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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I'm new to the forum (first post!) and ready to get back in the saddle again. A few years ago, when I starting college, I also started riding English. Fantastic barn - great instructors and dirt cheap - but then I transferred out and have since stopped riding (more expensive around new school). At the time, I got up to a sloppy yet functional canter. Now I can afford to start again - but I'm torn between English and western despite having started in English. I'll only be able to ride maybe once (max twice) a week since I'm busy with work and school. Seems western allows more immediate fun - if not more refined horsemanship - and I'm not against going for the more immediate gratification route : ) Especially since I'll be riding so infrequently and so busy.

Still, I'm still on the fence. I was talking to a friend who rides a lot and he said in western riding, the horse does a lot more work and the rider a lot less. And that in English it's a better balance. Is there any truth to this? How would western make the horse work harder/the rider less compared to English?

Thanks guys!
 

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Good horsemanship is good horsemanship regardless of discipline.

Western saddles do offer more support and some see that as more security which translates to less effort on their part. Unfortunately, you can see people sitting in a western saddle like lumps of dough, slouched over, heels up, arms hanging and heads flopping like a bobble head on the dash of a car and they don't fall off. But, really, one does not have to do that! Certainly packing a rider like that would be more work for the horse, but no horseman would do that.

I say ride whatever discipline is available and trying a variety is best!
 

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I've found that most of that is not true. I primarily ride and compete in two disciplines; eventing (English) and reining (Western). Both require very exact cues and correct posture to get the most out of the horse.

I suggest researching a broad spectrum of disciplines to get a feel for everything and decide what you would like to pursue. For English, look up rules/regulations/show videos of eventing, dressage, show jumping, USEF hunters, fox hunting, saddleseat, endurance, and even look into APHA, AQHA, PtHA, AHA, and Morgan breed shows.

For Western, do the same for cutting, reining, team penning, sorting, barrel racing, Western Pleasure, Horsemanship, and competitive trail.

Of course, you can always choose to be a pleasure rider and not worry too much about perfecting your position and your horse's way of going. I would not, however, choose a discipline based on ease of attainment, as you will find that you are constantly improving and striving to be better with any discipline you choose.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I would not, however, choose a discipline based on ease of attainment, as you will find that you are constantly improving and striving to be better with any discipline you choose.
I think this makes a lot of sense. And I'm certainly not looking for the easy way out - my doing my part, and the horse doing his/hers. The balance question between horse and rider is what might push me to English, and basically everyone I know is telling me to do English. It's probably a geographical thing (live in MD). Further south, it'd probably be the reverse.

I also know I want to keep improving. Riding is too costly in every way - $, time, energy, etc - to not give it your all. I don't want to get complacent in either discipline, but to keep pushing forward. Another reason for English is I did start there, so it may come back easier.

Thanks for the responses!
 

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Do both! There are trainers out there who teach both english and western...ride english three times then ride western three times :) I went back and forth a lot when I took lessons and had a blast! And now I'm proud to say that I'm a 'disciplined cowgirl' as I like to call it lol English is a lot more disciplined, I've always found. Everything is strict and you have to be prepared for that. Whereas when I think of western I think of sitting on your pockets and sitting in a deep easy trot instead of a brisk rising trot. In that way, I've always felt more at ease in western and didn't feel like I was being judged as bad whereas in english it's still great fun but in a whole different competitive-like way. However, there's stuff like that in each discipline. What I'm trying to say is, (if possible) don't limit yourself to English OR western. Take both and eventually you'll develop a heart for one or the other (or just continue doing both for the rest of your life :p )
 

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How would western make the horse work harder/the rider less compared to English?...And I'm certainly not looking for the easy way out - my doing my part, and the horse doing his/hers. The balance question between horse and rider is what might push me to English, and basically everyone I know is telling me to do English...
In terms of good for the horse, there is no advantage to either English or Western. They are different styles and different approaches, and both have track records of millions of horses. Done right, both give a happy horse. Done wrong, either will harm a horse.

