Question: English/Western differences and "just for fun" riding - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 07-17-2013, 12:36 PM Thread Starter
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Question: English/Western differences and "just for fun" riding

Hi. New here and new to riding. I'm trying to understand the differences between English and Western riding.

Growing up, my cousins had horses and rode Western, showing at their local fairs. I rode when we would visit them, but am realizing now that I was very much a "passenger" while riding as a a girl.

I am now newly taking lessons at a hunter/jumper barn. (New as in only on my third lesson today). This discipline was not a decision on my part, so much as the barn/trainer being recommended as someone who takes beginners. I think my trainer is going to be wonderful at teaching horsemanship in general. She teaches huntseat equitation (I think that's what it's called) and jumping.

This is all so new to me. I hadn't realized there were different disciplines within English riding. At the fairs, to me, they were the ones with the pretty clothes, who posted.

I guess my questions is, do people who ride English ever just ride? Or do you always ride in patterns or just to practice things with your horse? My cousins would do their training stuff, but would also just go ride in the fields surrounding their house. I guess that's what I was thinking of when I first wanted lessons -- being able to just ride around or something. Lol.

Also, I am learning two-point position. Is that used in all riding, or specific to English, or specific only to hunt seat?

Sorry, I realize my questions are rather vague. I do t even know enough to ask a solid question at this point.
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post #2 of 20 Old 07-17-2013, 12:48 PM
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I've only ever ridden English except for a few rare occasions (like a hired trail ride). I'm pretty short and don't think I've ever been in a Western saddle with short enough stirrups I mostly ride dressage, but also do a little bit of jumping.

I alternate between riding for fun and riding patterns/schooling, always in my English saddle. If I'm really just goofing around I'll use a bareback pad and ride with just a halter (but I'm still not super comfortable bareback, so it's mostly walk with maybe a tiny bit of trot at this point). When I trail ride, I ride in my dressage saddle. It's what I'm most comfortable in. (Although I'd love to get an Aussie saddle for trail riding some day...)

ETA- Two point is mostly for hunters and jumpers. It's never used in dressage (although some dressage riders may practice it at home for fun)

Last edited by verona1016; 07-17-2013 at 12:51 PM.
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post #3 of 20 Old 07-17-2013, 01:24 PM
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Huntseat is a type of forward seat. It is used for jumping. Jumping is significantly riskier than not jumping (10-40 times more likely to cause injury). If you want to jump, then some type of forward seat is mandatory for safety. It is possible to ride with a forward seat in a western saddle, and to switch back and forth. I do on most rides, although I don't jump so I use a long-legged sort of forward seat. If I get nervous on a trail, I shift to a forward seat because that seems to keep me on the horse better.

Two-point is mostly used with English riding, but I think it is valuable for western riding too. It helps you feel your horse's balance point and how it shifts with speed and turns. That makes it easier to keep your balance in synch with your horse's balance.

Lots of folks ride trails with an English saddle. I don't, but the Australian style saddle I use is very similar to an English saddle. Learning to jump would also help you learn to ride generally, but if you don't want to jump, you might want to talk to the instructor about it. Good luck!

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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post #4 of 20 Old 07-17-2013, 01:39 PM
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You can ride any style in any saddle. Can you do it correctly or efficiently or even safely? No. Each discipline developed a saddle that suited their needs, was safe and promoted the proper seat needed for the task. Starting with English tends to develop the balance and and understanding of the relationship between you and how you sit in relation to how the horse responds. No one type of riding is better than any other except in relation to the task at hand. If you like to trail ride you may find a western saddle suits if you are just riding through the woods without many obstacles. English or Australian saddles maybe a better choice if you are more adventuresome and know you will be crossing obstacles that require you to jump. The two point is great for building leg strength and balance and helping you understand the movement of the horse beneath you. Many weekend trail riders ride western and ride in a relaxed manner sitting back in the saddle and can be unprepared for the unexpected. Some western riders will sit more forward and engage the horse instead of just being a passenger. It isn't easy to ride as relaxed in an English saddle - you always tend to have an awareness of what is underneath you. Aussie saddles it can go either way. Pick your discipline, choose the right equipment and if you just want to hack around in your off time anything will do even bareback if you are an accomplished rider.
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post #5 of 20 Old 07-17-2013, 02:03 PM
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I ride dressage, and while I do spend lots of time riding patterns and doing arena work, I also have times where I just goof off with my horse and my friends. We don't have many trails at our barn, but I'll jump on in my dressage saddle and explore the woods or just canter through the fields. I don't think that it matters what saddle you use for just for fun riding with no goal in mind provided the saddle fits you and your horse. Earlier this year I decided I wanted an Australian or maybe western saddle for trail riding, but after having difficulties finding one I've come to the conclusion that my dressage saddle is more than comfortable enough for those purposes.
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post #6 of 20 Old 07-17-2013, 02:34 PM
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I agree with most of the above. I ride English and same as you I learned that because that was what was available.

Since I started (several years ago), I found that good riding is good riding and the essential points are the same across the disciplines. Or another way to say this (as many may object) is that the horse doesn't care what saddle is on its back. It will still respond the same to the rider's aides, no matter what the saddle or the discipline.

