What exactly is English Riding
What is actually meant by English Riding?As a Brit I regularly follow the posts made on the essentially American Horse Forum. I think it is an excellent medium for all of us English speakers to compare notes about how to handle and enjoy horses. Members live in the US, Canada, Australia and across Europe. Our thinking differs on some issues but that is all part of the experience.
The term: “Riding English” comes up quite often indeed there is a sub forum entitled “English Riding“. But what does an American rider exactly mean by this expression - which incidentally would not normally be used in Britain - the national home of the English.
If it were to be said that we Brits had a national style of riding then the system would be that devised by the British Horse Society and we might call it “British” but not English. (It is a bit like saying: “Texas is America“).
Is it the tack? There are still saddles made in the UK especially around Walsall ( eg Albion. & Ideal). These saddles are excellent but they are by American standards incredibly expensive. Undoubtedly nowadays more saddles are made outside of Britain than in it although that was not always the case. The Germans, the Aussies and several Asian countries now make excellent saddles which are sold around the world.
Is it the horse? There are several different native breeds of horse and pony (eg Shetland, Exmoor, Cleveland Bay, Welsh Ponies & Cobs, Shire, Clydesdale and more). Not forgetting that the Thorobred was an English creation from the selective breeding of Middle Eastern horses. However any breed of horse can be ridden under any system of riding.
After all, Quarter Horses can be ridden “English”.
Is it the riding system? Well the modern method by which the British ride varies significantly according to the discipline. One’s seat is different for show jumping, cross country jumping, dressage, hacking & trekking, as indeed is the cut of the saddle normally used for each sport. The techniques used to ride and school horses in England are as much European conventions particularly German, French and Italian as they are British.
Is it the image ? Ie of the rider dressed up in fawn riding breeches, wearing a smart black jacket, a riding hat and long shiney leather boots whilst holding a whip?
Is it a collective expression ? covering participation of the various disciplines not possible on a Western saddle ie show jumping & formal classical dressage.
Looking at it the other way around, as a Brit, I might say that the Western way of riding is to be mounted on a Western horned saddle, wearing cowboy boots and a stetson, riding upright, holding the reins long and loose in one hand, having taught the horse to do sliding stops and to be directed by neck reining, especially when herding cattle.
The “Western” image in Europe is a very particular thing and owes much to the film industry and is associated with such very adept riders as Clint Eastwood, my personal idol. Undoubtedly it is a very effective working system, developed to allow a man to ride all day, every day. I would not fancy working all day riding “English” copying Klimke, a very capable and fashionable German dressage exponent.
However when reading comments in the Horse Forum I detect that my interpretation of: “English Riding” is that it is not necessarily to do with England - a small state within the United Kingdom. Nor is it even necessarily English: just one of the numerous nationalities entitled to hold a British Passport.
However the expression does bring many of us together which is a good thing.
Perhaps some of our American contributors could define in words what they visualize as “English Riding”. It would also be interesting to know why they themselves took an interest in the system.
It can be all that but what I think it comes down to is the saddle. There are basically 3 different saddles; there are many minor ones but for the most part there are 3 majors.
English, Western, and Australian. Each saddle has tack and apparel that go with it and each has a different sub division.
ENGLISH can consist of Dressage, Jumping, Eventing, and others but they all form around a basic saddle of the same type. The saddle is refereed to as an English Saddle regarless of where it was made or used.
WESTERN can consist of Cutting, Reining, Barrel Racing, and others but, as in English, it is formed around a saddle refereed to as a Western Saddle; again, regardless of where it was made or used. Please note that it is a Western saddle not an American saddle.
AUSTRALIAN can consist of Camp Drafting and others and formed around the Australian saddle
Each saddle is unique in design and totally distinguishable from each other. Each saddle has it's own apparel and supporting tack. The difference in the designations is the name of the saddle.
I agree with iridehorses, it basically comes down to the saddle "family". There are, to be sure, major differences between dressage and showjumping, or a barrel racing and roping, but the essential design of the respective saddles is far more similar than if one were to compare a reining saddle to an Australian saddle. And it's ALL form following function. As uncomfortable and unuseable as a dressage saddle would be chasing cattle or running barrels, it would be equally uncomfortable to jump in a roping saddle, or post the trot in a barrel saddle.
As to why I personally took an interest in English style riding, I basically lost interest in Western. I'm not a speed demon, so, while fun, I had no desire to specialize in gaming, but the super-slow and highly political (at least in my area) western pleasure classes held little appeal, either. My horse at the time also influenced the changeover (he was Morgan-type, with a jackhammer trot that refused to slow down and smooth out enough for WP). I've ridden and competed both styles, but now I ride hunt seat, I show in hunter flat classes and hope to progress to some jumping in the future (when my horse and I are ready), and would love to delve into some classical dressage.
iridehorses took the words right out of my mouth
English is divided up into different types. As iridehorses said, there's Dressage, Hunt seat, Saddle seat, Jumping, Eventing, and maybe Racing (not sure about this one. It does use and english style saddle, but I'm still not sure, it's debatable).
Dressage uses an variation of the Hunt seat saddle.
Hunt seat is formed off of the English Hunting Saddles. We just don't use it for hunting.
Saddle seat was designed especially for gaited, high action horses.
Jumping uses the hunt seat saddle it has a lot of padding on it wear your knees sit for extra support and grip.
Eventing is something like the English Hunting. It involves a cross country course that you have jumps on. (if you have more info on this list it. i honestly don't know much about this.)
Racing is self explanatory.
I pretty much see it as a division of tack.
Any sport requiring an english saddle is english riding.
Any sport requiring a western Saddle is western riding.
I dunno, thats how I see it.
Interesting. Maybe the difference is just in the saddle.
