20+ Differences Between English Riding And Western Riding (Explained)

Horse riding is a great sport that combines leisure and health benefits together. However, anyone who is a beginner will come across two popular styles of horse riding – something that is still not known to others. These two are known as English riding and Western riding.

Both English riding and Western riding are popular styles in North America. The difference mainly arises from the purpose for which it developed. Furthermore, both require time to improve, so it would be wrong to call one easier to learn than the other.

Key Differences Between English Riding And Western Riding

Comparison Between English Riding And Western Riding

ParametersEnglish RidingWestern Riding
The OriginEnglish riding is purely European in its origins.Western riding has Spanish roots but is now mainly American.
The SaddleSmaller saddles with fewer weight and allow free movement. The flat surface provides closer contact.Larger saddles provide better comfort to the rider and promote even weight distribution. The shoe horn at the front is helpful for keeping the lasso.
Initial PurposeEnglish riding was used for military activities like hunting and patrolling.Western riding was primarily used for cattle ranching.
Popular Forms or EventsPopular forms of English riding include Dressage, show jumping, and eventing.Roping, reining, and Western pleasure are commonly known events.
The Method of ControlEnglish riders rely mainly on two-handed reining.Western riders use one-handed reining, neck reining, and weight shifting.
Posting the TrotEnglish riders post the trot for all kinds of horse gaits.Western riders mostly sit on the saddle and post only while loping the horse.
The Definition of CanterEnglish canter has a wider meaning, which includes the lope.Western canter, also known as lope, is a specific form of canter.
The RIding OutfitEnglish riders wear helmets and blazers.Western riders wear cowboy hats and shirts.

Major Differences Between English Riding and Western Riding

What Is English Riding?

English riding emerged from the horsemanship practices used in the English military. It slowly became a leisure activity when industrial vehicles began to replace horses.

In due course, it also became a sport with multiple competitions like dressage and show jumping. 

The saddles for English riding are flatter and lighter to promote freedom of movement for the horse and the rider. Since there is nothing to carry, the saddle is more compact with no horn, and riders control the horse using both hands.

What Is Western Riding?

Western riding took form in the United States when Spanish Conquistadors introduced the natives to ranching and welfare in the sixteenth century. Later, the American natives modified these methods to suit their needs as they had to ride for long hours on rough terrain.

For Western riding, the saddles are bigger, with a higher cantle and a horn at the front. The horn allows the cowboys to hang their equipment, often including a lasso for restraining cattle. The seat allows the rider to sit more comfortably and safely.

English Riding Vs Western Riding All You Need To Know

Contrast Between English Riding And Western Riding

The Origins

  • English Riding- English riding originated in Europe, with England being the main place of origin.
  • Western Riding- Western riding has roots in the Spanish methods of ranching. But the evolution to its current form makes it more of an American form.

The Saddle

  • English Riding- English riding saddles are mobility-oriented. The rider and the horse experience greater freedom of movement. Besides being smaller and lighter, these are flatter, so the rider feels closer contact with the horse. The English saddles come without a horn.
  • Western Riding- Western riding saddles cater to the rider’s convenience more. These have a horn at the front to hang the lasso while riding. These saddles are larger and have more weight. The deep seat allows better comfort, and the design distributes the rider’s weight more evenly around the horseback.

The Initial Purpose

  • English Riding- The English military used horse training practices for patrolling, hunting, and even during wars. All of these had one thing in common – riding at different speeds for short hours and sometimes jumping. Therefore, the saddles served these purposes.
  • Western Riding- The American natives had to control cattle while riding horseback, which required them to carry some equipment. Also, they had to do this for long hours. The addition of a horn and a more comfortable seat, combined with one-handed reining, led to the formation of Western riding.

Popular Forms Or Events

  • English Riding- Among the various English riding events, the most popular ones are dressage, show jumping and eventing.
  • Western Riding- Western riding also has many events, but the most known ones are roping, reining, and western pleasure.
The Sport English Riding Vs Western Riding

The Method Of Control

  • English Riding- English riders rely more on using their reins to control the speed and direction of the horses. They hold the reins with both hands and sometimes use their feet to guide the horses to slow down or move in the intended direction.
  • Western Riding- Western riders use their hands, legs, and body weight to control the speed and direction of the horses.

    They hold the reins with one hand and shift their body weight to assist the horses. Unlike English riders, Western riders’ necks rein the horses and teach them to use their instincts.

Posting the Trot

  • English Riding- English riders post the trot at all times. This distinguishing quality of English riding sets it apart from the Western style.
  • Western Riding- Western riders are not unfamiliar with posting the trots. However, they sit the trot more rather than posting. Western riders mainly post when they lope or canter the horse.

The Definition of Canter

  • English Riding- For English riders, a canter is a gait where the horses move fast with a bouncy movement. The gait can vary as the rider controls the speed of the horse. Thus, it has a greater scope.
  • Western Riding- In Western riding, the canter is commonly called lope. Unlike the canter, the lope is slower and more relaxed. The slow movement distinguishes it from its English counterpart.

The Riding Outfit

  • English Riding- English riders have a more sophisticated outfit, which includes a helmet, a blazer with a shirt underneath, breeches, and tall boots or jodhpurs.
  • Western Riding- Western riders wear cowboy hats, shirts, denim or leather pants, and cowboy boots. Sometimes, western riders wear a helmet instead of a hat.
The Riders English Riding Vs Western Riding

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What does ‘posting the trot’ mean?

You might notice that a rider gets up slightly and then returns to his seat. The rider does it in sync with the gait of the horse. This act of rising and sitting is called posting the trot.

Q2. How do trot, canter, and lope differ from each other?

The trot is easily distinguishable from the three because you will hear two feet tapping when the horse walks. Unlike the trot, you will listen to three feet tapping on the ground in canter and lope.

However, the lope differs from the canter because it is slower than the latter.

Q3. What is a neck rein in Western riding?

Neck rein is a method of reining the horse where the rider applies slight pressure on the horse’s neck using the rein.

The horse knows to move rightwards if it feels pressure on the left side of the neck and vice versa. Once fully trained, it is also possible to take off the bridle.

Q4. I have just begun learning to ride, and my body aches. Should I continue?

For new riders, it is common to feel pain in their muscles. Riding is not merely sitting on the horse; everybody realizes that in their first days of learning.

Like any physical skill, your body is getting used to it, and muscle pain is that sign, so you should obviously continue.

Q5. What is tack in horse riding?

Tack is the word used to mention all the different accessories and equipment the rider puts on the horse. These include the saddle, the bridle, the reins, and stirrups. 

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