM
      #8
    Started
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BaliDoll    
    Today I test rode this horse that I was thinking I may lease. He was flighty and sensitive, and I felt EVERY MUSCLE in his body, his head movement seemed intensified because I could feel it before he would toss his head or anything.
    I felt really unsteady because I COULD feel everything he was doing before I was prepared to correct it. He felt everything I did intensely, too. I barely applied pressure or adjusted my seat and he would change his movement dramatically. Granted he was a HIGHLY sensitive horse.
    Anyway, just interesting. I don't knock english or western, I love both, but it's truly amazing how different they are. I had almost forgotten what the feeling of riding english was, until today. :)
    I remember that feeling!

    I rode western only from the age of 9 until about 14. Like most kid riders, I just started out in a western saddle and never left. When I was around 15, I started toying with English at my riding lessons periodically, but I wasn't confident enough to put one of those little saddles on my own horse. At the time I had a part gaited/part Morgan gelding who could only be described as quick. My dad, not a horse person, often said that he looked like he rode the way a Ferrari drove. One day I got up the nerve to put a borrowed English saddle on him for a lesson, and I was so scared. He was sensitive and nervous, but manageable in the western saddle, and although he was still manageable I felt like he wasn't. Silly me, I wanted to do some showing and post the trot, so I tightened my helmet strap and got over my nerves. I spent the first few rides almost literally hugging his neck from the saddle because I "knew" I would slide off without that saddle horn and suede seat.

    Now that I've spent a few years in English tack, I really have no desire to leave. My grandmother just the other day (following my declaration of wanting to take Scout in the general direction of classical dressage) suggested that I do reining with him, and I realized that it could be a blast, but spins and slides just don't appeal to me quite as much when I think long term. Plus, it's kinda fun being "that looney with the jockey saddle and the snaffle bit" in the sea of adrenaline-hyped gymkhana horses.

    Like BaliDoll said, I love both, but there are some differences. I think I found the beginnings of my (and Scout's) "happy place" in the English world, much to the "chagrin" of my old 4-H buddies, who good naturedly taunt me frequently for "crossing to the Dark Side."

    Barry,
    I tried Googling the Pathfinder dressage saddle (my curiosity continues to get the better of me...), and the only thing that came up was Abetta's Pathfinder model synthetic western trail saddle. Is your Pathfinder an Abetta model, or a different brand altogether? Abetta's are kind of big here in the U.S., but I don't know much about brands in the you.K.
    Thanks!
         
        09-22-2009, 01:03 AM
      #9
    Weanling
    Hahaha, yes.... I remember in 4-H several of my friends had shirts saying, "Friends don't let friends ride english" hee hee!
         
        09-22-2009, 11:43 AM
      #10
    Guest
    Scoutrider
    My Pathfinder saddle was made by keithbryansaddlery.com but his website is down. His phone number is OO441 922 628325 HIS FAX (YES!!) is on the same number. He is a true old fashioned saddle maker.
    He makes saddles for British cavalry officers.

    For you to window shop in, I suggest www.classicsaddlerywalsall.co.uk

    My last saddle came from The Ideal Saddle Co UK - their "Jessica" might suit you. Do a Google search.

    But beware we Brits see the saddle as a lot more important than I get the impression is the situation in the US. Here, you buy the horse, then the fitter comes to select and fit the saddle. The saddle is chosen by
    cut ( ie GP, Jumping, dressage) 'length' ie 17 inch ( relevant to the rider's butt) and the length of the horse's back then 'width' - ie the shape of the horse back behind the wither. Sizes start as Standard, wide, extra wide, cob, etc ete
    The saddle especially for dressage is the key item of tack and the proper fitting saddle puts the rider in the correct position for dressage riding.

    As an idea of what is available by post from the UK look up www.rideaway.co.uk. But you don't buy a saddle by mail order.

    And we pay the price - my Pathfinder cost around $1600 and the most recent Ideal saddle (a Grandee) for DiDi was closer to $1800. The Germans pay even more.

    I would never dream of using a second hand saddle without first having a saddle fitter check in person that the saddle fitted the horse's back.

    Getting the right saddle is a serious business, get the fitting wrong and all sorts of problems develop with the horse's back and the rider's seat.

    Barry

    PS I am not going to confess how much DiDi (the horse) cost in dollars. You'd think I bought a herd.
         

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