I do think it is easier for English riders to adapt to a Western saddle than the other way around. One can post in a Western saddle, and many riders do if the trot is too choppy or the horse is not in shape.

And for the two point. It is mostly used in jumping, but I am also learning to use it as a gallop position on a horse across fields. Learning the two point, as stated above, is good for learning balance (which is what riding is all about) and understanding how the horse moves. It's also sometimes a good position to assume if it is too hard to follow the horse's motion. In other words, in the two point the rider is still balanced on the horse even if the rider's butt cannot stay steady on the horse's back.

Hope that helps.
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post #7 of 20 Old 07-17-2013, 02:48 PM
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I would like to see new riders of any age, start out using an English saddle. It does help a rider find their balance and seat, without having to hang on to a horn for balance, which we often see with new Western riders.

I learned English. Having to ride Western sometimes, when coming to the US, I found the Western saddles very cumbersome and difficult. Plus harder on my already, bad back. I did try Aussie saddles and really liked some of them. You have to REALLY be careful, when buying Aussies though. Thousands of them are made in India and are way too narrow for most of our American horses. You have to really do your Aussie saddle homework before jumping in. And they come in many different types and styles. Sit in and try many different types and find the style which suits you and then find the similar type which will fit the horse.

The only time I rode endurance, I used an English saddle, but I'd have liked to try it using an Aussie.

Years ago, I did try out one Western saddle which I liked very much. It was made by Crates I think. Even though I was skinny at the time, it was just a bit too small for me. If it had been a good fit though, I might have considered trying a bit more Western riding.

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post #8 of 20 Old 07-17-2013, 03:27 PM Thread Starter
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I would like to see new riders of any age, start out using an English saddle. It does help a rider find their balance and seat, without having to hang on to a horn for balance, which we often see with new Western riders
Yes, this. Lol The lack of a saddle horn was one of the first things I noticed as I laughed and asked how I was going to hang on.

It makes sense to me that practicing in two point will help with balance. Last time, the horse would trot a little then walk, and the trainer explained that part of that was because I wasn't balanced, so the horse "wasn't sure I really meant for her to trot". I had to keep making her so she knew I really meant it. I can understand that, but don't yet truly understand what being balanced looks or feels like. It makes sense though that that would be helpful for any style of riding.

I think I probably will choose not to try jumping. It is a long way off anyway, as the instructor is very focused on safety and providing a solid foundation, I could see trying a few small jumps with her eventually, just to have the experience of what it feels like (it seems like maybe that would be good as a safety measure?) but I don't see it ever being an area of focus for me. I could see maybe enjoying dressage later, but that is very much putting the cart ahead of the horse. Right now I am learning to steer and trot at the same time. ; )

I have a question about the reins too. I know the are different in Western. My instructor told me to pull straight back on the side I wanted to turn -- I had been pulling outward on the side. Is it straight back in Western as well? I remember it being different, but maybe I'm remembering wrong, or maybe I just never really understood.

I'm just trying to learn the differences out of my own curiosity. I'm so pleased with my trainer and am thrilled that she's teaching me about horse care and anatomy and what the horse is "saying" when it does certain things. She has a wealth of knowledge and is happy to work with non-jumpers as well as her jumping people.

Last edited by LilacsBloom; 07-17-2013 at 03:31 PM.
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post #9 of 20 Old 07-17-2013, 04:15 PM
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Generally, there is what is known as direct reining and indirect (or neck) reining. And what you as a rider and a new horse learn first is direct reining. This is where the rider has direct contact with the horse's mouth through the reins.

Although many associate direct reining with English, Western riders also sometimes use this.

Indirect or neck reining is used for well trained horses and it is mostly associated with Western riding. That is because the indirect method allows the rider to hold something else (maybe a rope or a weapon) in his other hand.

This indirect reining also means that the rider is really guiding the horse with his legs and his seat (as well as the position of the upper body). And the better English riders (whether jumping or dressage or whatever) also use the body more than the hands.

As for balance, that is what really allows the rider to stay on a horse, especially at the faster gaits. Believe it or not, the reins are not for the rider's balance (and as a new rider, one is soooo tempted to do so), but only there for steering.

So if you really need help to not fall off, grab a few handfuls of mane. (That's what it's there for. )
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post #10 of 20 Old 07-17-2013, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by FeatheredFeet View Post
I would like to see new riders of any age, start out using an English saddle. It does help a rider find their balance and seat, without having to hang on to a horn for balance, which we often see with new Western riders...
Personally, I'm the opposite. When I have a family member learning, I start them western. Why? Well, I'd rather have them grab the horn to recover than use the reins for balance. Also, I find it easier to relax in a big western saddle, and relaxing is good in riding...riding with relaxed tension in your legs (I know it sounds like a contradiction) and having a relaxed back is usually a good thing.

But in the end, the big thing to me is learning to be a dance partner with the horse, trying to move in synch with him and understanding his needs for balance and motion. That can be done in any saddle or style - or not done. And five plus years into riding, I'm still working at it...

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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