English vs Western Horse Riding Styles

| May 21, 2015

It would be nice if all you had to do to get started in horse riding was to jump on the horse and go. However, like with any kind of sport, you will need the right equipment to get started riding properly. The right equipment includes the clothing as well as the gear for the horse like a saddle and bridle. Of course, it is also important to determine which kind of horseback riding you want to do. The two main styles of horseback riding are Western and English, and your preferred style of riding will determine what kind of equipment you will need.

English vs Western Riding

English vs Western Riding

Western Style Clothing and Equipment

Unlike the English style of riding, Western horseback riding is fairly simple in terms of clothing. The Western style evolved to encompass the needs of cowboys, and clothing for riding includes clothes that are durable if you plan to spend long hours in the saddle. Traditional Western style clothing includes blue jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, boots, and a wide-brimmed hat for protection against the sun and elements. Many Western style riders prefer to go with a cowboy hat for its style and functionality. One advantage of a having a cowboy hat is that they can be found in many different styles and shapes according to personal preference.

The first piece of equipment you will want to invest in for horse riding is a saddle, the seat that the rider sits on. Western saddles are larger and more comfortable for the riders over rough terrain. These types of saddles also include a horn on the front for wrapping a rope around it, and they are made to distribute the weight of a roped cow over the horse’s back. The saddle is secured to the horse with a cinch strap, and some types of Western saddles have two of them. Of course, Western saddles come with stirrups to place your feet in. Saddles are typically placed on some sort of padding, like a blanket, between it and the horse. It is important to get a comfortable fitting saddle for both and your horse.

Other pieces of equipment you need include headgear for the horse. Headgear refers to the straps that go around the horse’s head in order for the rider to have control and communicate with the horse. The most common headgear for riding is the bridle, a piece of equipment with reins that the rider holds onto and uses for controlling the animal. Bridles also have bits that go in the horse’s mouth for more control. You also might consider getting a halter for your horse for leading or tying up the horse while not being ridden. Halters do not have bits or reins but allow the horse a certain degree of freedom for its head.

English Style Clothing and Equipment

The English style of horse riding is much stricter in terms of the right clothing to wear. It is always a good idea to ask a trainer about the proper clothing, but the most essential item is the helmet. A good riding helmet is ASTM/SEI approved and fits snugly on the head. English riding helmets look similar to a large baseball hat with a sort brim and straps that secure under the chin. Some riding helmets have extra features like moisture-wicking panels and ventilation to keep your head cool. Helmets are mandatory for protection in case something goes wrong.

For the ring, you will also need a pair of tall, black boots that are rigid and come to just below the knee. For pants, English style riders wear jodhpurs, tight-fitting breeches that allow for easy movement and prevent chafing  Some jodhpurs even come with inside knee pads. The typical color for breeches is beige. The torso of the body is covered with a form-fitting show coat, usually black, and a ratcatcher, or long-sleeved shirt, underneath. The outfit is usually completed with a tie or a stock pin. All clothes must be clean and looking their best for competitions. For practices or lessons, riders only need their breeches, helmet, a riding shirt, and Paddock boots that are ankle high.

As far as equipment for the horse, English saddles are one of the first pieces of gear to buy. English saddles are built differently from Western saddles in that they are smaller and have no horns. English saddles are made for riding with the body bent forwards and for standing in the stirrups. English saddles also show off the horse’s shoulders. Equipment that goes along with the saddle includes some sort of padding underneath the saddle and stirrups that detach when pulled from behind. Like the Western style, the English style also uses a bridle but with a slightly different design and reigns that are buckled together.

Equipment for English style riding includes some extras not used for Western style riding. The first is a breastplate, which is an important piece of safety equipment. Breastplates attach to the saddle and run across the horse’s chest and between the front legs in order to keep the saddle from sliding. Some English style riders also use a martingale, a piece of equipment design to keep the horse from raising its head too high, although it is only used for some competitions. The right clothing and equipment for English style riding can make all the difference.

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