The expression "Hunting seat" again is an American description which for a foreigner needs clarification. Yes, presumably it is the way one would choose to ride at The Hunt.
Hunting in Britain can be a fast and furious chase across relatively open country following a pack of hounds. The land will be divided into fields and one either jumps the hedge which can be up to 6ft high or the gate which is up to 4ft high or waits and passes through the gate once opened. Up in the mountains it is all about avoiding the bogs, the pools of water and the rocks hidden by bracken. Up and down the mountainside they go at any pace. There are few hedges up on the ridges to jump but those cliff edges can be terrifying.
The riding apparel is traditional; most followers dress up
in hunting jackets and silk cravattes. There is a strict etiquette to obey and "The Master" is king for the day.
The saddle will be a regular general purpose saddle with deep knee rolls; the stirrup leathers will be shortened; the horse might be fitted with a running martingale; the bit will be changed and upped to give more braking power. The regular hunter's horse will be super fit and will have been fed oats early that morning to give it speed and stamina.
The weather will be ignored - it can rain, the wind can blow, everyone can get soaking wet. The hunt itself goes on for hours but riders can withdraw if they need to.
The riding style is essentially traditional cross country - that followed by army officers years ago. The British Horse Society teaches youngsters the same system in Pony Club. Nowadays most ride "forward" as per Littauer.
A hip flask of heavily laced "fruit" juice is traditionally to be found in the jacket pocket. It is to keep the cold out and the spirits high.
Hunting is not a venue for the novice rider indeed many experienced riders never ever attend because they perceive it to be dangerous. The general attitude is: "if you fall off, don't break anything" and "catch the horse as soon as you can" Accidents regularly happen.
All British horses once they hear the sound of the huntsman's horn prick their ears up and change their personality. A normally docile horse suddenly becomes alive with adrenaline. At the meet the horses fidget to get on with the day. Any breed of horse can be ridden to hounds but many Hunters exceed 17 hands in height. A British Hunter is a type of horse not a breed,
It is very much a tradition of the British countryside, which the Government recently tried to ban - without success. Fox hunting is an emotive subject. But it is without doubt a very special equestrian sport. Supposedly the objective of the day is to rid the countryside of the biggest predator - the wild fox - but some hunts rarely finds a fox.
The horse and rider reach home, often after dark absolutely exhausted. The horse is fed and groomed. The rider needs a bath. The tack will be cleaned next day.
From fox hunting came Point to Point racing and more recently Team Chasing - itself a hair raising sport.
So how does this description fit in with the American term: "Hunting Seat"?
What you describe, Barry, in this country is simply called Fox Hunting. It is done in the exact same manner - mostly. Today's Fox Hunt may be done more as a scent drag rather then chase a real fox. That is done for several reasons.
First is that land is not as open as it once was and a drag can control the direction/path of the hunt. Secondly is the animal activist groups that have gotten involved due to the "inhumane" treatment of the fox itself. Other then that, the tradition and customs are the same as they were 100 years ago - which is the same as England.
Hunt seat is more a style of riding. Any forward seat, whether on the flats or over fences is considered "Hunt Seat".
The tack and attire for American hunt seat are here considered to be conservative and traditional: Dark colored coat (my own is dark green, but black, navy, or charcoal grey are perfectly acceptable), lighter colored ratcatcher shirt (I like white, but anything fairly pale that coordinates is fine), beige or khaki breeches, field boots, black gloves, and a velvet covered hard hat or helmet. Tack should be brown leather, without a lot of "bling". No martingales or boots on the flat, standing martingales are permitted over fences, and bell boots may be permitted in poor weather (4-H rules). Saddle pads should be the fitted white fleece type. Of course, schooling, all bets are off. Purple breeches, novelty T-shirts, glittery browbands, and flourescent green saddle pads abound :lol:.
I'm not sure how show class divisions are run in Britain, but here classes ridden in a hunt seat saddle are basically divided into Hunters, Jumpers, and Equitation. Hunter classes are really nothing at all like you described a true foxhunt. The judging emphasis is placed on the horse, his way of movement, and his manners. Simple snaffle bits are preferred, demonstrating that the rider does not require a "bigger" bit to control their mount. In Hunter Over Fences, or Working Hunter, the horse's manners and "correctness" over jumps is highly important.
By way of contrast, jumpers in America are primarily about getting around the course, with fences in correct sequence, in the fastest time, with the fewest rails down. Equitation classes (obviously) focus on the rider, his/her position and ability to get the most from their mount. EQ classes can be on the flat or over fences. All 3 of these divisions are ridden in hunt seat tack and attire.
I have read quite a bit about foxhunting, both descriptions of the actual event and of the many technicalities of attire and protocol. While I don't think that I could ever get up the nerve (or find an opportunity in my area) to go on a hunt, the topic itself, and the history behind it, fascinates me.
I keep on learning - thank you.
I've been to the US many times but somehow I have never got round to attending a horse show - other than a rodeo or two down South. It seems I have missed something special. And all summed up in an expression "Hunt Seat"
In English perhaps the "Hunt seat" is used to describe the old way of riding - where the rider leant back and pushed the feet & legs out forwards to take up the shock when landing after jumping a hedge. You see the pose in the old hunting prints. The system died out slowly in the UK after Capt Caprilli showed how to sit leaning forwards when jumping and when galloping downhill. Littauer's forward seat was based on Capt Caprilli's system.
Even as a visitor to the UK, you might get to go on a hunt - so long as they had seen you ride a day or two before. It can be well worth it - an absolutely exhilarating day so long as the weather is kind and Charlie (the fox) cooperates. It is best to hire a horse that knows the terrain.
But make sure you have taken the accidental health insurance - just in case.
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