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English or Western Riding
 By Winniefield Park   •   11th Jan 2018   •   1,544 views   •   0 comments


A commonly asked question when people first decide to learn to ride is ‘should I ride English or western’. I’ve covered the differences between the two in The Difference Between Western and English Riding Styles. But how do you decide? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself that may help you make a decision.

What Kind of Horses Do You Like?

If you admire leggy Thoroughbreds, draft horse crosses, Friesians, Andalusians or other tall elegant breeds, you may also be attracted to how they are used and ridden. These horses are most often ridden English, although there is always an exception to the rule.

You might prefer more muscular, compact horses like American Quarter Horses, Appaloosas and Paints. These horses are often seen ridden western, and if their way of moving and the impression they give appeals to you, you will probably enjoy riding western. Most horses can do both at the lower levels of competition. Competition may not even be on your radar. But considering what type of horses appeals to you can help you decide the direction -
English or western - you’d like to head.

Do You Like To Be Dressed Casually, or More Formally?

Although it’s up to you what you wear when you ride at home, English riders tend to be more formally dressed when competing. Even at home or on the trail, most English riders don riding tights, tall boots or half chaps and jodhpur or paddock boots. While the traditional English helmet is almost emblematic of that style or riding, you’ll see more western riders wisely wearing similar helmets. If you like comfortable jeans or trousers, western style boots, and a button-down shirt, you’ll probably find western riding more inline with your style.

Do You Like a More Forward Moving Horse or One That is Slower and Relaxed?

English riders tend to encourage their horses to be more forward moving, with ground covering trots and purposeful walks. Western riders encourage their horse to travel in a way that reflects the pace of working cattle, which is more slow and steady with a relaxed walk and slow, comfortable jog, rather than a trot that requires you to post. Even at the canter or lope, western horses are encouraged to be more laid-back than English horses.

Are You More Attracted To the Riding Seen in the Olympics or in Rodeo and Speed Events?

Some people are attracted to the western cow-hand type of lifestyle. If you gravitate towards rodeos, speed events like pole bending and barrel racing, or love the relaxed attitude of horses in western pleasure classes, then western riding is probably for you. However, if the control and elegance of high-level dressage, the thrill of show jumping or the excitement of cross-country jumping appeals to you, then sign up for English riding lessons first.

Do You Want to Learn to Jump?

If jumping really appeals to you, English is a natural choice. Jumping in a western saddle is possible, but that saddle horn gets in the way.

What If The Answer To All of These Questions is Neither?

You don’t have to pick a ‘discipline’. There are lots of things you can do on horseback that have nothing to do with English or western styles, and you can become a good rider nonetheless. There are many trail riding saddles that are a hybrid of different riding styles but emphasize comfort and safety for horse and rider. Sports like vaulting and polo don’t require you to choose a riding style. The basics for all riding disciplines are the same. If you feel you really must choose between English or western, and still can’t pin down your choice, take a few lessons in both. You might find that little English saddle is just too insecure feeling or the daisy cutter paces of a western jog too slow for your liking. You’ll quickly decide what’s for you once you’re on the back of a horse.
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