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Western and English Horse Riding: What's the Difference?
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Western and English Horse Riding: What's the Difference?

Horse racing is an old sport. So is the writing and culture around it. Even though American riding experience and the English one is considered the same by distant fans of the sport, one can spot some differences. The two styles are, generally speaking, easier to learn than others, with western being more beginner friendly. However, if you want to switch from one style to another, you need to know the following tips for a smooth transition.


If you are a Western rider and you want to switch to English, you need to have constant contact with the horse, compared to what you’re used to. For Westerners, contact and communication between the rider and the horse should only happen when it is necessary. Horses in America were popularized by cowboys and movie makers. They, therefore, needed one hand to be extremely busy. For instance, the rider could be firing shots and throwing the rope. That means the remaining hand steered the horse and the reinforcement came from the leg.

Hand position

As stated earlier, since you don’t need unnecessary contact with your horse as a western rider, the hand too should be a bit loose and slacker. This is so because the exerted pressure can be irritating on the horse’s mouth. In English, apart from maintaining a firm grip on the rein, you are required to keep your hands at a higher position as opposed.

Leg communication

Since contact and hand position is not such a big deal when it comes to Western riders, one thing remains critical - leg pressure. As opposed to English, a Western rider can easily take control of the horse using their legs. The irregular leg communication is enough to propel the horse and steer it wherever you want.

Horse sense

Western horses tend to have more sense than their English counterparts. This is because most of them were domesticated for various functions. Therefore, they have common sense and the way you communicate also might need a little adjustment. For instance, while riding, the rider should focus more on lower contact. The horse can actually make the requisite moves and only take in details whenever necessary.

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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