Is Western Riding Safer Than English Riding

Once you decide to start horse riding, you will have to choose between English riding or Western riding style. These two styles of riding can be difficult to pick between and decide which is safest for you. Fortunately, they’ve got quite a few differences.

So is Western riding safer than English riding? According to a majority of riders, it is not really clear if there is a particular style of riding that is safer than another. It all depends on individual experience, and there are those who feel more secure about English, and vice versa.

Ultimately, you can choose to try both to see what you’d prefer in the end. Most riders like to specialize in a particular discipline, but there are no rules for being an all-rounder.

  • In English and Western style riding, the equipment varies greatly. In the English riding world, you can expect a smaller, lighter saddle and a bigger saddle when riding Western. You will also notice one with a horn on the saddle and one without. Western saddles will sometimes have a more comfortable, plush seat.
  • English riding tends to have a closer feeling of contact.
  • Western riders tend to have lighter rein contact. The reins are often held in one hand, and the horse is reined in the neck.
  • Different disciplines. English consists of jumping, dressage, hunting, and equitation, while western can include barrel racing, pole bending, roping, trail riding, and reining.
  • Both can compete with trophies, ribbons, and cash prizes.
  • In the western world, the terminology can vary from walking, trotting, and cantering to walking, jogging, and loping.
  • Western riders also wear different attires than English riders. Instead of tall boots and breeches, you can expect a cowgirl hat, boots, spurs, and casual shirt/ jeans.
  • The horses may vary, either. While many horses can ride and compete successfully in both, there are certain breeds that dominate specific disciplines. Warmbloods are popular in the dressage ring and show jumping. Paints and Quarter Horses do well in occidental pleasure and speed events.

Western Riding

Western is essentially another All-American word. This riding style was developed in the west of the United States, on ranches and open country where cattle were kept. The primary feature of the Western-style is that as an independent entity, it relies mostly on the horse.

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Horses are encouraged to move independently and are trained to just move naturally.

Riders still have to stay firm in the saddle, but Western-style relies primarily on using the reins and stirrups only to make corrections or simple changes of direction.

If you are looking for a more in-depth look at Western horse riding, you should consider getting this book from Amazon. I found it extremely helpful in understanding the fundamentals – from loping and galloping to trail riding and showing. It also had step by step instructions that just basically made a lot of sense.

The Western-style is also reflected in the saddle type used on riding. The western saddle is broad and stretched out over the back of the horse. This is in such a way that the weight of the rider will be distributed evenly, allowing maximum comfort for cattle working long days.

Another distinctive feature of the western saddle is the horn on the front, which extends upwards. This has a secondary function to be used in roping methods to lock cattle or horses into the saddle, as well as another protective grip or stabilizer should you lose rein control.

English Riding

As the name suggests, the English riding style originated in Britain. While elements of English riding may have inspired Western style, the two are quite distinct. English riding concentrates on the rider being in complete control of the movement of the horse. Think of it like driving cars. Western is automatic: the horse is trained to move; you only make corrections and change course.

English is more like stick-shift driving – the rider is in control of all aspects of the ride. English riding is based on having greater interaction with the horse than in the western style. This is done by more rein control, as well as tighter motions with the legs and hips inside the saddle.

As with Western-style, riding in the English style is similar to the form of saddle that is used. The English saddle is smaller than the saddle at the west. This allows maximum contact with the body of the horse so as to apply the contact necessary. English saddles also lack the prominent horn that the western saddles are signed to.

 Is Western Riding Safer than English Riding?

Ideally, you and your horse should be comfortable with any kind of tack you choose to use, so you can take part in a wide variety of activities. English events, activities, and tasks differ from those you would undertake on a western saddle ride.

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You need to learn how to ride English if you want to search and run. You need to know how to ride Western, if you want to barrel race or rope cattle.


 Is Western Riding Safer than English Riding?


The riding style that makes you and your horse more comfortable and suits your purpose is the best style for you, but you don’t have to choose. Your aim as a rider should be to be completely comfortable on your mount and to make your mount comfortable with you, no matter what tack you choose. Having the flexibility and ability to ride well with any properly fitted tack is the best way to.

Which Horse Riding Style Is Easier?

Western riding is easier for an absolute novice because the saddle is safer and has more to hang on; however, if you have more experience riding horses, you shouldn’t hang onto the saddle, and you should be able to ride either style with ease.

English riding is a little more complex because it can involve aspects such as the use of double reins and the posting of the trot, but if you are a safe and confident rider, you should be able to easily take it with practice.

Even for the beginner, English riding involves the coordination of multiple factors, such as legs and balance, in order to maintain horse control. That can be hard until the rider becomes second nature. Even the greenest riders can enjoy an afternoon on horseback in relative safety on western riding, as my father showed.

What’s the Best Horse Riding Style for Beginners?

When it comes to what’s easier, some say you can transition to Western riding more easily than the other way around, if you ride English. English riding involves a bit more rein and leg balancing and coordination, so riders may not feel safe in the saddle immediately. The larger western saddle makes sitting comfortably easier for the beginner and feels more secure.

Both styles require a mastery of practice, practice, and more practice, and neither is superior to the other. Most of the riding style you choose will depend on what you hope to accomplish from your riding lessons, and what is easier to access. If you want to learn how to riding in the USA, you’ll probably learn Western-style, but if showjumping is your thing, you’ll be riding English. No matter what style you choose, a skilled instructor will keep you safe and smiling in the saddle!

Activities in English and Western Riding

Western Pleasure

This is a showing class in which horses are shown in the arena in a group, performing gait and movement adjustments as ordered by the judge. Horses are assessed for appearance, style, and movement.

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Barrel Racing

In this racing, horse and rider enter the arena at very high speed and negotiate a pattern of three barrels, turning tightly around each barrel without going too wide (and wasting valuable seconds, or cutting in too close and possibly knocking a barrel over and losing points.

Roping Events

Throughout roping activities, when running at altitude, the leader leads a steer out of the chute, points, and throws the lasso. He then secures the saddle horn around the lasso, and the specially trained horse comes to a quick halt to hold the steer. The rider dismounts quickly grounds the steer and ropes his legs quickly. Another speed event, the fastest person to rope his steer and raise his arms to signal to the judge that he’s finished the task, wins.


It takes a very special horse to cut. Both the horse and rider enter a group of cattle in cutting events, and single one out. The horse moves steer away from the other cattle and then, for a preset period of time, prevents it from moving back to the herd. Since the steering wheel is determined to join his herd mates, the horse will have to face the steering wheel continuously and anticipate how it will go, quickly moving left and right to block escape.


Horse and rider execute a preset pattern of movements in reining classes, involving circles, spins, slides, and turns. Reining was called the “western dressage” and is always a crowd-pleaser, and the performance of each horse is accompanied by the audience’s whoops and hollers. Horses and riders are graded on the horses ‘ adherence to the riders ‘ aids and on accuracy.

Hunter Classes

There can be hunter classes on the flat or over fences. In Hunter, the horses enter the arena as a group under Saddle classes and perform the gait and direction changes as requested by the judge. Their adherence to the help of the driver, their gaits, and their beauty were weighed against them. They maintain an even head carriage throughout, and smooth, quiet paces.

Is English or Western riding more expensive?

Western is significantly more expensive. There is plenty of English riding shows that can run you close to $1000 in only entry fees, and I’ve seen Western show clothes running that high. Trainer fees will also vary, so search properly before deciding on which to go for.