Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: I'm an American girl living in southwest France
I started lessons in an English saddle and switched to Western for a little while. Now I go back and forth depending on what's going on with my confidence level.
When I'm riding well and feeling confident, I use the English. When I'm struggling with balance and/or confidence, or it's going to be a crazy windy rainy lesson where the horse might spook, I ride in my Western saddle.
Why? (and this is the important part) ...
Because, it takes more balance, stronger muscles, and a better seat to ride in an English saddle comfortably. A Western saddle kind of holds you in place, giving you lots more actual saddle around you. With the English one, you're more perched up on top of the horse, not held in place at all. It's your balance, your muscles, your ability to ride that makes you secure, not the saddle. But with a Western saddle, you can kind of suck at riding and still stay in the seat if the horse spins around suddenly. Of course I'm not saying people who use Western saddles suck at riding. No way. Please, no one go there. :)
If you learn on an English saddle, you'll use more muscles and have to develop your balance faster (hence, a better workout, if exercise is your thing). It will also be more difficult. I consider my Western saddle to be kind of like a bike with training wheels attached. It allows me to cheat quite a bit. I love it for when I'm worried about falling or being in a new situation where my horse might be nervous like trail rides.
Now, I know there will be some people who flat out disagree with me, but that's fine. To each his own. This is my personal experienced from being an older rider (started at 44) who has now been doing it about a year and a half, and I ride at a jumping barn. I'm the only person in the whole place with a Western saddle. I've tried them both equally.
“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ” ~ William Shakespeare