When you began riding, you likely had to decide between English or western. It can be helpful to know the differences between these styles of riding, so that you can pick the one that suits your lifestyle and interests best. Ultimately, some choose to ride both ways! In the beginning, it’s helpful to stick with one though.
Main Differences Between English & Western
- Equipment: It’s quite clear the tack is different between the two. Western saddles are larger and heavier than their English counterparts. They also offer a secure and comfortable seat with a horn. You’ll notice differences in the bridles, bits, reins, girths, among other things.
- Gaits: Not only are the terms used slightly different, but the expected movement also is. In western, riders walk, jog, and lope their horses. These horses tend to travel low and relaxed. English riders walk, trot, and canter. The specific discipline will also effect the movement.
- Horse Breeds: It’s true that many breeds are versatile and can be ridden English and western. At a western competition or rodeo event, you do tend to see more Quarter Horses and Paints though. Warmbloods and Thoroughbreds dominate in the show jumping and dressage circles.
- Clothing: While riding English, most choose to wear breeches, a tucked-in shirt, helmet, gloves, and tall boots or paddock boots with half chaps. On the other hand, western riders can be seen in jeans, a long-sleeve button-down or t-shirt, cowboy boots, and a hat.
- History: Cowboys spent long hours in the saddle driving cattle and working the land. English riding originated in Europe and was brought to America in the 1800s. It was considered the traditional and proper way to ride.
The only true way to pick between the two is to try them both out!