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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well I hope you lovelies can help me with this.

I've been riding (badly) for about three years now, lack a bit of confidence although it's improving at the moment, and just love everything about being with my lovely boy Papillon.

Thing is, my loan of him comes to an end on November 30th :cry: which is very sad BUT does mean I will then go back to having lessons and will get the chance to try out other horses and other disciplines.

I am in the UK and so have learnt to ride English style, but was watching a western lesson today at the school where Papillon is, and, hmmmm, something intrigued me. But my dilemma is, will having western lessons confuse my very small brain, because the position will change, the tack will be different, the gaits will be slightly different, and maybe the aids too. Will it adversely affect my English riding?

I'd also love to hear people's opinions on whether they believe one style to be more 'natural' for the horse than the other? Obviously it's not natural for a horse to be saddled up and have a human on it's back, but does anyone have any thoughts on whether horses are more comfortable and secure riding one way or the other?

Well done for reading this far! :D

Linny x
 

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For gods sake don't start the english vs western debate! I have ridden both, but my horse seems to prefer English, though he is rather petite. It's all own to what your horse is built for, IMO. And I reccomend starting English, getting to a rather advanced point, THEN switching to western. I did things the other way around, and boy howdy was that hard. ONE IS NOT BETTER THAN THE OTHER! It's like comparing baking potatoes and sweet potatoes. Their both good, but some people like the taste of one over the other.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
ONE IS NOT BETTER THAN THE OTHER! It's like comparing baking potatoes and sweet potatoes. Their both good, but some people like the taste of one over the other.
I realise that, and am not asking if one is better! Just curious as to how riding both might affect the rider.
 

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Think of that as directed toward everyone, lol. Western is (usuall) more pep robe to be ridden in a chair seat, and less emphasis on proper rider balance, in the lower levels. You are, IMO, more likely to fall English.
 
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A western saddle tree distributes weight over a larger area, so in that sense it is easier on the horse's back. It varies with make & model and type of English saddle. The black Abetta in the picture below has roughly the same area as the English saddle - but the Abetta has the smallest footprint of any western saddle I've seen:



The western standard for reins is one hand with slack in the reins. Teaching the horse to neck rein is a priority. In traditional western riding, there is no attempt to put a horse in a frame or a headset - although that is one of the things going wrong with western riding in the modern world...people riding in arenas are starting to think about 'headset'.

In that sense, it is an easy to learn and forgiving style of riding.

Will it affect your English riding? Perhaps. Lots of people do both, so it can be done. Our Circle Y saddle - the big one above - puts my legs in an awkward position. Think 'chair seat' with no lower leg contact. I like forward hung stirrups, but it is the shape of the saddle itself that does it to me. It all depends on the western saddle. There is as much variety there as in the English saddle world...maybe more.

On the whole, I ride the saddle, not the style. If my butt is in the lowest part of the saddle, and my stirrup straps (or fenders) are vertical, then I'm in the position that saddle was designed for, so that is how I ride it.

"less emphasis on proper rider balance"

Proper balance cannot be discussed without examining tack. The western saddle was DESIGNED to have more weight to the rear. It is only improper balance if you ride in a way your saddle was not designed to be used.



With that sort of saddle tree, this approach puts the rider's weight in the center of the load-bearing area - although it is not a good approach to use in an English saddle:


Henry Lyman, range boss of the LS, looking across the panhandle country. LS Ranch, Texas, 1907

Erwin E. Smith Collection Guide | Collection Guide
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks so much BSMS - that was a really useful post, lots of food for thought.
I am lucky to have a very good yard close by who do have Western trained horses and a very good instructor. These are few and far between in England - I have discovered after some research that there are yards that claim to teach Western when in reality all they do is put some Western tack onto a horse and everything else is exactly the same as the English lessons. Sad but true.

I will get myself up there this weekend and have a good chat with the Western instructor and spend some time in the tack room examining the saddles etc.

I guess it will be interesting to try out - it may not be for me or it may become the only way I want to ride in future, who knows, but there's only one way to find out....:D
 

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My trainer always begins her students in a western saddle and then moves them to English after they have good balance and are secure in the saddle. She's found that most students learn quickest this way because they have the security of the larger saddle with a horn to grab onto. Also, since reins are generally kept at the longer length, the student is less likely to bang the horse's mouth when they lose balance, as they are bound to do when they are beginning. Also, since the reigns are held in one hand, you have a hand free to grab the horn if you feel like you are falling. This worked very well for me when I was learning.

I don't think your riding will e changed by riding western, you may simply find that you like it better (or not). Everyone prefers different styles. It ma also help you gain more confidence and feel more secure in the saddle, which would be a great thing.

I switch back and forth between English and western and have never had an issue with one messing up the other. The saddles automatically make you sit differently, so it's easy to go back to the "proper" way of riding when you switch out.
 

