From Western to English - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 34 Old 07-28-2009, 09:00 AM Thread Starter
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From Western to English

From Western to English
We British contributors to The Horse Forum read with admiration (and sometimes with amazement) the articles posted by Americans seeking help as to how to cope with problems presented by riding English. Mostly it seems that the rider has moved over from Western to English for some reason never quite fully defined. The rider has acquired an English cut or Australian saddle and wants to learn just how to do it. Often one gets the impression that there is in the locality no expert help in the matter of riding English so it becomes a question of “mount up and see“. One reads about the problems on the web site and one is tempted to try to help from across the pond.. But really it isn’t as simple as that.
Riding English style on a Western saddle is relatively easy whereas riding Western on an English saddle is a completely different exercise. The Western system is undoubtedly a derivative of Spain‘s Doma Vaquera way of riding as is to be found to this day in rural Spain. It is a working man’s system and is still used to round up cattle or sheep.Back in the days of the old West, many a cowboy had never sat a horse before one day the man took, for some good reason or another, a job as a cowhand. The Western way of riding based on a nice big comfortable saddle fitted with a high cantle and a substantial horn up front could be mastered in a relatively short time. Finding a well schooled mount might have been more difficult. However it is not so easy to fall off a Western saddle as it is a much smaller English cut saddle which has very little in the way of pommel, cantle or knee roll. The rider sits in a Western saddle but on an English saddle. Neither system of riding is the better, they have each developed from a different need. It is what you want to do with the horse that dictates the system to use.
If the rider wants to compete at racing or jumping in all its forms or European dressage then the rider has to master the English way. If one wants to trail ride, round up cattle or go in for those special Western sporting events, then it is beholden to learn to ride Western. If the rider has only one horse, then the horse has to learn to respond to both systems and incidentally, most horses will adapt readily. But speaking as one who has learned to ride both ways, I can quickly say that the English system is the more difficult to learn. I would also say that without help from an instructor the rider won’t get far without drifting into a poor technique.
In this little crowded island of Gt Britain, one is lucky in that one is never really far from a school riding centre wherein can be found not only teaching expertise but the school master horses which are used only for teaching newcomers to ride. To learn to ride English, one primarily needs a docile and a forgiving horse - the instructor ‘merely’ stands in the middle of the arena and shouts out words of wisdom. Nowadays other teaching aids are coming into play - the teaching video, the video camera itself and last, but not least, a library of books to read.
I would encourage anyone who has developed a love of horses to learn to ride English but unless you are one of those very lucky youngsters who have been born with an innate skill to ride a horse you (and your horse) are going to need access to a good experienced instructor to learn to ride English properly. You could of course fly over and stay at a riding centre for two weeks which would help a lot in learning the basics. There are a lot of riding centres who'd be pleased to see you.
I would also make one final comment. We Brits nowadays are rarely to be seen riding without a good, tough, well fitting, riding hat. You never really know when you are going to fall off but it is not a question of “if” rather “when“. When you buy an English cut saddle, buy the hat at the same time and always wear it when on the back of the horse. The hat might save your life.
Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy the companionship of your horse.
Barry Godden
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post #2 of 34 Old 07-30-2009, 07:30 PM
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Great post, Barry. Personally I hate to see anyone try to ride without instruction, whether English or Western. If one can pay for a horse then they can also pay for, as you suggested, a two-week trip to a riding camp at the least.
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post #3 of 34 Old 07-31-2009, 09:47 AM
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Im sorry but this sounded a bit snotty. Western is not easier to learn than English. Neither can truly be mastered in a short amount of time. I ride both and its like comparing apples and oranges. And as a side note I find the English saddle much more comfortable and I would rather slosh off of an English saddle then be stabbed in the ribs with that western saddle horn. Trust me both have happened to me.
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post #4 of 34 Old 07-31-2009, 10:02 AM
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I started out riding dressage for my first three years and then switched to hunt for the next 15 or so. For about the last six I've been trying to master western. I gotten to where I prefer a western saddle and only use my english one on show days... I even warm up in the western w/ the english bridle. I like it better...

