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The Difference Between English and Western Riding Styles


Photo of horse in Western tack.

A horse in Western tack.

Fernando Fazzane 2005

Choosing a Horseback Riding Style:

If you're just learning to ride you may be curious about the differences between English and western riding styles. The basics of each are actually very similar. And one is not more difficult to learn than the other, because becoming very proficient in either takes time, dedication and practice. However, here are the primary differences for you to compare.


The Western riding style developed according to the needs of cowboys who worked cattle from horseback. The Western saddle is made to distribute weight more evenly over the horse’s back so horse and rider can counterbalance the weight of a roped cow. The seat of a Western saddle Compare Prices is comfortable for long hours of riding over rough terrain. The saddle horn anchors a lariat when roping cattle.

English riding takes many of its traditions and equipment from European mounted military styles.

Type of Horse:

Western horses tend to be compact and capable of steady travel all day with small bursts of speed to chase stray cattle.

English style horses tend to be taller and many are leggy, aiding their ability to travel over long distances at a variety of speeds as well as jump over a variety of obstacles.

However, some individuals have surprising talents, and a stocky Quarter Horse may surprise you in the dressage ring, while a Thoroughbred might have unexpected ‘cow sense’. Chances are you can find some success in any discipline or riding style no matter what your horse's type or breeding.


  • Walk: very similar for both English and Western.
  • Trot/Jog: A jog is very smooth, relaxed, and slightly faster than a walk. The jog is useful for following herds of cattle. Riders sit a jog, and do not post. In English riding the trot is posted unless a sitting trot is required in the show ring.
  • Canter/Lope: The Western lope is a slow relaxed canter. English riders will learn that the canter can be very elevated, extended, or collected with many variations in speed depending on the specific discipline or style.


The most distinctive element of western riding is the traditional western hat. A comfortable shirt, jeans and western-style boots complete the look. Many Western riders opt to wear sporty looking helmets Compare Prices, even when showing.

English riders wear a traditional style 'hunt cap' or Compare Priceshelmet. A fitted jacket, shirt, jodhpurs or breeches and jodhpur boots or tall boots complete the English rider's habit.

The Basics of What You’ll Need to Know:

Western riders will learn how to neck rein. English riders will ride with a rein in each hand and post the trot. There are many different skills you will need to learn if you plan to compete. You'll need to learn to braid or band a mane, pull a tail, and other grooming details depending on what you are competing in.

English and Western Disciplines:

After learning the basics of either style, there are many sports you can try. These are just a few:


  • Team penning
  • Cutting
  • Reining
  • Speed Games
  • Trail Classes
  • Pleasure and Equitation Classes
  • Roping
  • Trail riding
  • Dressage
  • English or English Country Pleasure
  • Jumping
  • Hunting
  • Mounted Games
  • Polo
  • Hunter Pace

Sports In Which You Could Ride Either Or English or Western Style:

Some sports allow for either style of riding.

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How to Sit in a Saddle

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