A very common question among the equestrian community is, “what is the difference between Western and English riding styles?”

The first thing to know is that while they share certain basics in riding technique, they are both vastly different riding styles that emerged from very different cultures.  What defines each style includes the gear, purpose of riding, and even the types of horses used.  Here are a few of the main difference between the styles.

The Origins & Culture

The origins of the riding styles truly define them. The western riding style originates from “cowboy” culture, with riders using their horses for longs days of labor-intensive work, such as chasing and herding cows.  In fact, the design of the saddle for Western riders was inspired by the need for better weight distribution when roping a cow.  Many events in modern western riding culture keep with tradition, with riders trying to rope cows or single specific ones out of a herd.

The English style traces its origins back to the times of mounted military, which explains the more rigid and proper style in techniques, attire, and events.  Modern English riding culture includes events such as dressage, jumping, and polo.

Saddles & Riding Technique Differences

For both Western and English riding disciplines, the actual position of the rider is fundamentally the same; the rider sitting upright with their legs pressed against the horses side.  However, Western riders have a much larger, more comfortable saddle and tend to sit in a more relaxed position while riding.   English style riders utilize a smaller saddle, that is designed to keep the rider in closer contact with horse’s back, allowing for them to more easily hold the more rigid English riding position while the horse gallops and vaults.

 The Attire

Keeping with its cowboy origins, Western riders usually adopt the classic cowboy or western style hat, a comfortable shirt, jeans, and western style boots when participating in shows or events.  English riders adopt a more proper outfit, with the traditional “hunt cap”, and fitted “hunt coat”.  Riders also wear breeches, gloves, and tall boots to complete the classic English rider uniform.

Which Style Is Better?

While both a very different styles, there’s nothing that makes one better than the other.  Many riders may find a certain style easier to adapt to when first learning, but for those who just love to ride, both make for exciting and enjoyable experiences.  If you’ve only tried one style, give the other one a try!  You may be pleasantly surprised how it feels.

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