What is Your Riding Style? Do You Prefer English or Western?

What is Your Riding Style? Do You Prefer English or Western?

Over the years, we’ve cared for many beloved senior horses at Oak Haven Acres. Although most of our equine residents are beyond their riding years, they have many years of experience. While caring for them, we can often tell what riding style they and their human friends preferred.

Of course, countless riding styles have been developed all over the world. However, the dominant types in the United States and Canada are English riding and Western riding. They have similarities and differences; both take time, patience, and practice to become proficient.

Are you considering taking riding lessons? If so, it’s essential to learn about each style before you commit. Neither type is challenging to know if you work hard and have a friendly relationship with your horse.

Understanding English Style

The English style is one of the oldest riding styles adopted in American equestrianism. European-mounted military styles inspired its traditions and equipment, such as a lighter and smaller saddle. You’ll have a secure seat when riding in an English-style saddle, and your horse’s movement won’t be hindered.

•Best Horse Breed

Many English-style enthusiasts prefer horse breeds that can travel long distances at different speeds and quickly jump obstacles. You can’t go wrong with beloved and versatile American quarter horses.

Some other popular breeds for English riding styles include Morgans, Cleveland Bays, Percheron, and the American paint horse. These breeds are usually good-natured and have strong endurance skills. The iconic Clydesdale is also ideal for English riding.


If you prefer English-style riding, the gait of your equine friend is essential. The style’s typical characteristics are smooth, flowing speed, collection, and gate. The general walking style is nearly the same for English and Western riding.

In an English trot, the rider rises a bit from the saddle, a position called posting. Also, it’s a slower pace than its Western counterpart. The only time the English trot isn’t posted is when you must sit during a show ring.


Sometimes called a lope, the canter is faster than a trot and slower than a gallop. You’ll hear the three-beat cadence as your horse canters. English-style loping has more speed variants, elevations, and extensions than Western style.

•Riding Attire

If you’ve ever watched an English riding event, you’ll recognize the classic English riding ensemble called a habit. It includes the iconic riding helmet, shirt, breeches, fitted jacket, and black high boots.

Understanding the Western Style

Travel anywhere in the American West and see Western-style riding at its best. It was born out of necessity for herding cattle and sheep and traversing rough terrain. Western style is as accessible and inspiring as the cowboys and Native Americans who created it over the years.

You can recognize a Western riding saddle by its larger size and comfortable seat. It’s made to help balance riders while tending cattle on horseback. The prominent saddle horn is a tool for tying on roped cattle.

•Best Horse Breed

Of course, the American quarter horse does just as well for Western riding as it does English style. You’ll also meet Western riders who prefer American paint, Morgan, Arabian, or Appaloosa. It all depends on the horse and its relationship with its human partner.


While English-style riding has a quicker pace for shorter distances, Western-style has a slower, steady pace. It’s easier to travel longer distances and cover intricate landscapes.

The original development of Western riding was for rounding cattle or sheep. So, Western riders have a quick jog instead of the English trot. The jog is seated rather than the standing post trot of English riding.


If you ride Western style, you’ll feel the gentle, slow loping with a clip-clop. Your four-hooved friend will last longer on the trail at a steady pace. There’s no need to run unless it’s an emergency or during a competition.

•Riding Apparel

People who’ve never been around horses can instantly recognize Western riding apparel. It’s the iconic look of legends like Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Gene Autry, and John Wayne brought to Hollywood. The ten-gallon hat, flannel shirt, jeans, chaps, and cowboy boots are a must.

Basic Skills

Each riding style has a list of skills you need to practice to be your best. Not only do you need these for competition, but they will enhance your riding pleasure. Here are a few of the skills for both styles.

English Style

•English Country Pleasure
•Mounted Games
•Hunter’s Pace

Western Style

•Team Penning
•Trail Classes
•Speed Games
•Equitation and Pleasure Riding Classes
•Trail Riding

Final Thoughts

The bond between humans and horses can last a lifetime. If it’s time for your beloved senior horse to retire, contact Oak Haven Acres in Spring Hope, NC. Let your equine friend spend his golden years in the loving care of our staff.


Phone: 252-478-5239 or 919-818-6241
515 Huford Harris Rd, Spring Hope, NC 27882, USA
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