English or Western
Introduction Horseback riding is a very popular sport all over the world and has been for several hundreds of years. Two of the most popular styles of riding are Western and English. Even though, both of these styles have the same basic principles and in the end are both horseback riding they have many distinct differences. Gaits/Commands Western riding is slower paced type of horseback riding. Western horses are trained to move at a slow leisurely pace and look like a pleasure to ride. A rider would use the terms walk, Jog and Lope to command the horse.
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A jog is slow two beated gait that would be used to move at a steady pace. A western rider will sit the jog and absorb the bounce in their feet and ankles. A lope is a little bit quicker than a jog and is three beated. A lope is used to cover large distances or to move more quickly when needed. English riding a quick pace type of riding. English horses are trained to move quickly and with precision. A rider would use the terms walk, trot and canter to command the horse through different gaits. A trot is a quick paced, bounce gait that is used to cover short distances.
English riders will also complete a movement called posting while their horses is trotting. Posting is the act of lifting yourself out of the saddle as the horse trots. This movement is used in order to make the trot more comfortable for both the horse and rider. A canter is a fast paced three beated gait that is used to cover large distances. A rider would sit the canter and use their hips and back to absorb any movement or shock. Steering In Western riding steering is considered “indirect”. This means that the pressure is not directly applied to the horse’s mouth.
Western riders use one hand to steer their horse. A rider will apply pressure to the side of the horse’s neck by pulling the reins across the neck in a diagonal fashion. Indirect steering also means that in order to get the horse to turn one direction a rider would apply pressure to the opposite side of the neck. For example, if a rider wanted the horse to turn to the right, the rider would apply pressure across the left side of the horse’s neck. The only time a rider will apply direct pressure to the horse’s mouth would be in order to stop the horse.
In this case, a rider would apply equal pressure to both sides of the horse’s mouth by pulling back evenly on the reins and commanding the horse to stop. In English riding steering is considered “direct”. Direct steering means that pressure is applied directly to the horse’s mouth in order to steer the horse. English riders use two hands to steer their horse. A rider will pull back, right or left on the reins in order to steer the horse. For example, if a rider wanted the horse to turn to the right, the rider would pull towards their hip using their right hand rein and vice versa for a left hand turn.
When commanding the horse to stop, a rider will pull back with both hands equally on each rein. Equipment Western riding is equipment very extravagant. Western saddles are usually very ornate and large. They have large stirrups for the riders to put their feet. The larger stirrups come from the need to have more support and stability while cowboys were riding in the rural countryside of the west. Also the Western saddle has a part called a Horn. The horn is located directly in front of the rider and just below their hands.
The horn’s purpose is to give a rider something to hold on to for extra security when maneuvering through the rural terrain or executing different movements. The Western bridle consists on a piece headstall, one bit and one rein. The bit is large and has long pieces that hang on either side of the horse’s mouth called Shanks. The shanks are what help steer the horse indirectly. Also the bit has a port in the middle, which is a raised bump directly centered on the bit. This part is centered in the horse’s mouth to help stop the horse.
One rein is attached to either side of the bit and then tied in a knot directly in front of the rider. The rein is kept loose so the rider is not applying direct pressure to the horse’s mouth. English riding equipment is very sleek and small. English saddles have very small stirrups and do not have a horn. They also cover less space on the horse’s back. The small stirrups are used because in English riding riders use their feet and legs to control the horse so mobility is very important. English saddles are smaller and do not have a horn because they are made to allow more free movement of the horse.
This is important because when horses are jumping, eventing and showing they must have free movement of their shoulders in order to complete the movement. English bridles are considerably more complicated and consist of a headstall, noseband, two reins and sometimes more than one bit. The noseband helps to hold the horse’s mouth closed so it cannot move its tongue over the bit when competing. The main bit, called a Snaffle bit, that is used is small and consists of a piece of metal with a joint in the middle and two loops on the sides that are on the outside of the horse’s mouth.
The first rein is attached this bit and is used primarily for controlling the horse. The second bit, called a curb bit, is larger and has two shanks that hang on the outside of the horse’s mouth, however they are not used to steer the horse. The second rein is attached to the curb bit and is used primarily to help the horse bend its neck by applying pressure to the roof of the horse’s mouth. A rider will hold both reins in each hand individually in order to control the different parts of the bridle. When deciding on a type of riding, one must consider the gaits/commands, steering, and equipment.
Western riding offers one a slower paced and more simply riding experience but the equipment can be much more costly than English. English riding, on the other hand, is fast paced and a more complex riding style. The equipment is cheaper than but not as beautiful as the Western equipment. When making the decision, one must decide what parts are the most important. Both Western and English riding will give a rider the experience of connecting with a horse and learning how to communicate using all parts of your body.