Switching to western - what do I need to know! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 10-16-2013, 02:43 AM Thread Starter
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Switching to western - what do I need to know!

So, I have decided to switch to western riding. I recently bought a new horse, he's done trails and such, but he's not really trained english or western, but he's quiet and responsive. I'd love to go to an instructor, and will probably go to clinics in the future, but there are no western people in my area so I'm hoping to pick up some stuff online, books etc to get the basics. I've been riding English for years but never western.

So really I just want some tips. Are there any sort of "classic" western books on riding and training western? Any blogs or links online that are good?

Is there sort of a standard "starting place"? Like in english all disciplines pretty much start with dressage and then move onto more discipline specific things, is there a similar thing with western riding?

What are the terminology. Like in dressage you have "on the bit" and "collection" - what terms are commonly used in western riding?

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post #2 of 6 Old 10-16-2013, 09:16 AM
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if u are not training and just riding I would not worry about it. If you have done dressage then you have all the basic balance and and posture to do almost anything. Just remember that in western riding we strive to ride a loose rein but maintain control and collection.
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post #3 of 6 Old 10-16-2013, 10:32 AM
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One of the things that attracted me to western riding was the lack of 'rules'. There is not a 'proper' western position, in part because the saddle often drives your leg position. You can be correct with a position like a dressage rider, but this position also works well in a western saddle (that is because the tree of the western saddle extends well beyond the cantle, so an even balance in the saddle can look quite different):

Where I see a big difference is in use of the reins. The norm in western riding is to use one hand and leave slack in the reins. Most western riders do not try to put the horse 'on the bit' in the English style. Outside of some arena events, most western horses are expected to balance themselves, and to move their heads freely. "Collection" often means "not hollow-backed", which is why you'll hear western riders say, "My horse learned collection today!" You want your horse responsive to your cues and able to turn very quickly, but you don't teach it collection in the dressage sense.

This is one of my favorite pictures of western riding:

The horse is balanced, responsive, interested...but not collected or 'on the bit'.

I don't know of any good books on western riding. Larry Trocha has a variety of videos aimed at different levels of riders. He has many free videos in addition to those he sells. He comes from a cutting / reining perspective, but I like his ideas as well or better than anyone else in the western world of riding.

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post #4 of 6 Old 10-16-2013, 11:17 AM
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I trained English, older now plus moved from uk to canada so bought western saddle for extra comfort, one thing I find is I've had to change my leg position, it's more off the horse and forward, if I put it in my English position, yee hah!
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post #5 of 6 Old 10-16-2013, 11:38 AM
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I would have to agree with bsms. In western (outside of arena events and just for fun/trail) the horse's head should be able to move freely to balance itself. I guess I've always looked at it that the western form of collection is a balanced horse that's not gonna trip, fall, or stumble and knows how to move its body to achieve this, I could personally give a darn where it's heads at to do so.

I ride with one or two hands (it depends on the horse and day), but I always make sure I have a fairly loose rein (depending on the horse, some like a tighter rein) but always control. I personally prefer to neck rein and achieve it that way but I know many people who use two hands. You legs will be farther off the horse so that might take some adjusting, and I've found (at least in my western horses that I've ridden), your seat is a major component.

For instance, with my mare (who's just a trail/cow/pleasure horse) if I got to canter all I have to do is drop my reins slightly till my hand barely brushes her wither, and then shift my seat up like she's already started to canter. Without fail she goes into a nice lope, to extend that and go faster I simply sit back a little more and give her more rein and to slow her I sit deeper and say "easy". I ride both disciplines and I've found very few differences in them other than how they look. Whenever I go to a dressage barn I've gotten compliments on how quiet my hands, legs, and cues are. (I'm attributing that to the years spent with no contact on the bit, a stubborn horse and any leg at all sends you flying into the nearest bush lol).

I would also like to just add: quiet hands. I see quite a few english riders take lessons at our barn and the minuet they get into a western saddle their hands flail (neck reining and/or holding with two hands are both equal culprits lol). I think it's from all the western movies they watched prior to the lesson.... And maybe It's personal preference, but I find when I do the toes to the center (like in dressage) it interferes with my leg and communications to the horse. I like my toes out (keeping my leg off of my horses). Other than that my leg is more or less centered underneath me.... but it may be a bit more forward and out more.

Have fun and enjoy!
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post #6 of 6 Old 10-16-2013, 12:21 PM
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my experience going from Dressage to WEstern is that in a W saddle, you do not have quite as much feel of the horse under you, since there is more leather between you and the horse. your leg will drape down, prettty long and you do not ride from the leg, but totally from the seat. I mean, there is no gripping, at all. Hunt seat riders will tend to have some gripping happening. I don't mean that they are pin point gripping with their knee, but since the leg is bent up, it natrually presses harder along the horse, from pubic bone to knee, to mid calf. and if the hrose pivots suddenly, it's a solid leg contact that keeps you from falling off, and strong calves .

in W riding, you ride more from sitting on your seatbones and balancing on them. You never ride Over the horse , like in 2 point, but you always ride In the horse .

and although the large fork and horn of the W saddle may make you feel more secure, the lack of knee rolls reduced that security. And W saddles are often slick, too.
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