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Think of that as directed toward everyone, lol. Western is (usuall) more pep robe to be ridden in a chair seat, and less emphasis on proper rider balance, in the lower levels. You are, IMO, more likely to fall English.
How does that make sense? I'd expect a well-balanced English rider to stay in the saddle through an "incident" MUCH longer than an unbalanced Western rider... so how does it make sense that the saddle would make more difference in your riding than how well-balanced your seat is? I'm not saying that you're wrong or right, but the logic as I understand it seems flawed.

I've ridden English since I was 11 (over 10 years) and until I bought a western saddle a couple of weeks ago I could probably count the number of times that I've ridden in a Western saddle on my fingers and toes. I guess there are pros and cons of each... but it comes down to what you feel most comfortable with.

Most folks that I know regard a western saddle as more secure and comfortable... the kind of thing that you want to ride out a buck or go on a long trail ride. The average western saddle holds you in more than the average English saddle, though we all know how widely western and English saddles vary!

Most western riders that I know don't know what to do with themselves when placed in an English saddle. I don't know if this is typical of most western riders, or if it has just happened to be the bunch that I've been around. They're used to the secure seat and having a horn in front of them, whether they use it or not. Put an English person in a western saddle though, and you're generally adding security. For this reason I think that the average English person would have a much easier time switching to western than the average western person would switching to English.

I feel weird and less secure in a western saddle because I have seldom ridden in one, but I think it'll change over time if I start doing it regularly. I'll never say that one style of riding is always better than another, but in general I think that it's best for people to learn their balance in an English saddle first. It seems as though it would be easier to get used to the more relaxed western position than to transition from that relaxed position to the more... don't really know how to say it... upright or forward position that an English saddle would put you in.

Basically, the culmination of all of those ramblings is to do whatever you want, but that there are differences that you should be aware of in both saddle style and riding style. If you have been riding "badly" (your words, not mine!!), then depending on your issues I would probably say that you should sort out your balance in an English saddle first. Those things are great for teaching body awareness and balance! However, there's nothing in the world wrong with deciding to go western. Heck, you can even start taking both types of lessons and seeing what you like best! Or pick one, and have an occasional lesson of the other.

Of course, if you have a specific discipline or goal in mind (you want to jump, run barrels, etc) then that'll pretty much make the decision for you. There's still no law that says you can't take another type of lesson once in awhile, but if you plan to jump then go with English lessons. If you want to run barrels, then a close contact saddle isn't the way to go!
 

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I rode English for many years and recently have switched to western. Being in a Australia I imagine it's sort of similar as the UK in that there is a very small western riding scene.

It depends on what you want to do. Like if you want to get into jumping western isn't going to be for you. Now you're just taking lessons, but if in the future you want to get your own horse and compete there is a lot "less" to do, tack and gear is much more expensive, western trained horses are hard to come by.

Lots of people say the riding itself isn't too different. I can see where they're coming from but I have found it quite different. I've yet to find a western saddle that I can sit in and have my legs underneath me properly - which I get isn't the western way but that means I have to relearn a new leg position. It's very disconcerting. I like western saddles more, but I feel that they don't "fit" with the horse so well. Like you're riding the saddle rather than riding the horse, something I've never felt with english.

I don't think it will ruin your riding or anything, nor do I think any is particularly better for the horse. The longer bars have a bigger surface area, but they have their negative aspects as well. Just as English saddles have their positive ones.
 

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A lot of western saddles will put your heel under your hip. Most Wade saddles are supposed to do it. Our Abetta does it. Saddles intended for Western Pleasure would do it. Barrel, cutting and roping saddles will tend to put your feet forward.

If anyone wants to read about western saddle trees, fitting a western saddle, etc, the best website I know is one done by a custom western saddle tree maker:

Can the loin of the horse carry weight?
 

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I think it's simply a matter of what you like - how you like a horse to move and what you plan to do with your riding.

Western is a slower gait - the walk is slow, the jog is slower and the lope is easy. And the horses are picked with that in mind. If you were to go to a show and watch both events, even the beginner/open ones, you'd see a vast difference between the two, besides the tack. Western can be geared towards pleasure, IMO. When you trail ride, chances are you'll be riding it on a western saddle.

Western saddles are heavier. In fact, they're gynormous! They'll put muscle on you lugging them back and forth from the tack room. Unless you have a petite horse, you're going to be amazed at how heavy they are.

I personally like Western riding, I like the challenges, I like the freedom of using neck reining or direct reining. I like that I can use English type aids AND Western aids. You can't do that with English. he he :p

I enjoy pattern work and side passing and doing things like that. I also like the saddle - it's big and deep - like riding in a big fat recliner. :D I think Western is more personal - more you and the horse kind of thing - but that could be me. I'm always about the horse I ride, always trying to create a working relationship.

