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wtwg 12-15-2013 10:59 PM

General advice on western needed!
I ride English, almost exclusively and have never really learned much about western riding. However, I've tried riding western a few times, and I find it to be a lot more comfortable on long trail rides. My English saddle didn't bother me too much before, but I'm not in the best shape health wise at the moment, so I'm thinking of switching to western for riding out on the trails.

The horse I'm currently riding is trained western, and his owner has western tack hidden away somewhere. I don't really know anything though, and no one at my barn seems to know either. I would really appreciate some general advice, as well the answers to some of my more specific question. A few I can think of at the moment:

How does riding western differ from riding english?
How is a western saddle supposed to fit on a horse?
How do I put on western tack? (Do the bridles stay on without a noseband/browband/throatlatch?)
Will I be laughed at if I carry a crop?
Can I jump over small obstacles in a western saddle?

boots 12-15-2013 11:15 PM

How does riding western differ from riding english? There is a center of balance for every discipline. And for different types of western saddles. Without getting too technical, most riders can feel when they are in the correct position. I may get flamed, but on a basic level equitation is a similar seat to dressage. Kind of, but not really, sort of. lol

How is a western saddle supposed to fit on a horse? I prefer a western saddle with a 3/4 rigging (you can search about saddle riggings). That puts the saddle closer to the horse's natural center of balance. More forward than western saddles with a full rigging. Opinions and preferences vary. Just like everything else with horses! Beyond that, the pommel clearing the withers, the rear of the saddle sitting nicely on the horse's back, etc.

How do I put on western tack? (Do the bridles stay on without a noseband/browband/throatlatch?) I do use bridles with a browband and a throatlatch. Again, opinions vary.

Will I be laughed at if I carry a crop? No.

Can I jump over small obstacles in a western saddle? Yes. I have jumped 2 and 1/2 to 3 feet high and creeks and draws that are fairly wide in mine as part of a work day.

Have fun exploring riding western!

Incitatus32 12-15-2013 11:29 PM


Originally Posted by wtwg (Post 4314521)
How does riding western differ from riding english?

This will depend on how the horse is trained. Some general areas of difference will most likely be in rein length, leg use and seat use. Rein length will generally be longer and with less contact than in English, neck reining is also used more than direct reining in a lot of instances. Leg use will depend on the horse. Some western horses are trained/like a lot of leg, others do not. My mare for instance hates any leg at all so if the horse is like her than that would be a difference from English. Seat (in my experience) will be sort of different from English. I find that I use my seat 10x's more riding western than I do English, but this may just be my style or how my horses were trained.


Originally Posted by wtwg (Post 4314521)
How is a western saddle supposed to fit on a horse?

Like any other saddle lol it should be fit so that it causes no pain and is evenly balanced. It should be behind the shoulder and be well balanced. This image shows where it should be placed on the horse:


Originally Posted by wtwg (Post 4314521)
How do I put on western tack? (Do the bridles stay on without a noseband/browband/throatlatch?)

Yes the bridles will stay on without a noseband/browband/throatlatch. My western bridle has none of these things and stays on just fine. If the bridle does have one of those things you adjust them just like you would on an english bridle. To cinch up the saddle there's the tying method: How to Tie a Western Cinch - Position the Saddle
Or the method I use, but I couldn't find any web info on it. Basically it's the same steps as tying only instead of a knot you'll use the clip on the girth to secure it to the strap and then tuck the excess away. If I find a how to I'll post it :)


Originally Posted by wtwg (Post 4314521)
Will I be laughed at if I carry a crop?

Heavens no! I still use a crop on some of my western horses, lots of riders still do.


Originally Posted by wtwg (Post 4314521)
Can I jump over small obstacles in a western saddle?

