Riding Styles

If you’re just learning to ride you may be curious about the differences between English and Western riding styles. The basics of each are actually very similar. And one is not more difficult to learn than the other, because becoming very proficient in either takes time, dedication and practice.


English Horseback Riding

English riding takes many of its traditions and equipment from European mounted military styles. English style horses tend to be taller and many are leggy, aiding their ability to travel over long distances at a variety of speeds as well as jump over a variety of obstacles.

English riders sit with a tall upper-body and the pelvis is tilted slightly forward. The stirrups rest slightly shorter with the English position and the reins are held by both hands. In both disciplines, riders strive to keep their legs close to the side of the horse by pushing their heels down toward the ground.

English riders requires beginners to maintain balance, control of the main aids (legs, hands, seat), and proper position in all gaits. This includes the trot, which English riders must post, rising slightly out of the saddle with the motion of the horse. As riders post, they must maintain proper position and steer. Thus, it may take a few lessons for the motion to become second nature for the rider. Mastery of balance and control comes with plenty of practice, repetition, and strength building.

Some English Riding events are:

  • Dressage
  • English or English Country Pleasure
  • Jumping
  • Hunting
  • Mounted Games
  • Polo
  • Trail Riding



The Western riding style developed according to the needs of cowboys who worked cattle from horseback. The Western saddle is made to distribute weight more evenly over the horse’s back so horse and rider can counterbalance the weight of a roped cow. Western riders take both reins in one hand, allowing the other hand to fall naturally at the side, or lie on the thigh.

Western horses tend to be compact and capable of steady travel all day with small bursts of speed to chase stray cattle. Western riding is not quite as demanding, especially for beginners. The larger saddle provides the rider with more stability through the motion of the horse. Thus, many beginners may find themselves progressing more quickly than they would in English lessons.

Some Western Riding style events are:

  • Team penning
  • Cutting
  • Reining
  • Speed Games
  • Trail Classes
  • Pleasure and Equitation Classes
  • Roping
  • Trail Riding