I confess I love an English saddle because there is a lot of contact with the horse. Aussie saddles are said to be the best of both worlds but I've never ridden one so I can't comment.

Take a couple of lessons. Many riders have done both and find it beneficial. All roads lead to Rome - a good lesson is a good lesson - working on your aids, balance and various skills, communicating with your horse. That's what it's about.
 

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And BSMS has once again stated more perfectly than I ever could about western riding and saddlery. :wink:

In my experience there is no problem with riders learning both. I've even lately seen top dressage instructors send their students over to my barn to learn to ride western because (at least where I'm at) western is nothing but your seat and balance. You shouldn't rely on the saddle to keep you in, but your balance. If those kids didn't forget what it was like to ride in an english saddle I'm sure you wont.

It can't hurt to learn western. You can always take stuff that you learn from it to help you better your english riding. Good riding is good riding, regardless of tack. :)
 

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I think it's simply a matter of what you like - how you like a horse to move and what you plan to do with your riding.

Western is a slower gait - the walk is slow, the jog is slower and the lope is easy. And the horses are picked with that in mind. If you were to go to a show and watch both events, even the beginner/open ones, you'd see a vast difference between the two, besides the tack. Western can be geared towards pleasure, IMO. When you trail ride, chances are you'll be riding it on a western saddle.

Western saddles are heavier. In fact, they're gynormous! They'll put muscle on you lugging them back and forth from the tack room. Unless you have a petite horse, you're going to be amazed at how heavy they are.

I personally like Western riding, I like the challenges, I like the freedom of using neck reining or direct reining. I like that I can use English type aids AND Western aids. You can't do that with English. he he :p

I enjoy pattern work and side passing and doing things like that. I also like the saddle - it's big and deep - like riding in a big fat recliner. :D I think Western is more personal - more you and the horse kind of thing - but that could be me. I'm always about the horse I ride, always trying to create a working relationship.

I confess I love an English saddle because there is a lot of contact with the horse. Aussie saddles are said to be the best of both worlds but I've never ridden one so I can't comment.

Take a couple of lessons. Many riders have done both and find it beneficial. All roads lead to Rome - a good lesson is a good lesson - working on your aids, balance and various skills, communicating with your horse. That's what it's about.
Who says you can't neck rein riding English? My English horse neck reins beautifully :)
 

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^My H/J neck reins, too xD

OP, there are two ways I was thinking about how to answer this as I was reading... And two routes I see to go.

Firstly, based on what people I know have said, it is easier to learn English then switch to western if you would like, than it is to ride western and switch to English. That is just what I have heard, and maybe just some food for thought.

My other thoughts are the following--do some research! Find what discipline looks the most appealing to you, what reputable trainers are in your area, and go from there.

People sure are touchy about this subject xD
As far as your question about if it will mess up your riding; I don't think so. You can definitely learn, and be successful at both. :) Let us know what decision you make!
 

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I think rather than it being a detriment to your English riding, it will be an asset. you'll be challenged in a different way and this will broaden your horizon. It's a bit like learning how to drive stick shift; it wont make your automatic driving worse.
 

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As in all things, there are good and bad ways to do both. The trainer with the biggest name isn't always the best option for a recreational rider. You don't mention what kind you are.

I am exclusively a rec rider who rides both. I have a wonderful work of art barrel racing saddle that is the most comfortable rig I have sat (former trail guide, here). No chair seat for me, thank you very much. I have never run a single barrel and never will. It's my trail riding outfit, or my lazy day outfit. I pull out the dressage beater for ring work, when I feel like getting down to it, though I do also occasionally get hardy in the western gear, too.

I don't find my riding changes much from one to the other... It's more my mindset. My horse seems to prefer the western saddle, but that could just be his lazy side. ;)

If you're into the show scene, or any competitive activity, it's an entirely different bag, imo. The Western ring is not a good fit for my horse's baroque build and we never place. I'll take his sexy self over some cookie-cutter-lover's opinion any day! We do alright in the English ring, tho notsomuch the jumping, lol!
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I think part of what you should keep in mind is the origins of both disciplines. There's more to riding Western and English than just how you sit in what saddle.

English riding developed as a means to use horses in crowded urban environments in Europe, and then grew to encompass the leisure activities of the gentry, like fox hunting, for example. Consequently, English riding is focused on careful control of the horse and rider. English is much more like driving a stick shift instead of an automatic. The rider is responsible for so much of what the horse is doing and how they are doing it. Because of that you need tack with good contact between horse and rider, and English saddles have the less in more approach there.

