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Riding both English and western?

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  • Riding both English and western?

    I would like to ride western on one of my mares, because she can't jump anymore, and it would be fun to discover something new together. I would like to learn the basics with a trainer on a school horse, and have my mare in training so she can learn as well.

    But I do not want to give up jumping and dressage (not on the same horse!)

    Will it be a problem? If I ride western once or twice a week, do you think I will learn "bad habits" that will mess up my jumping/dressage and my position? (I show my jumper in the 3'6" division and would like to move up next year).

    Thanks!

  • #2
    I learned from age 6 in a hunter barn, then began riding APHA in high school. I found that I never was able to adopt a traditional "stock seat" because I could never sit back on my butt All of my friends at shows would make fun of me because I always had my back arched, sitting pretty in my big honkin' western saddle.

    I don't think your other position will leave you if you learn western techniques. It isn't that much different, especially if you're still going to ride with two hands. If you aren't showing, it doesn't much matter at all how you look or even if you neck rein.
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    • #3
      It's definitely doable! Look at all the breed show people who show in both disciplines, often in the same day. I have done both English and western since I began riding, and I have no problems losing my position in either discipline.

      Some tips:

      I always rode English more often in lessons and when schooling, a) because my horse happened to be better at it and we wanted to emphasize our strengths, and b) because riding in an English saddle (and posting/two point, etc.) keeps your legs stronger.

      Use a different bit/bridle/everything when you ride western. Get your trainer to determine what bit will work best for you and your horse, whether it's a shank bit for learning to ride one-handed, or a snaffle for riding two-handed, and make that the "always western" bit. Your horse will begin to learn what that bit means and will learn what to expect when you put it on. It's certainly useful to be able to perform all types of gaits in each discipline, but if, for example, you want your horse to learn to jog or lope, it's helpful if they're in that mindset from the moment that bit goes in their mouth.

      Once you learn the correct position in a western saddle, practice switching from that position to your jumper position, and back. You can even do it in your office chair, switching arm, back, shoulder, and seat position and visualizing where your legs would go.
      Cowboy up.

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      • #4
        Well, eventers ride in a cross country seat, a jumper seat, and a dressage seat on the same horse and everyone figures it out Get good pointers from a trainer and practice and have fun!
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        • #5
          I read something at one time, I think it was in the QH Journal, that basically stated that if you are sitting correctly in a western saddle, your position should be the same as it would be in a dressage saddle.
          Having ridden western but not dressage, I can't say if this is true or not. I will say that my stirrups on my western saddle were typically two holes below my jumping saddle.
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          • #6
            I've been riding for over 50 years, started western, started English lessons at age 10, 1st English show age 10, and have shown both ways successfully on and off, usually on same day, ever since. Though in recent years not so much, I've kind of outgrown my need to get self and horse all shinied up for a show. But you never know.

            In any event- whether English/ western, or hunter seat/saddle seat, I've always thought that ANY study of ANY discipline can help you in your preferred discipline.

            Look, for example, at Bill Steinkraus who won both the 'good hands' medal for saddle seat and the Maclay for hunter seat, way back when.

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            • #7
              I ride both western and english. I adjust based on the horse, the saddle, etc. My english equitation is better than my western equitation, but I'm working on that.
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              • #8
                Heck, at breed shows we ride the same horse both seats...sometimes everything from fence classes to trail class, in the same day.
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                • #9
                  I started dressage back when I was a kid and then went to western and now back to English. Not sure on the jump seat since I don't jump ever but you really do sit about the same in a dressage saddle vs a western saddle. I say about only because of stirrup length and weight. I tend to ride my english saddle with shorter stirrups which helps me keep my back and hips more correct. I sit a bit too forward in the western saddle on occasion and the longer stirrups help with that. I do find myself balancing in the sets differently and I have tumbled out of an english saddle after blindly grabbing for a horn that obviously wasn't there and then trying to catch myself on a cantle that wasn't there either. Trainer was kind enough to put a grab strap on my saddle to help with that tendency.

                  My other advice is make sure your cutting trained horse knows he's going english that day and not western so that when you stupidly ask for the spin he doesn't oblige and spin you out of the saddle.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Beverley View Post

                    Look, for example, at Bill Steinkraus who won both the 'good hands' medal for saddle seat and the Maclay for hunter seat, way back when.
                    I didn't know that! Although I've heard of (also way back) kids riding ASBs in the Maclay and racking down to the trot jump.
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                    • #11
                      I've done a bit of both, with the caveat that my Western training was more "you're in a Western saddle on the Western-pleasure-trained QH this lesson" than actual discipline training.

                      When it comes down to it - particularly at lower levels of training - a saddle is a saddle is a saddle. Once you get past the tacking up adventure, it's all eyes up, shoulders back, and heels down. You'll be fine.

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                      • #12
                        I started as a hunter rider, moved into AQHA western events in my 20s and started riding cutting horses in my 30s. My main form of riding is now trail riding.

                        I feel I ride in a very correct position- heels down, toes up, chin up, eyes focused and looking where I'm going, with my body aligned from my shoulder to my hip to my heel and leg underneath me because good equitation is universal. Cutters adjust their stirrups very similarly to hunters and jumpers with a shorter stirrup so I tend to ride with a shorter stirrup that say a western pleasure rider.

                        I have also always posted on my western horses and asked them to trot accordingly, especially when warming up and then slowed down and asked for a true jog after they have moved out and I've gotten up off their back to help loosen us both up.
                        "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White

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                        • #13
                          I think you should be fine with that. I learned Western and switched to english a few years later without trouble. And one of my best friends rodeos and shows english without a problem.

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