Learn English or Western First? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 10-20-2016, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
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Learn English or Western First?

New 4H Club starting, 5 girls 3rd-6th grade. I'm taking a neighbor girl so as to have someone to ride the nice pony I got in mid-July (just one of those had-to-get-a-pony-types of fever that kept hitting me every spring, as am at age where long-ago passion wants to override good sense). May eventually be for my grand-daughter to ride, so this 4H Club seemed like a good way to keep the pony used to being ridden by kids. Mostly she learned to carry a pack for hike trips this summer and lead-lined little kids.

After talking to the 4H Leader, who says she can teach both English or Western and actually prefers English as thinks teaches better balance, and realizing the pony was being ridden with English saddle when I saw her demonstrated by a child before purchasing and seems to be more used to direct reining than neck reining when I ride her bareback, I'm wondering if I should buy a "starter set" English saddle (statelinetack has for $169) and have both this girl and myself (by watching the kids) learn to ride English.

I hadn't considered that before, as only rode as a rag-tag kid in California with curb bits and western saddles, certainly didn't have any lessons. Always appeared to me that English riders would need more balance, as they always had two hands on the reins and no horn to grab onto in case of trouble.

Before spending more money, I'd like to hear thoughts of those with more knowledge of both. I have a Western saddle that fits the pony well (got it for the small mule), she came with a snaffle bridle with very short shanks. I think the pony will be learning as much from this 4H experience as me and the little girl. Is it better for us to start as English so child learns better balance and two-handed reining or will it not make much difference? Guess I've kind of accepted that this new hobby keeps requiring outlays of dollars, two weeks before next meeting where we are to bring the horses, so will get the starter set if there seems to be good reason for learning English first, please let me know your thoughts. Thank you!
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post #2 of 21 Old 10-20-2016, 05:42 PM
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I'd go with whatever the teacher prefers. kids do like the whole 'look' of English riding; the velvet helmets, the jhodpurs, the boots, the braided mane. . there's a certain romance about it that kids kind of prefer, IMO.
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post #3 of 21 Old 10-20-2016, 05:50 PM
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It doesn't matter which discipline to start out with as long as the instructor is good and it alignes with future goals.

Do not buy a starter kit from StatLine though. It's going to be a junk saddle that probably wont fit and will wear out quickly, if it doesn't break first. Get a second hand saddle instead. Even the 30yr old saddles on ebay would be better than a $100 new saddle.
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post #4 of 21 Old 10-20-2016, 06:02 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks to both for the quick thoughts! I remember when I was a girl thinking how the "rich kids" seemed to be the ones riding English, so maybe that's one reason it'd be fun for me to learn now. I'm not sure about the girl, as at the first meeting, looked like most of the other kids had on their western boots. Will she feel funny if they are all Western and she's the only one English? She doesn't actually have any kind of boots yet (be a trip to Wal-Mart), as wasn't sure if we were going to join, but since looks like would be good experience for the pony, have decided to do it.

Regarding the saddle, I did see lots of English on eBay, even around $100, but it seemed so complicated as most didn't appear to come with girths or stirrups. Since I'm buying the break-away stirrups on stateline, guess I'll have those, so long as I make sure the saddle comes with stirrup leathers??? This is not going to be hard riding, which is why I was thinking that the starter set from stateline might be okay. Seems like I remember that the saddle the child used when the pony was demonstrated looked like a lightweight synthetic kind of thing. Maybe can find one like that for not too high a price?
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post #5 of 21 Old 10-20-2016, 06:33 PM
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The thing about those package saddles is that they are cheaply made from poor materials. Often the trees are made in a way that no horse would fit them, or there are defects like twisted and crooked trees, or even loose hardware like nails. The leather is cheap and can crack and break easily.

Used stirrups and leathers are easy to find too, often for pretty cheap. Do you have any tack stores around? Check Facebook, craigslist, buy and sell listings for used stuff. Synthetics are fine, something like a Wintec are common beginner saddles that don't break the bank.
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post #6 of 21 Old 10-20-2016, 07:08 PM
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Package saddles (Usually the "King" models) are made from cardboard and urine-tanned leather from India. You NEVER want to place your life on the line because you're using crappy materials. Go to a tack consignment place, an auction (with a friend who knows saddles), or even a tack sale on Craigslist, and you can find a better bargain. You can also look at synthetic saddles like Wintecs, which are a pretty low cost of entry for teaching a child to ride.

