What are the Differences Between English and
Western Riding Styles?
By Katherine Blocksdorf, About.com
Western riding developed according to the needs of 'cowboys'. The
Western saddle is made to distribute weight more evenly over the horse’s
back so horse and rider can counterbalance the weight of a roped cow. The
seat is comfortable for long hours over rough terrain. The horn anchors a
lariat when roping cattle.
English riding takes many of its traditions and equipment from European
mounted military styles.
Type of Horse:
Western horses tend to be compact and traditionally capable of steady
travel all day with small bursts of speed to chase stray cattle.
English style horses tend to be taller.
But some individuals have surprising talents and a stocky Quarter Horse
may surprise you in the dressage ring, while a Thoroughbred might have
unexpected ‘cow sense’. Chances are your horse and you can find some
success—and certainly fun, at any discipline or riding style no matter his
type or breeding.
* Walk very similar for both English and Western.
* Trot/Jog: A jog is very smooth, relaxed, and slightly faster than a walk. The
jog is useful for following herds of cattle. Riders sit a jog, and do not post. A
trot is posted unless a sitting trot is required in the show ring.
* Canter/Lope: The Western lope is a slow relaxed canter. An canter can be
very elevated, extended, or collected with many variations in speed
depending on the specific discipline or style.
The most distinctive element of Western riding is the hat. Traditional
Western hats are giving way to the use of helmets. Western style helmets
are available. A comfortable shirt, jeans and Western style boots complete
the traditional look. Many Western riders opt to wear sporty looking helmets,
even in the show ring.
English riders wear a traditional style ‘hunt cap’. A fitted jacket, shirt,
jodhpurs or breeches and jodphur boots or tall boots complete the English
The Basics of What You’ll Need to Know:
Western riders will learn how to hold the reins with one hand, and sit the
trot. English riders will learn to hold a rein in each hand and post the trot. As
you progress you will learn to cue and control your horse for different
speeds within each gait, and other skills you’ll need to participate in various
disciplines. If you plan to compete, you’ll need to learn to braid or band a
mane, pull a tail, and other grooming details depending on what you are
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