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  1. #1
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    Feb. 5, 2008
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    Default Silly question- difference between Western and English riding?

    It might be silly question - is there a really big difference between Western and classical (English) riding? OK, saddle is different, stirrups, reins, but in general?
    Today I had seen for the first time in my life a person who rides only Western, and this person was not doing well at all on our horses.

    Sorry for asking, I just want to learn from people who do both - is there such a difference?

    In my case you can see that person had been around horses, gets well with them, feels comfortable as well as horses feel comfortable with this person and then... Such a different riding style and horses were really confused as well.

    Person said that it was his first time in English saddle and on such a high horse (ours are 17.2), but horses were not understanding the person at all, really confused.

    So now I 'm asking just to learn - is the difference really big?
    ** I LOVE PUIKA FAN CLUB*** member



  2. #2
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    Jul. 15, 2005
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    Well it really depends on the training the person has had and the training the horse has had. Though some people/horses adapt better ...

    but... to broadly generalize...

    yes, most of the time the cues that you give the horses for various things like walk, trot, canter, lead changes, etc and how you steer the horse are different. Western riders generally neck rein, which is different that the direct rein used in english riding.

    This is over simplifying things a lot but in english where you would give a right rein aid to turn right, in western you would bring your hand (which holds both reins) to the right, which would put pressure on the left side of the neck and mouth. The horse moves away from that pressure and turns right. So that is quite different than the direct rein.

    Also, many western riders do not keep their leg against the horse all the time. They ride more with their seat and will give little one-time leg cues to move the horse off, instead of more of a steady hug with the leg with variations in movement/pressure. I have even known a western trained horse who had very very different leg cues taught to it for it's canter/lope than I had ever head of before, but being more of an english rider myself... I have no idea if what that horse was taught is common or not.

    Anyways, the different style seat, the different style of leg, steering etc... yes, can be very confusing and difficult to manage for the horse and the rider.
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  3. #3
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    I train all of my horses to go both western and English, but for someone who has ridden only western, without an explanation of the new buttons to expect, yes, I could see them having trouble. Principally- most western horses are trained to go 'off contact.' If your horses are accustomed to going with at least elementary contact, even a long time western rider could possibly have never had to learn such a concept.

    The flip side- once, when riding with some British folks foxhunting here in the west, they were riding rented ranch horses, and were miserable. They were attempting to ride on contact, as they were used to doing, and these horses were jigging nonstop. I rode up alongside and instructed them to 'throw the reins away.' I explained that for the average ranch horse, the reins 'picked up' means you are about to go do something fast and quick, like rope a cow, and the reins slack mean relax and enjoy. They were skeptical but gave it a try and were amazed that the horses dropped their heads and plodded along in a nice, balanced, forward walk.

    Sorry, I'm not really giving you a straight answer- but there are differences and similarities- but then, within English disciplines there are differences, too. Big thing when I let someone ride one of my horses is to simply tell them what cues the horse is accustomed to.



  4. #4
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    Just as there are many kinds of English riding, there are many, many kinds of western riding.

    Other than the saddles being similar in different English disciplines, how you ride and what you do may have different goals.
    In western riding, there is an even much larger difference, as there are many more disciplines than in English riding.

    It is hard to give rules of thumb, unless you are asking for any one specific discipline.



  5. #5
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    Feb. 16, 2003
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    I would agree, the main difference is the contact or lack of contact, that rider and horse use for communication.

    Western originated with the working cowboy, in the saddle for hours at a time. It gets pretty impossible for the rider and horse, to keep "form and contact" in place over that long time. Horse is expected to carry himself, not hang on your hands, with rider being in good balance, long stirrups, easy rein handling over those hours. As mentioned, when the reins are lifted to make contact or increase contact, horse should "come together" get balanced for work needs.

    English riding, training, ring riding for lessons, is usually done for a shorter time period, so rider and horse can maintain that more firm contact during that time. It can get VERY tiring to be constantly legging the horse into the bit, as well as exhausting for the horse to work for that long time in a frame. A frame is an artificial body carriage, places a lot of strain on joints, tendons and ligaments to go traveling that way very long. Foxhunters who spend a lot of hours in the english saddle, have developed a more relaxed rein and leg style to stay comfortable over that long time.

    People who may sit on an English saddle, yet put in many hours on their horse riding, will have adapted their riding style to a lesser contact way of going. They are not "annoying" the horse with constant demands over those many hours. Contact will come and go, with leg use as needed to keep horse responsive.

