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KJsDustyDash 10-09-2012 02:36 AM

From Western to English
Hi All,

I have a well bred QH mare who shows a real talent for jumping fences, any fences. Pasture fences, jumping fences, gates...anything. She has cleared 4ft easily and gone over 5ft panels on occasion. She does this when she gets bored of the western work we normally do.
I have ridden western for 15+ years and I am a fairly competent rider, or so I thought. I discussed my mares talent with my trainer and it was decided to run her English for a session. I thought it would be no problem. I was so wrong. My mare was fine with the tack switch, I was terrified. I was constantly searching for my seat, posting was beyond me (although I post often in rough terrain riding western) and I nearly fell several times. I pretty much gave up after 15 minutes. the thought of jumping or going faster than a walk is terrifying.
Any suggestions to help make the switch?

EquineCookies 10-09-2012 07:21 AM

Practice, practice, practice! My only suggestion is to keep riding English until it all clicks together.
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myw05419 10-09-2012 09:15 AM

I know how you feel because I made that switch 2 months ago. It is very terrifying at first because the saddle and the stirrups are so different, when you first get on it feels completely and utterly weird. You feel as if you don't have much control at first but, the more you ride the more you'll conquer your fear and the more confident you'll be.
First off, don't be afraid to fall. Falling is part of learning even the best riders have fallen off before. Once you've gotten over that focus on one thing at a time. Today you might want to focus on getting a good seat and the next day you might want to try getting posting down. You can practice on a lunge line first until you're more comfortable with the shorter stirrups, saddle, and shorter reins. Speaking of reins, shortening up really does help and gives you more control. Remember in posting to not grip with your thighs or knees and keep your lower leg on. Posting is more of a swaying/forward up and down movement rather than straight up and down. Also, make sure you come down softly onto the horse's back.

You'll get the handle of English with more practice. Remember that English is a different discipline than Western and there are differences. Just because you're having difficulty with English doesn't make you a bad rider! You're learning something new and that always takes practice to get better!

Inga 10-09-2012 09:34 AM

I think any change can feel quite scary or uncomfortable. Time in the saddle will help you to build confidence. Just start slowly. Do what you are comfortable with. Maybe take a few lunge line lessons to gain your balance while helping you to feel secure.

I was the opposite. I went from riding english all my life to trying to ride in a western saddle. I hated it, I feel trapped and I HATE having the horn in front of me. It is just what we are used to. I always suggest to people to ride as many different types of horses and in many different ways to become a truly good rider. Good luck to you, I am certain that with a little more time, you will be just fine.

RandysWifey 10-09-2012 09:40 AM

I agree-practice makes perfect! I went from only riding western to riding in a dressage saddle! It was so weird at first and terrifying! But now I'm not scared at all and have a better sense of balance because of it : ) you'll get there-dont give up!

Speed Racer 10-09-2012 09:53 AM

English and Western disciplines are NOT interchangeable. Why do people think this?

The seat positions and the way you ride are completely different.

In order to ride either discipline properly, you have to be trained for it. You can't just throw on an English saddle and magically become an English rider.

KJsDustyDash 10-09-2012 11:49 AM

Thank you for all the helpful replies. It's great to see I wasn't the only one who felt freaked out. I think I'm going to commit to riding English once a week (I know it's not much but I have to fit it into a training schedule that includes 2 other mares.). Maybe I'll get better, maybe I won't, but I need to remember to have fun and get less focused on my competition goals (all in western disciplines).
Also, myw05419, I really do have to get over my fear of falling. I've come off a lot riding young greenbroke horses, but on older horses I become afraid. Any tips to get over that?
Speed Racer; I don't think that the disciplines are interchangeable, I believe I mentioned I have a trainer. My trainer is an accomplished dressage rider as well as Western rider. When my trainer isn't around (when I ride at my place) I usually ride with two accomplished English riders. We help each other.

Britt 10-09-2012 12:38 PM

Practice! When I started riding english on my gelding a few years ago (because english saddle was the only saddle I had that fit him) I was totally freaked out and nearly fell, but after a few months of riding english, I could walk, trot, canter, gallop, and jump small things in the saddle like it was nothing and was still just as good western as I had ever been.

tinyliny 10-09-2012 12:43 PM

Well, all I can say is video yourself as you do this, so you can document the changes in your ability. you need not share them , but it will give you something to laugh about in years to come.

English riding feels insecure at first, but once you get the feel , it can feel reallly
"connected". Hm m m . I mean, you have this ability to kind of move "over" your horse which can be reallly freeing, both for the horse and for the rider to absorb changes in terrain and speed and such. You legs will get super strong, too!

freia 10-09-2012 04:52 PM

I think it's great that you realize that the disciplines are quite different and are willing to keep trying. A lot of people try going from Western to English, experience exactly what you have, and just decide that English is stupid and give up.

English will allow you so much contact and communication with your horse. Keep trying, you and your horse will probably enjoy it!

When you start out, you're dealing with something that can be quite difficult to overcome: muscle-memory. Having ridden Western for 15 years, your body instinctively shifts weight, balance, and reacts to your horse, without you really thinking about it. I'm pretty sure that your first time in an English saddle, your body was reacting in all those same ways it always has, and you didn't even realize it or want it to happen. You have to retrain your muscles and reactions by working on your balance and seat. I'm "retraining" a rider from Western to English right now, and she's having the time of her life learning to feel the horse. It goes both ways. I've ridden English 39 years. Put me in a Western saddle, and you'll bring me to tears.

-1- Have a sense of humor. Realize that you and your horse are doing something new. See it as an opportunity to have fun and learn together with your horse.

-2- Recognize that you will be re-learning things you thought you already knew (sound like you realize this).

-3- Take your stirrups off and get lunged at all gaits.
First, just sit there. Place your arms out to the sides like wings. Have someone tell you when you're "level" and not banking towards Hawaii. Most people aren't level when they think they are. Relax. Don't clamp your legs. Rather, get your heel under you, then move your legs around until you find the position where you have the most area of your leg contacting the horse and saddle. Try sitting on your pockets like a lot of Western riders do. Feel how little leg-contact you have. Now sit more on your pubic-bones and feel how much leg-contact you get. See your lower body as a wet bath-mat and let your legs wrap around the horse. Repeat several times until you find that "sweet-spot" where you're balanced with lots of contact.

-4- Now walk like that until you're confident.

-5-Now do it trotting. Sit the trot to begin with (Hopefully, your horse has a smooth trot). You still don't get to clamp with your legs. Just sit in the sweet-spot and have lots of leg-contact. when you're confident, post. Yes - without stirrups. You'll probably need to grab the mane to begin with, but eventually move up to keeping your arms out while you're doing it. Remember when you post to follow the movement of the outside shoulder, or both you and the horse will be off-balance (outside shoulder up = your butt up).

Be sure to do all this in both directions. for giggles, do each step with your eyes closed as well. Repeat and repeat - it will build your muscle-memory.

When you can post the trot with your arms out and your eyes closed, put those stirrups back on and ride! Oh, and you're going to get killer leg-muscles doing this. Stock up on the ibuprofen.

If you think it sounds impossible, here's some inspiration:

Enjoy the journey!

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