As for discipline, it's easier to move from English to Western than from Western to English. I started out English, but prefer Western. I do believe that English taught me some valuable skills that cross over to Western just as well - posting and sitting the trot, independence of seat, and not using the reins to balance.

Also, just as an aside, State Line is not a great place to order from - they have a LOT of unhappy customers at my barn!
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post #7 of 21 Old 10-20-2016, 07:35 PM
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Agree with others that just because it seems simple to get an english saddle package, it usually turns into a headache. When I wanted to try the same thing many years ago, I bought the saddle that looked so cute in the picture and it wouldn't even sit down on my horse's back. You need to know what width your western saddle tree is so you can have a general idea of the tree your english saddle needs. Small ponies may need wide trees. It's about the shape of their back not their height or even how stocky they are.

English saddles are a little more tricky to fit than western ones. They need to sit level on the horse's back, the panels have to match the angle of the shoulders, the channel has to be wide enough to clear the horse's spine on either side, and the front must clear the horse's withers even with a rider on. Depending on the type of pony, it can be helpful to buy a used saddle made for ponies. If the pony has a very short back it's important to have the saddle not be too long.

I personally prefer the paces of English. Instead of jogging slowly, you trot and post. Instead of a slow lope, you canter. There are some western disciplines that incorporate faster gaits, but in general english horses move faster around the ring.
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post #8 of 21 Old 10-20-2016, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Mulefeather View Post
As for discipline, it's easier to move from English to Western than from Western to English.
THIS!!! I was one of those stupid kids that though English was prissy... until I tried it. I now LOVE my English saddle, and my QH works so lovely in it. However, I am finding that my balance wasn't quite what I thought it was. I am really struggling with posting without a pommel, but it's coming. I'm hoping to take actual English lessons soon, just need to find someone. :)

ANYWAYS... I don't have kids just yet, and I have thought about this exact question. I do always plan on riding and showing Western with some English mixed in, and I think I would like my kids to do both as well and become well rounded. Hunt your local classifieds and maybe some tack swap Facebook pages for quality, used English tack (I picked up all my stuff for about $200) and have this girl and your pony try out both. Maybe try one for a few weeks, and then the other. Then let her decide what she likes.

I wouldn't worry about what the other kids are doing either. You two should just do what works best for you.

I don't know if I can be much more help than this though. Good luck with this new experience!
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post #9 of 21 Old 10-20-2016, 08:25 PM
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Hee hee... I disagree on the "easier to move from english to western". I rode hunter/jumper style english for about 20 years before moving to western. That was a hard transition for me. Letting go of the rein contact that I was used to and then sitting up more centered than the forward hunt seat, using my legs to control the horse rather than using my hands to steer. It was really hard. I think western to english is easier... that is IF you are really learning western and not cowboying.
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post #10 of 21 Old 10-20-2016, 09:26 PM
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"I have a Western saddle that fits the pony well..."

There you go. Save money and use a saddle that fits the pony as you learn what you like and dislike in riding.

I started English. Bought an extremely nervous horse, and switched to Australian saddles to help me stay alive. Eventually drifted into western riding in terms of using the reins, and from there into western riding. Just because a western saddle has a horn doesn't mean you don't use balance. And increasingly, there are western saddles without horns.

My Australian-style with an American horn:

Abetta saddle no horn:

Every western horse I've met can be direct reined with two hands if you want. All of mine are fine with it. I prefer one hand most of the time. More to the point, I prefer to use as little contact with the horse's mouth as possible, while English riding teaches constant contact as the normal. When a new rider goes out with us, I tell them my horses don't care what bit you use, as long as you use it seldom...

But you can ride a forward seat (similar to jumpers) in a western saddle. You can ride a dressage seat in a western saddle, and there is a growing sport called "western dressage" that does the tests using western tack. You can use two hands riding western.

Conversely, you can ride trails in a jump saddle or dressage saddle. And many horses are ridden English with one hand and neck reining. And most horses won't care if you mix & match:

So...Washington state, and you have a good western saddle that fits? Start western.
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