English vs Western Riding

Jessica McDaniel
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English vs Western Riding

First and foremost, English and Western riding differ in the equestrian discipline they are based on.

The English discipline is a form of riding done at horse shows, which uses English riding techniques. It is also referred to as flatwork. This form of riding is done primarily at horse shows and is usually the equestrian discipline in which most people are involved in. They may have a certain style of riding, but are usually not very familiar with the other styles.

Western riding, on the other hand, refers to a specific set of disciplines within the equestrian sport. It is the equestrian discipline involving the work of the horse in various cattle work divisions. Most adult western riders are involved in some form of "show work" that is governed by a board of directors separate from the governing body of flat work.

Riders who show in flat work, usually ride western style due to the 'style' or 'movement' of the horse. For example, a dressage horse shows a different style of movement than a barrel racing horse. Therefore, the rider must maintain the horse's training and discipline differently than the other.

In competitions, English and Western riders may enter the same events, and both groups show their styles of riding in competition.

You may see some riders who specialize in both areas as well as those who compete in one area but not the other.


Western and English riding, also called Hunt seat and Park seat are two very distinct styles of riding that were each developed by different cultures for different reasons. There are many similarities, but mostly, they have completely different roots and purposes.

Items like saddles, stirrups, bits, and crops show a major divergence in design and purpose. Each continent and culture has its own unique style of tack, and its own unique set of uses.

The whip is one item that is commonly associated with horse riding, but the item itself would not be considered the same, no matter which culture uses it. Western riders are known for the triangular lash, called a single or stock whip. The design of this type of whip allows it to be used in a variety of ways to get a different result.

English riders are known for a crop. However, this item is very different from the crop that is used in western riding. Crop design may vary from crop to crop, but the crop is different from a whip in its purpose and design. A crop is a handle-less whip, meant to be used in a line.

English vs Western Riding: Tack

English: Came to America in Colonial Times and Became the Sport of Kings

U.S. Riding: Originally, the Discipline of Cowboys, Miners & Pioneers

English Riding: Competition, Parades, Pleasure Riding

U.S. Riding: Pleasure, Trail, Show, Working Ranch

English Riding: Basic Tack


Western Riding: Typically in the Styles of English Riding


Western Riding: Tack is Flexible

English Riding: Activities Other Than Show

Riding for Pleasure and Leisure Activities

Western Riding: Western Ropers Ride English

Western Ropers Ride Western

All around Rider: Western and English

Western Riding: Show


Western Riding: Working Ranch

English Riding: Forms of Competition

English Seat Equitation

Western Riding: Types of Riding

English vs Western Riding: Disciplines

English riding is the original form of horseback riding, and it’s a true art form that—s different from Western riding. Some true believers will even argue that the two equestrian disciplines are different sports.

Here are a few differences between the two methods:

Western riders must keep the horse moving at all times. The horse must trot, walk, and canter, and circles, serpentines and figure-eights are all part of the routine. This necessitates that the horse be trained to do these movements without effort, and that it responds to a light outside leg cue.

On the other hand, English riders aim to keep the horse at the correct frame, which means that it’s neither too high nor too low. Properly trained, a horse that has the correct frame will have a very smooth, consistent foundation… from a walk to a canter.

The English equestrian style also focuses on the quality of the construction of the horses, whereas Western riders focus more on working with the horse to get the most out of its abilities.

Western horses move forward and backwards smoothly in response to a leg cue, and they also produce a smooth canter. In contrast, English riding uses the hand to help the horse attain and hold a frame, and English horses are expected to be able to maintain that frame.


While it is true that most barns will have one or more horses to choose from, it is highly unlikely that you will find a horse with the exact physical characteristics of your yesterday’s dream horse.

Unless you ride horses or work in a barn, there is a good chance that you haven’t been around many horses. Learning about the different types of riding disciplines, the disciplines that best fit your personality, the level you are interested in achieving, can be very helpful.

The type of riding you intend to do is another factor that should be considered when deciding which horse to purchase. If you are just beginning to learn, you probably don’t want a very challenging horse. If you want to ride competitively, you want a horse that is able to do the required movements and movements you are able to perform with your current level of skill.


Western riding began in the 1700s and differed from English riding in many ways. The main difference was that Western saddles were designed for long-distance horse riding, while English saddles were designed for horse fighting.

A Western saddle has a high cantle, a deep seat and is designed for riders to sit farther back on the horse. This design allows a rider to balance on both feet and stay on the horse during long ride times without tiring. Western saddle styles also originated with horses that had pliable legs or soft hooves.

One of the more common styles of English saddles is the full Cape saddle. This saddle was designed to protect the rider during a horse fight, because it was shaped to allow the rider maximum movement and easy shooting access. The full Cape saddle has a high pommel and large cantle, with a defined division in between. The design is essential for the rider to remain in a firm seated position.