Equestrian and Horse Riding Styles
Western style riding or English? Hunt seat or dressage? What is the best style of horse riding? Which is the most fun and the easiest? It all depends on who you ask.
English riders think they are more refined athletes than their Western counterparts. Dressage riders seem to think they are more skilled than their hunter / jumper friends. Western riders specialize in riding fast and with agility. Basically, whatever style of riding you choose will likely be the one you defend as the best. Each style take years to master, though for beginners and pleasure riders, Western riding may appear to be the easiest place to start.
English vs. Western
Andreas Helgstrand Freestyle Dressage Final
The Basic Differences in Styles:
The Western style of riding is predominant in countries where the horse is need to work cattle, such as America, Australia and New Zealand. The rider sits in a western style saddle, which is designed to be comfortable for the many long hours that the rider will be sitting. The westernrider also maintains a longer leg position than an English rider and the reins are held in one hand, leaving the other hand free to handle a rope. The rider uses his weight and seat to manage the horse as opposed to leg and hand like an English rider.
The English rider takes a different position with a bent leg and uses a saddle that is smaller and flatter. There are different styles within the English discipline, like hunter and dressage.
At the basic beginner level, Western style is easier. English riding requires the rider to post (standing up in the saddle then sitting back down with the rhythm of the horse's gait)at the trot and steer the horse with both legs and hands. A rider may also not feel as secure in an English saddle and it will take many hours of training to be proficient at the trotting level.
It takes riders years to achieve an advanced level of expertise in any of the competitive equestrian sports and they all have something to offer the horse enthusiast. It really is a matter of preference. All styles have one very important thing in common. A big, beautiful, creature with a unique personality that is perfectly suited to your taste. The horse. Sure, we may prefer one discipline of riding above another. We may also prefer a particular breed of horse that is ideal for your chosen style. Some people love the thrill of barrel racing (western) or jumping (English) while others enjoy the beauty of a perfectly executed dressage routine, but at the heart of the matter is the horse. Spending time with horses is a valuable experience for anyone, regardless of riding style.