Western is probably more forgiving on the horse as done by a beginning rider. Many ride with slack reins, neck reining and only intermittently making use of the bit. If your hands aren't very steady, that is easier on the horse - but lots of English horses are also trained to do that.

The first time I cantered, I did it on an ex-ranch horse with an excellent neck rein using a rope halter. Given how much I bounced around, that was a good thing. And given how much I was bouncing, distributing that weight over a bigger area of his back was probably a good thing too.

English or Western, you can always try to get better. The woman who trained our horses came from a barrel racing background. After 40+ years around horses, she started a 4 year program with another trainer to learn how to train a horse for a spade bit.

I started English and drifted west, so to speak. But then, in southern Arizona, it is easy to find help with western riding. Outside of the cities, there are not a lot of English teachers around here. My primary goal for my horse was to get her calmer mentally. I couldn't do it by myself, and the people I knew who could help were western riders. But my favorite writers on riding are George Morris & VS Littauer, who are both jumpers...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
when I think of western I think of sitting on your pockets and sitting in a deep easy trot instead of a brisk rising trot.
This definitely catches my attention, because when I was doing English posting always felt kinda silly. Maybe it's being a guy, but I think there's more to it than that. It's not just it felt silly, but I never cared for it much. When I rode English, I learned to walk, trot, sitting trot (with and without stirrups and I didn't mind the sitting trot....another reason I'm wondering whether I should do western) plus 2point and then the canter. That was about it for my English training. Most western I've ever done is those trail rides where everyone goes in line. Could be fun, once I figure it out more. Wouldn't have to post at all, which is a big plus. Although one thing I did like about English was having a rein in each hand. That part did feel right, and the few times I did those trail rides with western holding both in one hand felt....odd. But that's to be expected with anything new.

Here's something I was just wondering - I bet riding bareback is really tough for western riders who have never done English - because they're so used to the security of the saddle. English riders are more natural at balance maybe. Admittedly I never did much bareback riding - maybe trotted once like that, but I'm sure it looked a mess. Think western riders will have trouble with bareback at anything more than a walk?
 

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Onlydudeatthebarn, Not necessarily. I'm a Western rider and on my old mare I would sooner ride bareback then with a saddle. There is no one "easier" discipline. Some riders depend on the saddle, and it isn't just Western ones. Others can ride bareback no prob what so ever :) Some trainers even start students with no saddle so they have better balance. Just keep in mind, in either saddle (or none at all) if you don't have balance, you'll fall.
 

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...I bet riding bareback is really tough for western riders who have never done English - because they're so used to the security of the saddle. English riders are more natural at balance maybe...Think western riders will have trouble with bareback at anything more than a walk?
I think it is easier to rely on the 'safety' of a western saddle, or an Australian one like I use. So if someone is content to sit on a horse instead of ride the horse, western may be easier. But no western rider needs to be content to just sit on top of the horse.

The flip side is that if you feel more secure, you may ride with more confidence. You may relax more, and relaxing on a horse is helpful. I hurt my lower back shortly after I took up riding at 50. I bought an Australian style saddle BECAUSE it makes it easier to stay on if the horse hits the fan. It feels like my Bates AP saddle to my butt, but offered extra help back when my horse did spins and bolts on a regular basis.

If you want to dabble in both worlds, you could consider an Australian-style saddle. My butt can't tell the difference, but no one poops on you because most Americans assume Australians ride kangaroos! :lol:

 

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Western done correctly is not easier the english done correctly. They both have their chalanges and rewards. What you need to think about it what YOU want out of the riding at the end. Do you wish to do a certain event? Do you want to compet? OR do you just want to ride? All these things will go into what you take up and what direction you take.

Ex: I am a reiner. So when I ride I ride in western take b/c that is what is required to do reining. I would not ride in an english saddle b/c that would not work. Same goes if I wanted to learn to jump at some point. I would start riding english as that is what would translate best into jumping.
 