    We see the same thing in Driving horses. Those who go on long drives, 10-20 miles and do it often, will usually be going with much less bit contact, using self-carriage of the body much of the time. Not the same frame of the Dressage Driving horse or one doing a two hour marathon in a CDE. Body comfort of animal will become paramount on those very long drives, can't maintain that artificial frame without damaging the body.

    Drivers and horses will need to change to suit what they are doing. American Stagecoach Drivers managed their Teams of 4-6-8, with little contact over rough ground between stops. Cantering was very common if the road allowed it. Horses were loosely fit into harness, lots of play in the attachment to the Stagecoach. European Coachmen had a very different style of driving for those miles or "stages" between stops, because of the ground or roads they drove on. Trotting was preferred, allowed them to keep all horses in draught (prounounced draft) to get equal work from each, with a very different type Coach to pull.

    My horses ride both English and Western, will collect to go on the bit or with longer reins so I just am touching their mouths. They are all responsive to a leg signal, but we do like a light feel on them. They respond well to the handling, but riders need to be skilled, light handed, whichever saddle they strap on that day. I AM NOT going to be carrying that horse all day with the reins! Balanced self-carriage is expected from all of them while in work. Seems to work well, whether the ride is an hour or 10 hours on the trail. I am comfortable at the end of the rides, and so is the horse. Neither of us is sore or stiff when we go out riding again the next day.



  6. #6
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    Thank yo all for explanation. See, my horses never had Western rider on their backs, and it was complete misunderstanding both ways. Giva was doing great, but Guido was really crazy and instead of stopping went faster and...

    Completely my fault, I needed ask this question a day before to be ready. Had not expected any troubles, so did not asked, and as a result - somebody fell of 17.2 h horse - good job, no injuries and no bad feelings, but anyway.

    Thank You. I just need learn more and more
    ** I LOVE PUIKA FAN CLUB*** member



  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by AnnaCrew View Post
    Thank yo all for explanation. See, my horses never had Western rider on their backs, and it was complete misunderstanding both ways. Giva was doing great, but Guido was really crazy and instead of stopping went faster and...

    Completely my fault, I needed ask this question a day before to be ready. Had not expected any troubles, so did not asked, and as a result - somebody fell of 17.2 h horse - good job, no injuries and no bad feelings, but anyway.

    Thank You. I just need learn more and more
    You can never believe people when they tell you that they can ride.
    I have had so many tell me how well they ride, all they have done with horses, western and English and when I would put them on a deadbroke kid's horse, as I have learned my lesson, they could not ride at all.

    One very good friend wanted to ride so bad and told me all she used to do and one day I, against my better judgement, let he come ride.
    She didn't want to ride in the arena first, said that was boring, she wanted to go trail ride and I didn't want to make a scene.
    Ok, we went out thru the pasture, all she wanted to do is run her horse and she almost fell off several times and had the nice gentle horse so rattled with her kicking and jerking he even resisted once with a couple of half hearted bucks.
    She looked back and me and asked "what is he doing?"
    All that in the maybe 20 minute ride.
    I have found many excuses since not to let her ride again.

    Just be very careful who you let on your horses, no matter what they tell you and if they look of questionable ability, just say no.
    I learned my lesson.

    I would guess your guest just could not ride, western or English.



  8. #8
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    ok, here's a HUGE oversimplification: In Western you ride the saddle. In English you ride the horse.

    Don't know that I necessarily believe that since I've never ridden Western. But I though it was an interesting thought.



  9. #9
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    Feb. 23, 2008
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    One thing I think is most different is the understanding of "whoa." I once got a chance to ride my mom's neighbor's ranch horse. We cantered around a bit, and when I thought it was time to slow down I just asked like I would to an English horse. That gelding hit the brakes and I nearly went over his head!

    I've since met several Western riders who were visiting English barns and playing around with dressage, and the dressage coach worked with them to change the whoa so it happened gradually over a stride or three instead of a skidding stop.



  10. #10
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    Mar. 26, 2006
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    I lived in a very western town for a while, and rode both styles. I don't think it's true that "you ride the saddle" in western. I, personally, had a heck of a time riding correctly in western pleasure classes. (I was used to hunt seat).

    I think if AnnaCrew's riders had experience only with broke, finished western pleasure-type horses, they definitely would not be prepared for the more "forward" type of horse.