To me, western is very difficult, I compare it to dressage.... Riding western is not merely slapping on a saddle and yanking the horse from one direction to another...

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post #5 of 34 Old 07-31-2009, 11:16 AM
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I ride both English and Western - I like both. And, I haven't have much instruction, yet I have brought Sam along, a stiff and somewhat resistant ex-racehorse. He's such a great horse now. In the past three months we have come along farther than we have in the last year.
I know that green and green don't mix, but Sam has been patient enough to tolerate my figuring things out.
I have had tips from the forum here, my mother, friends and such, but not paid instruction!

"Horses are proof that God wants us to enjoy life"
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post #6 of 34 Old 07-31-2009, 11:46 AM
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Wow.... sorry but post just plain sounded arrogant to me.

Yes, I do agree instruction is the best thing... but coming from myself I have hardly ever taken a lesson. I've taught myself how to ride by watching others and keeping an open mind on what is for my horse. I've also shown and placed very high.

Also I do think like the others... western can be just as difficult as English in many ways.
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post #7 of 34 Old 08-04-2009, 10:24 PM
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Judging is so corrupt these days, placing high at shows means squat IMO.

I don't care if you learned to ride just fine on your own. Chances are the process would have been much easier on the horse if you had a good instructor. To me this issue is just about taking good care of your horse.
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post #8 of 34 Old 08-05-2009, 07:51 AM
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As always, beginners in anything do better with some degree of instruction from a more experienced individual, and there are some riders who ride like sacks of potatoes, but in my experience that kind of positional issue doesn't change from discipline to discipline, or get better in a western saddle.

There are definitely some differences, but it seems that a conscientious western rider who wishes to switch (or even experiment), would have enough on the ball to research these differences and adjust their riding accordingly. I'm not discounting the value of a good instructor, but a horseperson with a well-broke horse, some knowlegde, common sense, and a willingness to research and learn, can probably make the switch to riding, at least competently, if not well, in an English saddle.

As far as the availability of a good instructor in the US vs. Britain, I can only comment on my own experiences, but the ONLY INSTRUCTORS that I know in my area are either dressage or hunter riders by their trade. Even these instructors put all of their newbies in western saddles for the basics. There are some who teach only western riding, but, again in my area, these people are primarily horse trainers and colt starters, not people trainers.

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown
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post #9 of 34 Old 08-05-2009, 10:07 AM
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Well said, Scoutrider. I second you completely.

"Horses are proof that God wants us to enjoy life"
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post #10 of 34 Old 08-06-2009, 07:55 PM
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I think Western gets a bad name, not because the top riders of the Western world can't be compared to the top riders of the English world, but because every ignorant person who up and decides to buy a horse also buys a nice big western saddle. I think western has a lot more pleasure riders, who deserve their place, where English is a discipline, and no one assumes they can do it without a lesson or two. Those who do, usually end up black and blue and may give up horses for life. I don't think Western is neccesarily easier, but it is easier to be lazy in Western and look impressive. I see many Western riders who claim their horse is trained, or they can do this, this and this, but haven't learned how to feel what lead they are on. I also think many Western riders idea of a broke horse is different. Most Western people feel that if a horse is quiet and neck reins it is broke, where English riders want their horse to bend, collect, extend, half pass, preform flying changes, and leg yeild, before they will claim it is green broke. I would love to see some famous dressage riders and reining riders switch horses and see the difference. I also feel that English riders don't prefer a quiet horse, unless they are beginners, because we want more from our horses when it comes to athleticism, and a lazy dull horse won't make it over a 3'6" verticle. But this is all my opinion, and from what I have observed. I also haven't met someone who rides english and has never had a lesson, but I have met many western riders who have, and usually they are the first ones who tell me they can ride a horse. But sitting on a horse isn't riding, and to many people think it is.

Troubled TB ~"A thorn by any other name will prick just as deep." @-'--,---
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