I am a 50 year old woman who got her first horse about 6-8 years ago. I finally got smart about 3 years ago and got a good trainer to teach me balance, and would be with her still had we not moved from TN to AZ.
Things were going okay with my gelding on trails until one day where he seemed to just "flip" - he wanted to go home, he wanted to go home NOW and did everything short of throwing me (while still scaring the bee geeze out of me). I was finally able to get him to walk out and we continued the ride, but I knew I needed help. I also know that this situation is probably due to my lack of setting clear limits on many of his behaviours and allowing him to get away with stuff.
So, I got a super expensive trainer. She's got an excellent sense of horses and quite an extensive tool box. With people.... not so much. Yelling, impatience and a tough time explaining exactly what she wanted me to do. I didn't take it personally .... well, most of the time. But yelling at me when I'm already confused is not a great way to get the desired response. She is primarily English trained, but didn't think there was any difference in what she was teaching - and sometimes that was true. But. Turns out my older mare is trained to neck rein, do these short stops, and other "western" things - it breaks my heart to think the other trainer had me cranking on her mouth and getting after her pretty hard to do things she probably had never done before. Anyway, one of my neighbors watched us and was aghast. She offered to train me - for a fraction of the cost, which was really getting to be an issue. So I "laid off" the other trainer.
The neighbor gal teaches 4h kids as well as her own, has about 9 horses most of which compete in both English and Western disciplines, pretty successfully. She's determined that my equipment is not correct. I ususally ride in an all-purpose English saddle, but use a snaffle in a basic Western headstall (because I got sick of messing with the cavesson) and O-ring snaffles.
She doesn't think you can mix the two up. She said the seat positioning on a Western saddle is much different than English. She believes you use your seat and legs exclusively in Western and your hands/ reins in English, and your legs and seat are used much differently in English.
These are things I've never heard before. I'm also a bit allergic to the tack additions that she wants me to use - a Kimberwicke for my gelding, something with shanks and a training fork for my mare.... I don't know. This is all very confusing and I could use some outside comments ... any help is appreciated! I'm so sick of being green ...
English and Western seat positions ARE different. However, your teacher is incorrect in declaring that English uses hands/reins instead of seat/legs. It's true that English riders are trained to have contact with the bit, but that's only for refinement of the leg/seat cues, NOT instead of them. Sounds like she doesn't know as much as she thinks she does.
As far as equipment, if you're going to ride in an English saddle, the snob in me says you should have an English bridle instead of using a mishmash of English and Western. What I don't understand is why this woman thinks you need a Kimberwicke. Those should NOT be used by anyone who doesn't understand the mechanics behind them, or doesn't have the proper training to use them. They're not a beginner bit.
If you're just riding for fun, an O-ring snaffle is fine. Your Western headstall is fine too, although my preference is that all the tack should match. You can take the cavesson off an English bridle, you know.
I have NEVER heard of or been told to primarily use hands and reins in English. One of the reasons English saddles are so skimpy is so you can feel the horse and the horse can feel the tiniest shifts in your seat bones and leg pressure.when I first learned to ride, I was given no stirrups. I had to earn them. When I had earned them, the reins were taken away so I could learn to do everything with my body weight, seat, and legs. In English, you do ride with constant contact. Ideally, the contact should be light. You and the horse should just feel each other and communicate through your hands. You don't have that sort of contact riding Western. However, light contact does not mean that you are riding with your hands and reins. It means that your very soft and quiet hands are using the reins and bit to lead, guide, and provide support. They're a riding aid.
For just casual riding, a snaffle bit on a Western headstall is just fine, as long as it's adjusted right. Use a curb strap so the snaffle can't pull through the mouth.
Has she given any reason for recommending the bits she has. They're your horses. You meed to approve of this. If your horse is responsive and happy in a snaffle, why move to something harsher? The Kimberwick is not a snaffle. It always has leverage. You can't get away from the leverage. I like it on some horses who insist on having a tug of war in a snaffle. But if you're not having problems in a snaffle, I wouldn't go to a stronger bit.
Let's KISS(keep it simple sis). Number uno, get rid of the trianers, you can do it yourself. Number one rule- never, never, ever let the horse do what it wants to do. You stay in control all of the time, even if your wrong. Your probably using and english saddle because it's lighter than a western saddle. BUT, get rid of the english saddle and find a western saddle that's light weight, has a high pommel that you can use to help keep you in the saddle if things get out of hand. Make sure the saddle has plenty of withers clearance, most saddle don't. You need a minimum of 4 inches of clearance from the horses withers to the saddle. Make sure the sadde is comfy for you and the horse
Get a comfort bit. Something like the myler Comfort bit 89-20015, use a chain curb and but the cavesson back on and tighten it as tight as you can. If he starts getting sore from the curb your in his mouth too much.
Now ride him in a seat that's comfortable for you. Always have light, very light contact with the bit, no loose reins. Never fight him. Never get in a tug of war, you will always loose the war. When he wants to do something you don't want him to do, make him do something else, any thing, just something different from what he wants. If he wants to go back to the barn, turn him around go away from the barn until he relaxes and knows you are in control.
Now most important. Just ride him. Don't worry about what's right and proper, be comfortable and ride the hare off of that boy.
Since I was trained English first and recently started Western in the last several years, I will say that from personal experience, Western is a whole 'nuther thing from English. The seat position IS different, lots, and legs and butt and feet are used differently than when I rode hunter.
Here's my thought on the trainer and her suggestions. Do it. Do it until you understand what she's trying to accomplish and don't agree with her. Right now you have no clue, and neither do I, so I can't comment on what your trainer is telling you. I wouldn't have lasted 10 mins with that one who was all impatient and wanting to yell and fuss, I promise you that. But to switch trainers and then come on here and second guess everything she's told you is a waste of time and money. Either get all in or don't do it at all. Then, once you understand what she's doing and where she's going, if you have something you don't agree with, address it with her. I, personally, don't care for a Kimberwicke and I think there are lots better bits. I also don't know everything there is to know and I know there are a lot of people who use the Kimberwicke. So, if you have an issue with a Kimberwicke on your gelding, tell her and tell her why you do and ask her why she wants you to switch. And if you agree you need to switch after she explains it, then ask her if there's something you can use besides a Kimberwicke that will accomplish what she wants to accomplish. Same thing with the training fork. If you don't like it, tell her and tell her why and ask what she hopes to gain from using it. I don't mind training forks for accomplishing certain things, maybe your horse has developed a bad habit and a training fork will help correct it quickly.
The main thing is, either get with her program wholeheartedly, or don't waste her time and your money.
There is a big difference between a forward seat (such as is used on jumping) and a western seat. There may be differences between a dressage seat and a western seat, but maybe not...depends on the western rider and their goals and preferences.
Beyond that, I'll say I've mixed and matched tack, normally without problems. I have English, Western and Australian saddles, and value each type. None of my saddles have 4 inches of wither clearance, nor ever will unless I give my horses wither-otomies. Loose reins work fine with a horse who understands them.
If you wish to compete, ignore what I've written and trust your instructor. If you don't wish to compete, you might talk to your instructor about your goals in riding to make sure you are in synch. This is Mia on a mixed tack kind of day: