At Rockbrook, our camp Equestrian Program teaches “English Riding” as opposed to “Western Riding.” But what is the difference between these two forms of horseback riding?
One difference you’ll notice right away, even before mounting your horse, is in the saddles. Western saddles are wider and deeper, with a very prominent horn toward the front. These are stable, comfortable seats designed for the cowboy (or girl!) who needs to spend a long time in the saddle. English saddles are smaller and lighter to allow the horse the greater freedom of movement required for the different hunter jumper gaits. And again, they don’t have a horn.
Other parts of the tack are different too. The reins are closed (left and right sides connected), the stirrups are shorter, and the bit is softer in the horse’s mouth in English Riding.
With these differences, naturally how you ride English is different from Western riding. As opposed to Western riding’s use of the reins, English horseback riding relies much more on balance and the rider’s legs to control the horse. The rider is often up and out of the seat (two point, posting and jumping for example), as opposed to the seated position in Western riding.
Add to that learning to walk, trot, canter, dressage and jumping techniques, and you can see that learning English horseback riding is a wonderful sport.