What are English and Western riding?
English horseback riding includes many variations. Despite how many types there are, all English riding uses a flat English saddle. English riding most often requires the rider to have both hands on the reins but with expertise many other forms will come. The dress for an English rider tends to be more traditional with items including a jacket, breeches, hat and shirt and tie. Western riding on the other hand uses an entirely different saddle. Similar to English riding, there are many forms of Western riding. The best way to distinguish Western riding is the same as English; by the saddle. The Western saddle is deeper with a saddle horn in the front. Most Western riders use one hand on the reins compared to the English using two hands. The Western rider dresses very different then that of the English going more with a “cowboy” look. That includes the western hat, boots, jeans, and a shirt.
Types of English and Western riding
There are many events in English and Western riding. So many that we will not cover them all here. English and Western variations continue to grow and be reinvented. There are also other categories of riding that continue to create new events such as Vaulting. Vaulting is the use of Gymnastics whiles riding. Here is a quick fun video below:
Both English and Western riding, as mentioned before, have many variations. English riding consists of Dressage, eventing, horse racing, Polo, show jumping, and more.
Dressage (right) is when you train the horse so they will develop obedience, flexibility, and balance. There are also other forms of dressage that we won’t get into.
Eventing (left) is a favorite among many due to what it includes. Eventing combines cross-country jumping, show jumping, and dressage all in one competition. Most often these events are held over three days.
Horse racing (right) is self explanatory but the event, in a broad statement, normally uses extremely lightweight saddles.
Polo (left) is a team sport with the objective to hit a ball into the opposing teams goal with a long mallet.
Lastly, Show jumping (right) is when the horse and rider jump fences. Scoring is based on time taken to run the course and how many fences were cleared without error.
There are many events in Western riding. Not only does it include similar events as English riding but it also includes the working aspect of the west like roping and cattle calls. Western riding includes the following events and more: Reining, Cutting, Barrel racing, P bending, and roping.
The most popular event is Reining. Reining is similar to dressage in that the goal is to train the horses to be responsive to the rider and precise in their movements. It is the only western riding discipline that is F.E.I. recognized. It includes riding in precise circle patterns, spinning, and stops.
Cutting is also one of the most popular events. If it was F.E.I recognized it would easily surpass Reining. Cutting also happens to be the best prize payout if you do not include flat racing. Cutting is when the rider is judged on their ability to get a cow out of the herd and keep it away for a short amount of time.
Barrel racing is again one of the most popular Western events. The object is to run in a clover pattern around three barrels. Barrel races are normally timed with penalties being awarded for knocking down a barrel.
Pole bending is also popular but tends to be too demanding to gain more riders. Pole bending is a timed event where the horse and rider must go through a slalom type course.
All roping events are timed. Roping includes the skill of the riders use of a rope. Some events within roping are team roping, calf roping, and single steer roping.
English and Western Saddles
The right saddle is critical when riding English and Western events. With the wrong saddle you put yourself and your horse at risk of danger and make it very difficult to perform the maneuvers that will be attempted. With an English saddle in a barrel race you will most likely slide off. Using a Western saddle on a horse race is too heavy and will slow down the horse.
Stirrups: Western saddles cannot detach the stirrups in emergencies but have a wider base. This allows the rider to not get stuck in the stirrups if he or she falls.
Girthing- English girths are connected via buckles whereas the western girth (cinch) is attached via a flat sliver of leather similar to a belt.
Seat – more comfortable and sturdy on the Western saddles than English for long periods of time.
Contact saddles, also known as “forward seat” saddles (right), make you have a bent knee, create shorter stirrups, and puts the rider in a two-point position. This gives the rider stability and balance during their many maneuvers such as jumping. This saddle is often used for events such as show jumping and fox-hunting.
All Purpose Saddles or Eventing saddles (left) were created so riders could use one saddle for both over fences and on flat. These can be less expensive saddles and you will often see them with less experienced and beginner riders.
Dressage Saddles have a straight cut flap that makes the long leg position of dressage riders fit well to the saddle. Because of that design this saddle is not made for any sort of jumping. The saddle is also deeper then that of a jumper saddle allowing for a more comfortable sit and union with horse. Western Riding Saddle
Western Riding Saddles
Reining saddles (left)are a type of close contact saddles as mentioned in the English riding saddle section. Reining saddles have a lower horn so it won’t interfere with the reins and precise handling. This saddle also has a flat seat which allows for more hip movement in the turns.
roping saddles (right) have a thicker horn for tying a rope to. The saddle is also lower which gives the rider a quicker dismount for tying up the cattle.
English and Western Riding Apparel
English riding apparel is clearly different from Western riding apparel in just about every aspect. It makes perfect sense too! In the west, ranchers and cowboys were working hard in the fields or roughing it through the mountains. If you wear thin pants through the mountains they would probably rip easily. On the opposite side, if you wear Jeans with chaps to a eventing competition you will probably be weighing down the horse with extra weight or you will just look tacky.
English Riding Clothes
To be more specific, we will be going off of what one would wear in the jumper ring.
English riding helmet/English riding hat: If you are in the competition for jumping you must have an ASTM/STI certified helmet. Two popular helmets for jumping are the Speed air evolution and the AYR8. If you are riding in other competitions without jumping a type of top hat is required.
Jackets: The USEF websites indicates the following about jackets, “Black, blue, green, grey, scarlet or similar coats are permitted.” There are many jacket colors to choose from so make sure you choose a color that flatters you and brings out your horse. Scarlet coats are normally saved for well-recognized riders or major events where American riders are competing nationally.
Shirts and Tie: Riders must wear a White or light-colored shirt. Your shirts must have a White collar and White cuffs. For men, we would suggest wearing a tie compared to the women where we would suggest wearing a choker. In the event of inclement weather, riders may wear rain jackets and wind breakers.
Gloves: There is no rule on glove color; however, most riders wear black gloves. There are many styles of gloves for different events. Be sure to look at each kind before you buy.
English riding pants (English riding breeches): Breeches must be white or faun. Wear a belt with your breeches.
English riding boots: Most non-equine people know English riding by the boots. Women’s English riding boots and Men’s English riding boots are not different other than sizing. Tall English riding boots are commonly known by most and are the most used in English riding. Riders should use Black boots and shine them so they shine. If you choose to wear spurs also make sure you shine them.
Western Riding Clothes
Helmet/hat: Most riders will wear a helmet or a classic western cowboy hat.
Jackets: Not normally worn
Shirts: Riders need to wear long-sleeved work shirts that are durable.
Pants/chaps: Riders must wear jeans and may wear chaps if they would like. Chaps often protect the rider more but also helps the rider stick to the seat.
Boots: Riders must wear Cowboy boots.
There are many styles of English riding gear and western riding gear. If you want you can also go online and find plenty of used riding gear. Buying a full English riding outfit will make a big difference in your competitions. The more professional you look the better you come across to your judges.