English vs. Western Riding – Which is the Better Style?


Maggie Dempewolf, Staff Writer

One of the biggest controversies in the equestrian world is whether you should ride English or Western. Both riding styles are great, but the styles themselves are fairly different from each other. Let’s take a look at both styles.

English riding is the more classical one of the two styles. Within English riding, there are three disciplines. These are showjumping, cross country, and dressage. In English riding, there is also a grand competition known as three-day eventing. In this competition, English riders compete for three days in all three English disciplines. English riding tack consists of a saddle, saddle pad, English bridle, and sometimes other items—such as ear bonnets, martingales, and boots. The English saddle is small and lightweight; the saddle pads are also smaller. English riding gear also consists of tall boots, breaches, gloves, a polo, and always a helmet. One of the bigger differences among this riding style versus the other is that in English riding, the third gait of the horse is called the canter, whereas it is called loping in Western riding.

Western riding is the rougher of the two riding styles. It started back with cowboys in the old Western days. Western disciplines include reigning, roping, and cutting—just to name a few. This riding style is very common among large farms and ranches, since they commonly work with cattle.  Western tack consists of a saddle, saddle pad, and Western bridle. The saddle and saddle pad are both significantly larger than the English counterparts. Western riding gear consists of Western boots, jeans, a Western shirt, and a cowboy hat, rather than a helmet. 

Both disciplines are fun and good in their own ways. Both take a hard amount of time and skill to master. Neither one is better than the other. Either way, as long as you are having fun riding, it shouldn’t matter what style you ride.