Should I ride English or Western?

As mentioned in this thread, I’ve recently restarted horseback riding lessons. I rode for about five years during my early to midteens, but quit when college came into the picture. All during those years I rode huntseat–basically, the cross country jumping (as well as stadium jumping) kind of thing.

My hubby bought me a month’s worth of riding lessons for my B-day, and I decided to try Western. It’s good for me to know a different discipline, but I’m having second thoughts and wondering if maybe I should shift into dressage (another form of English). Basically, I don’t know what I want…except to be on a horse. :slight_smile:

I’d love to show, but would almost be more interested in showing English, but that may be just because it’s more familiar to me. Western equitation just doesn’t interest me as much. I chose Western because I figured that’s what everyone does out here (Southern CA) and that if I were to own a horse (as I aspire to), it would be more appropriate for pleasure/trail riding.

Then again, I have no idea.

Equine enthusiast Dopers, what do you recommend?

[sub]and by the way, my inner thighs are marinating in lactic acid since my last lesson…yooowwwwwwwwwwwwcccchhhh![/sub]

You are SO lucky! I want to look into seeing if I can afford lessons maybe once every two weeks, although I don’t even know where yet (I’m gonna wait for a couple of paycheques at least).

I rode English for years. I rode Western for about a year when I was 8, then switched to English when we moved to Europe for three years (try to find a Western saddle in Germany’s Black Forest!). I loved it, and found it to be much more versatile, not to mention comfortable. I continued to ride until I was 16 or so, and then stable renovations, a trip, and my drivers licence kind of got in the way, and I just never ended up going back. I still regret that.

But as I said, I’d go with English. Basic english instruction can lead to dressage, hunter, jumper, etc, even racing, but western riding is much more limited (I much prefer jumping and I don’t want to imagine trying to do that with a western saddle!). Also, if you go back to english, you have experience behind you, whereas western training will start you from scratch (basically -there are enough small differences that you’d have to relearn some habits). And, I’ve been told, it’s a lot easier to learn Western once you have enough knowledge of english than the other way around, but this is according to only one person I know, so take it with a grain of salt (or a whole block, for that matter).

Dammit, now I want to ride…!!

I agree with mnemosyne – it’s been my experience that learning English provides a foundation that you can use for a number of other styles.

It is difficult to become a highly skilled English rider, and this is just as true for becoming a highly skilled Western rider. Looking at a rider at the top of his/her form in either style, you’re seeing a very demanding and specific skill set. However, I believe it is easier to be a passable recreational Western rider (not easy but relatively speaking, easier) than to be a passable recreational English rider. Therefore, someone studying English will have a okay time of it if she spends a recreational day here or there riding Western, but not so much the reverse.

In terms of horse ownership, you can certainly ride English for pleasure and basic trail riding. Keep in mind that Western riding developed to provide specific skills for people who were working. I don’t know if your pleasure riding is going to require you to haul a cow out of a river by attaching a rope to the horn of your saddle :smiley: . (And seriously, if this does interest you, it answers your question because you should then start learning rodeo) I have heard people claim that the larger Western saddle provides some protection for the horse on rough trails, but I have to say I don’t really see this, because it’s not covering that much more of the horse. I am pathetically East Coast-centric, but it’s my understanding that while 50 years ago there was a limited availibility issue for people looking to purchase English broke horses on the West Coast, that that is no longer true now. I don’t think that will be a factor for you, but you should certainly ask horsey people in your area.

For a beginner, it is more comfortable to sit in a Western saddle for a day-long trail ride, but I think the comfort factor is reduced the further along you get with your lessons.

Then there’s the whole neck reining thing. Western riding gives you the luxury of having one hand free, which is certainly nice, especially on the trail. Any decent English instructor will be able to teach you to rein one-handed as well, especially since you’re guiding with your legs in most cases.

Eek, I hope this doesn’t sound as if I’m slagging Western, I enjoy it myself and I would welcome the opportunity to learn more. Back in high school and college, I worked part time as an English riding instructor, and it always seemed to me that a good number of people coming from Western riding had more trouble mastering the basics of English.

My final recommendation is about your choice of instructor (and you didn’t ask about that so you might want to ignore me while I prattle on). I would definitely find an instructor who is going to give you the most rigorous training possible. Some people go into lessons looking to simply enjoy pleasure riding with the horse, and so the instructor provides easy lessons. I am firm in my belief that a student will only benefit from having the finer points driven home in the very beginning of the learning process. Even if you are riding very gentle, seasoned barn horses, your instructor should have you ride with the goal of being able to ride any feisty horse that you may encounter. It’s a lot easier to learn good habits than to unlearn bad ones. I’ve seen instructors tell students to ignore things like lead changes, but even if your trusty school horse knows the lead change better than you do, you should still go through the motions every time so that you are prepared when you eventually ride another horse.

Thanks for all the tips, delphica. I’ll talk it over with my instructor, maybe take a few more lessons in Western (if nothing else, to master tacking up the dern thing), and then see about dressage.

Holy fright, I think I’ve found her. My first two lessons have been all about just sitting in the saddle–finding and maintaining balance, dropping stirrups, loosening legs, etc. I’ve learned gobs more in these first few lessons than my first few as a preteen. She is basically relaying my equitational foundation…and whoo! I have the sore muscles to show for it!

Another one who’s ridden both Western and English here – have evented some, dressage, hunt seat, trail riding, and lots of pleasure riding.

I started out riding Western at age 11, because that was all I could find AFA lessons went. Then I saw show jumping on tv about a year later and thought “Hey! that looks cool!” and dug around until I found someone teaching English.

English riding IMHO will provide you with an excellent basic foundation that will be more adaptable to Western later should you choose to go that way, rather than the reverse. It is also more versatile should you choose to explore dressage or jumping later.

I have gone on lonnnng trail rides in an English saddle, with no problems for me or the horse. As long as the saddle fits well for both of you, there shouldn’t be an issue.I actually won my division on a competetive trail ride in an English saddle one time. Australian saddles are very nice for trail riding as well.

Hee hee, have fun, sounds like your instructor is a good one! I’m sure you have delights in store such as posting a trot without stirrups. You might also ask her to do a lesson or two bareback. One of my favorite teaching exercises was to have the students ride bareback, post, and keep a dollar bill between their knee and the horse (if they could do it for a certain length of time, they got to keep the dollar, which I guess is more excitng for a 9 year old than an adult :wink: )


Another vote for English here, although from a very inexperienced rider. I’ve tried both. I started with Western, and then later tried English and was amazed at how much more comfortable I was. And since I was more comfortable, I was more willing to try new things (cantering, galloping, jumps). I know you’re going into this with a whole lot more experience than me, but if I were to get three months of lessons, I’d certainly pick English.