Western is a whole different mindset. Western riding was developed out on the open ranges of the west, where you could go days without seeing another human being, and if you saw a horse, it was probably a wild one. The large saddle was developed to keep the cowboy in it, no matter what, and to give the cowboy the leverage to use the horse's weight and power against the cattle he had to handle. Because Western riding developed with these different conditions, Western riding focuses on keeping one or both hands free so you can work doing one thing like roping or shooting while your horse does what it is supposed to do.

Classic Western riding hinges on the idea that you train the horse carefully what to do, tell it once, and expect it to continue doing it's job until you tell it something new. This is why you have less "contact and collection" than the English style where the crowded city conditions needed greater control.

Western riding should be focused on careful timing of pressure and release. It can be great in teaching you a whole new way to think about and relate to your horse.

The Australians since they primarily herded sheep, developed a lighter saddle with less of a horn since they didn't need it to haul down sheep, but the "I'm doing my job, you do yours" attitude came over from the western style.

The thing I enjoy most about western is that development of a partnership on a ride.

I say go for it. It won't mess you up if you still want to ride English.
 

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Who says you can't neck rein riding English? My English horse neck reins beautifully :)
I was only kiddiing. But can you show using neck reining?

I ride Western, and I ride school horses. Many of them do both, but they are usually better at one than the other. The horse I'm riding now has been trained as a dressage horse. So for my purposes, he's a bit on the too fast side, but he seems to like neck reining. Calms his forward self right down but not his bounce which is natural or his speed, which is his nature. That's his way. So I use direct reining and neck reining, depending on what's needed. I showed that way, doing both. A little nuts, but fun as all hell.

I believe if you're a good rider, you can be a good rider in either discipline. I think good riding is good riding: safe, calm, balanced. But what I do like about western really - is that it is a more relaxed discipline, in terms of how you put it out there. English (I believe and I'm sure I could be very wrong) is about a very structured approached and look.
 

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I was only kiddiing. But can you show using neck reining?

I ride Western, and I ride school horses. Many of them do both, but they are usually better at one than the other. The horse I'm riding now has been trained as a dressage horse. So for my purposes, he's a bit on the too fast side, but he seems to like neck reining. Calms his forward self right down but not his bounce which is natural or his speed, which is his nature. That's his way. So I use direct reining and neck reining, depending on what's needed. I showed that way, doing both. A little nuts, but fun as all hell.

I believe if you're a good rider, you can be a good rider in either discipline. I think good riding is good riding: safe, calm, balanced. But what I do like about western really - is that it is a more relaxed discipline, in terms of how you put it out there. English (I believe and I'm sure I could be very wrong) is about a very structured approached and look.
Haha no, I can't think of any English disciplines where you can show neck reining! I may be wrong though...

Pleasure English, and by that I mean you aren't showing, doesn't necessarily have to be about structure and looks. I mean, if you're leaning straight back and have your feet sticking out to Dallas then there's really no way that's balanced, but as long as you're going along in a balanced seat and reasonably good position there's nothing that's inherently more stuffy about it. Showing? Yeah, most English disciplines are pretty sticky about your position and look. I don't know anything about Western showing though, so I can't comment TOO much on how the two compare!

On the comment that a good rider can be a good rider in either style- I completely agree. Regardless of how secure the rider feels getting into a new saddle type, if a western rider gets in an English saddle and can't stay on (or vice versa) then there's a hole somewhere. Along those same lines, my barn manager has said numerous times that she thinks the big difference between riding English and Western is the amount of contact. I don't agree with everything she says (and I'm a bit iffy about that), but she does bring up a reasonable point. Generally English riding has more contact than western and the horses are trained in such a way. IMO I do think that a good, well-trained horse of either discipline should be able to be ridden with varying amounts of contact. A well-trained horse that is used to be ridden with contact won't go bonkers if the contact is released, and a horse that is used to no contact won't get ****y if a rider takes up contact. Of course, that is provided that the rider isn't just jerking the horse's head down or something silly like that :wink:
 

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Contact can be defined in different ways. For western riding, a typical scenario is a horse on a leveraged bit with slack in the reins. The slack in the reins, amplified by the leverage (the western bits I've used amplify an input to 125-175% of what it would be with a snaffle), IS a form of light contact. If your hands are steady, then a responsive horse will respond to your moving your hand an inch or two. Moving your hand up or down, front or back, sideways - all should create a response. With Mia, she is good about listening to up/down, front/back small movements. She still considers neck reining to be optional...

We joke that Trooper, our ex-ranch horse, doesn't care what bit you put in his mouth as long as you don't use it. If someone tried to ride him with constant contact, he would be worried and possibly frightened. He never has been trained for it, and I doubt he ever will. It is too nice having a horse who pretty much just figures out what you want and does it.

This was Mia yesterday, which is about as much contact as I want her to have:



This is our preference. Neither is right or wrong, but I prefer to train my horses in just one style or rein use since they are not ridden very often anyways. Saddles vary with the day...

 
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