In my experience yes. I won't say it's as comfortable for the rider but small obstacles don't bother anything. When I would do small jumps on my mare I used my western saddle and it's still kicking! :lol:

If you have any other questions feel free to ask! I think Western riding is really fun (though maybe I'm biased because that's my main discipline.) :wink:

tinyliny 12-16-2013 12:52 AM

remember that a western saddle does not have the padding built in , as does an English saddle. so good padding is a must. a western saddle has a
"skirt", which is longer than the tree. keep that in mind as you place the saddle, that the tree fits in the same place as the English saddle, but due to the skirt, it will look like it is pretty far back/forward. just look for the tree (which starts where the concho is on the pommel) to be an inch or two behind the back edge of the shoulder.

bsms 12-16-2013 09:38 AM

Where to place the saddle, per a guy who builds custom saddle trees:

False "saddle fit rules" regarding the shoulder blades

Saddle fit - Western compared to English Part 2

Saddle fit - Western compared to English Part 3

How does it change from English?

It changes in two ways - position and use of reins.

The position changes because the saddle tree extends much further back and cover a much larger area than the tree of an English saddle:

The purpose of a tree is to distribute the rider's weight, so if you want an even distribution of weight, you will have more weight to the rear of a western saddle. I'm in the process of switching from using an Australian saddle as my primary to a western one, and trying to put weight 'on my pockets' feels much so that I don't normally do it right now.

In the 'Old West' style, you had weight on your pockets and moved your hips with the horse:

Or in a more modern screen capture:

The waist absorbs the motion of the horse's back, not the small of your back.

Also, the western saddles I've got prevent contact between the lower leg and horse unless you move your leg in deliberately to do so. With an English or Australian saddle, I always have some contact with my lower leg. The western saddle, however, forces my lower leg away from the horse, so it takes a deliberate effort to touch the horse below my knee.

Use of Reins: The norm is to ride with one hand and slack in the reins. You do not ride with contact. Instead, the weight of the slacked reins amplified by the leverage of the bit forms a type of contact. The horse will have no trouble feeling, but it isn't a direct feel of your hands. It is more a feel of your hand's position.

It is also OK for general riding to use snaffles, and even contact if the horse knows how to be ridden with contact. But the true western approach is to neck rein and to ride with the horse's head moving freely.

From the horse's perspective, the big thing is to make sure the horse has been trained to do what you want. If a horse has not been trained to be ridden with contact (our gelding Trooper), then it has to be taught (if you want it). If a horse is used to lower leg contact, that is fine. But Trooper was a ranch horse who had never been ridden that way, and he got pretty excited when I first tried riding him in an English saddle with my legs wrapped around him!

Note: Bridles and throatlatches. If you go with a one-eared bridle, I recommend you only do so with a leveraged bit. The leveraged bit tightens the bridle on the horse's head when the reins are pulled. With a snaffle, pulling on both reins loosens the bridle...and yes, I had a one-ear bridle come off when ridden with a snaffle.

This is Mia at the end of a ride mixing an English saddle with a western approach to reins.

Mia in her new, used western saddle:

Good luck, and enjoy learning a new style!

bsms 12-16-2013 09:42 AM

Also, this is a good book on western riding & tack:

Ride Smart by Craig Cameron. $15 for several hours of instruction about what to do or not do, and how the tack works, from an expert.

bsms 12-16-2013 09:55 AM

Watch about 5 seconds of this scene from "The Searchers". Look at how the rider (John Wayne?) uses his hips and waist while riding:

The Searchers (1956) - Theatrical Trailer - YouTube

Zexious 12-16-2013 10:59 AM

With this many questions, I would suggest having someone help you tack up and ride in western for the first time.

In my opinion, it's really different than english. I have been a Hunter/Jumper rider for fourteen years, and have shown at A levels. I consider myself pretty competent. xD
Put me in a western saddle and it's like I don't know how to ride anymore ._. I really need to learn xD

wtwg 12-20-2013 05:38 PM

Thank you for all the advice!

As I said, my horse is trained western. However, he doesn't really neck rein. Would I still ride him with a loose rein? I currently ride in a snaffle, and I do not want to use a leverage bit.

I'm also having a hard time imagining riding without leg/rein contact.

usandpets 12-20-2013 06:08 PM

Even with your horse not knowing how to neck rein, you will still ride with slack in the reins. If you have tight reins and contact, you will be telling him to stop or back up. Add in trying to go forward, you might end up getting him to rear.
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