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I should walk away and not post here but seeing as this is the second time in two days posters with experience in horses have told new riders to this forum that western riders are lesser thanks to some magic the saddle possesses I feel compelled to share my opinion too.

Speaking purely from my own personal experience some riding instructors/schools start riders out in western saddles for liability reasons. It's nice to know that the person who may think their balance is impecable on the ground has something to grab with their hand (more natural then legs) if something happens to go wrong. However, my school teaches all riders, English and Western, to ride stirrupless and bareback because we believe its essential that all riders know the saddle should not be relied upon to keep you on the horse or safe if things go wrong.

If you truly are interested in English, learn English. I would suggest against choosing it purely based on opinions that it will make you a better rider. A good instructor no matter the discipline will work hard to make you an effective rider. But a poor instructor, again no matter the discipline, will only hinder your experience. I would go so far to say that it's more about trying as many disciplines as you are interested in to become a well rounded rider as well as an instructor who looks past the English/western saddle to make the rider in that saddle the best they can be. As nrha pointed out, she rides western because that's what their chosen discipline calls for, it's not an easy way out sort of choice.

I've personally ridden both disciplnes, as well as have ridden horses trained in both disciplines bareback. Western disciplines have completely different challenges then English ones and I believe a rider should try any event, no matter the discipline, if they are able to.
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Onlydudeatthebarn, Not necessarily. I'm a Western rider and on my old mare I would sooner ride bareback then with a saddle. There is no one "easier" discipline. Some riders depend on the saddle, and it isn't just Western ones. Others can ride bareback no prob what so ever :) Some trainers even start students with no saddle so they have better balance. Just keep in mind, in either saddle (or none at all) if you don't have balance, you'll fall.
I'm on mobile so I cannot "like" this but felt it bears repeating! Absolutely, balance is key no matter what you're doing on a horse.
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I was talking to a friend who rides a lot and he said in western riding, the horse does a lot more work and the rider a lot less. And that in English it's a better balance. Is there any truth to this? How would western make the horse work harder/the rider less compared to English?
I think he might not have meant work in the physical sense, but in the mental. Seems to me (from what I've seen & read) that English/show riders tend to "micro-manage" the horse, while western/trail riders tend to give general directions and let the horse get on with the details.
 

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Lots of good replies re whether you should do one or both Western and English. Since you have some experience in both I would recommend that you consider WHAT you want to do when riding.
I started riding by paying for a rental horse 1x/week with my allowance, at age 10, and I taught myself to ride some kind of Western, simply bc I rented horses with Western Tack.
A few years later I took Hunt-Seat/Jumper lessons, and got a different perspective.
When I bought my first horses at 27yo and gave multiple discipline lessons, I trained my horses to do both. I have a younger herd now--my elderly horses have passed away--and I train my horses for both, though I tailor their training.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The flip side is that if you feel more secure, you may ride with more confidence. You may relax more, and relaxing on a horse is helpful.

Ah, good point. Hadn't considered this.

What you need to think about it what YOU want out of the riding at the end. Do you wish to do a certain event? Do you want to compet? OR do you just want to ride? All these things will go into what you take up and what direction you take.
Yeah I see what you're saying. To be honest, my ideal day with a horse is out on a nice trail somewhere in the woods or something. Maybe with 1 to 3 others, but no more than that. Don't care for crowds, or to have tons of eyes on my judging my every move. At the same time I want to become a decent horseman.

As of now, when I see people eventing, jumping, doing dressage, barrel racing, reining, etc. - I don't feel a huge urge to do those things. With maybe the exception of jumping fences because it downright looks challenging and in my mind (environmental bias, I'm sure) is the hardest thing to do on a horse. Even though I learned a lot of how English riding works, the people doing the higher stuff were always jumping/hunting. I think that standard has stuck with me. Then again I dislike posting and would never really care to do much with a panel of judges deciding how my day will end.

All tallied, you guys can see why I'm torn between the two. Maybe 51% western right now. Your responses are helping a lot, though - thank you!
 
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