    OTOH, the horse people I knew out West who started their own babies and trained green horses were competent in any sort of saddle. Green horses don't understand neck reining, and need to learn how to respond to direct rening, and move off of leg pressure just like any other horse. It's only when they become more advanced that the cues really seem to become different.

    The one thing that really stood out for me, however, was that people interested in western pleasure horses were very quick to dismiss big-moving, energetic horses are "too hot". They weren't, not really, they just had a lot of action. Obviously, if you're expecting that shuffle-jog and slow lope, a big springy trot and forward canter might be a bit of a surprise!



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunsets View Post
    I lived in a very western town for a while, and rode both styles. I don't think it's true that "you ride the saddle" in western. I, personally, had a heck of a time riding correctly in western pleasure classes. (I was used to hunt seat).

    I think if AnnaCrew's riders had experience only with broke, finished western pleasure-type horses, they definitely would not be prepared for the more "forward" type of horse.

    OTOH, the horse people I knew out West who started their own babies and trained green horses were competent in any sort of saddle. Green horses don't understand neck reining, and need to learn how to respond to direct rening, and move off of leg pressure just like any other horse. It's only when they become more advanced that the cues really seem to become different.

    The one thing that really stood out for me, however, was that people interested in western pleasure horses were very quick to dismiss big-moving, energetic horses are "too hot". They weren't, not really, they just had a lot of action. Obviously, if you're expecting that shuffle-jog and slow lope, a big springy trot and forward canter might be a bit of a surprise!
    I agree that starting horses, most good colt starters may start them close to the same way, English and western, forward.
    One difference will be, as someone already said, the amount of contact, a western horse generally ridden with less, being expected to move off the front end and self carry from the start, unlike an English horse, that is started generally forward and straight and with cadence first, before asking more of it.

    My point above was that "western riding" is a very large and diverses field.
    Someone can say they ride western after riding in a western saddle in a dude ranch a few times, doing any kind of playday, like barrels, poles, flag and such, maybe ranch work or arena roping, or cutting or western show horses, as western pleasure, horsemanship, trail, etc. classes.

    There is no way to tell how someone rides just because they say they ride "western", because that can mean way too much and it may be different from each other.



  12. #12
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    Oct. 1, 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    You can never believe people when they tell you that they can ride.
    THAT is very true- even when you've watched somebody ride their own horse for years. A friend test rode one of mine a few years ago- she's used to a little gaited horse, this was a big, forward warmblood- and she declined my offer to start out in the arena so she could get familiar with him. When, on the trail, we got to a spot where I normally gallop my horses, and he got a bit on his toes, she did exactly the wrong things- choked up on the reins and squeezed her heels into his ribs- and so, guess what, he commenced to gallop. They ended up wiping out on pavement- no serious injuries, thankfully. I'm sure she'll tell you to this day that the horse 'ran away with her' when in fact, he did just exactly what she asked him to do.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beverley View Post
    I'm sure she'll tell you to this day that the horse 'ran away with her' when in fact, he did just exactly what she asked him to do.
    Actually it is exactly what happened - no correct turning, stopping, moving forwards...visitor asked horse to do something, and horse was doing the opposite, and looked both very confused. So I asked here.

    The visitor and Peter were riding in our arena patch so all fenced and horses know that they are coming for some work.

    On ground the visitor was very good - horses liked him and he did everything right. Yes, he said that he had never been on such large horse, and we let him choose which one he prefer better to try. It was completely my fault that I did not expected such a difference in commands and reins, otherwise I would calm down the idea of riding in general. We have old school horse for beginners, and it works perfect - everybody is having fun, and all goes safe - helmet on, no reins, lead rope and voila!

    The visitor's daughter is living in Europe and riding since she was 3 (now 11) so I automatically expected the person at least know the basics, and did not know that the difference is so big.

    It is not liability thing, no at all, it is my friend's husband, and here by law so far everybody going on horse's back, takes self-responsibility, no chances to sue or claim.

    I'm just worried that I made such a mistake letting him on without double checking... I have horse for beginners, and I do have lead rope to lead horse around - helmet on, no reins, on lead, and everybody is having fun. This was different - person knows horses, his relatives breed horses so he had been around them since childhood, calm and responsible person, not intended to play cowboys at all...

    He was sure that he will be ok on ours, and I was sure that he will be ok. We both made our mistakes.

    He was just very confused, and we were confused when it all went wrong. Good job, no injuries.
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