English and Western - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 12-17-2018, 11:52 AM Thread Starter
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English and Western

I have a question. How come it seems like a big deal if a horse is a certain discipline? Is it really hard to switch a horse? I know the saddles are different in many ways, but it doesnt seem to me that it's hard to switch them. What is the truth?
My cousin will be leasing a mare soon (before her purchase) and the mare is mostly English but knows only a little western. And she doesnt ride English.

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post #2 of 6 Old 12-17-2018, 12:16 PM
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I don't think so. I mean if a horse is actively competing in something and being sold as that I'm not sure it would make sense to purchase it for a completely unrelated purpose (obviously there's cases where this would make sense). For example I'm not going to buy a trained show jumper for endurance but honestly that's mostly because I don't want to pay that much for a horse with no training in my sport.

As far as just horses that are used to a certain saddle? My mare was previously owned by a very competitive barrel racing family. I can assume it's safe to say she likely never wore an English saddle. Now, she probably wears 3 different style saddles a week (well in the summer when I can ride that much!). DH rides her in a heavy western cutting saddle because he brings her to cattle sorting, I trail ride her in either a treeless endurance style crossover (although it's an English saddle if you ask any of the western people we hang out with!) or an Abetta endurance (western style with no horn) or a Wintec AP saddle depending on what I'm feeling like that day and what seems to be fitting her the best. My husband rides his gelding in either a western, Abetta endurance, or Australian depending on what saddle is closer to him when we are tacking up.

Moral of the story, I wouldn't worry about it. It may feel a little funny at first, as most new saddles do, but they'll pick it up easily. DH neck reins with my mare, I use two hands (most of the time). Same with his gelding, doesn't make any difference to them!
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post #3 of 6 Old 12-17-2018, 12:24 PM
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It depends.

There are other differences to "English" and "Western" besides the saddle.
Here are a few differences:

- The bit.
The stereotypical "English riders ride in a snaffle. Western riders ride in a curb." Some English riders ride in a curb, such as a double bridle or gag. Some Western riders ride in a snaffle.
It depends on how the horse is trained. If a horse is trained for their whole life in a snaffle to direct/plow rein, then randomly switched to a curb to indirect/neck rein, it won't work out. However, if they are English and ridden in a snaffle to direct/plow rein then changed to Western and kept in the snaffle to direct/plow rein, it's not that big of a deal.

- How one rides.
For example, a person in a snaffle doing dressage will ride differently than someone doing reining in a curb.
The stereotypical "English riders ride in contact on the vertical. Western riders ride "loose." Some English riders ride "loose". Some Western riders ride in contact.
It depends on how the horse is trained. If a horse is trained to ride in contact on the vertical their whole life, randomly switching to loose rein, mostly legs and seat might not work. However, if you keep it the same when you switch the discipline, then it doesn't really matter.

- The gaits.
English have: walk, trot, canter, and gallop.
Western have: walk, jog, lope, and canter.
Some disagree, but I believe that there is a difference between trot vs jog and canter vs lope besides "just words." There is a difference in the way the horse moves, carries themselves, speed, etc....

- The Reins
The stereotypical "English riders ride with two hands. Western riders ride with one hand." Some English riders ride with one hand. Some Western riders ride with two hands.
It depends on how the horse is trained. If a horse is trained to ride with two hands, then randomly switching to one hand might confuse the horse. However, if you keep it the same when you switch the discipline, then it doesn't really matter.

It depends if you are a "backyard rider", then no, it's not that hard, as it doesn't really matter. However, if you are looking to do shows, then yes, it might be difficult without any training, as it matters formally.

As I am a "backyard rider", I ride both "English" and "Western." As I kept the aids and the hands (two handed) the same, the only thing that *really* changed was the saddle; so, no, it wasn't hard to switch her over....
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post #4 of 6 Old 12-17-2018, 01:27 PM
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Years ago there was a big difference between a western trained horse and an english one. They were very different in conformation and even now you can buy a horse that is just plain better suited for one discipline or the other. In the AQHA, Paint, Appy, etc type shows they actually do a ton of All-Around showing which means the horse will do more than one discipline. You may have a horse that does HUS, Jumper, Western Pleasure, Trail ect all in one show.

It IS a different type of riding and a different bit and tack but a horse can be trained to do both. You really do have to think about suitability when you are thinking about that for show purposes but for home purposes... It can be as simple as slapping the saddle on and calling it western or english...
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post #5 of 6 Old 12-17-2018, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by ridingsky15 View Post
How come it seems like a big deal if a horse is a certain discipline?
Horses can be trained for different levels and different specialities.

Just like a horse might be trained at a high level for reining. Or Western Pleasure. Or barrel racing. Or show jumping. Or dressage.

Not only is there differences between western and english, and there are differences in the discipline themselves. As far as what you are trying to achieve for showing purposes.

Originally Posted by ridingsky15 View Post
Is it really hard to switch a horse?
There are many horses that can be ridden both english and western -- including my own. The horse doesn't really care. It's just trained to respond a certain way, based on the showing goals of the owner.

Originally Posted by ridingsky15 View Post
My cousin will be leasing a mare soon (before her purchase) and the mare is mostly English but knows only a little western. And she doesnt ride English.
It probably won't be much of a big deal. The horse may need to learn to go better with less contact on the bit, and your friend may also need to adapt and give a little more contact than usual to help the horse. The horse may or may not need to learn how to neck rein. It just all depends.

But most horses do just fine as the BASIC fundamentals of riding are the same.
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post #6 of 6 Old 12-17-2018, 02:12 PM
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I think the places where I've seen it make a bit of difference is when someone buys a horse that has spent years being a 'good' boy for someone doing Western Pleasure; So, he jogs slowly, keeps his head down, and with any touch of pressure on the bit, he drops his head immediately.

So, a new person buys him and wants to do dressage on him. So, she and the horse are both frustrated when she asks for MORE trot from him, and he doesn't get why he's being spurred on. Or, she asks him to accept the bit contact, and 'meet' it, and he keeps obediantly dropping his head.

And , of course the opposite can be detailed, too.

so, the point is, if the horse is fully trained on a discipline with somewhat conflicting styles and goals, the rider must be knowledgeable , and PATIENT, to help the horse understand the new cues and requirements.
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