English vs Western Horseback Riding – Which is Easiest?

One of the most frequently asked questions from novice riders is “what is the difference between English and Western riding?”, often followed by “which one is easiest?”

Depending on where you learned to ride, you may already be comfortable with English or Western style riding without knowing the difference.

So we will explain exactly that!

The styles of both Western and English horseback riding are influenced by their origin and feature unique characteristics and equipment.

The first difference you may notice is the tack and saddle used.

An English saddle is smaller and lighter than the Western saddle and serves to help the rider with dressage and jumping movements, keeping the rider’s body closer to the horse.

English vs Western Horseback Riding - Which is Easiest?

The Western saddle is larger in size and spreads the rider’s weight over a larger surface area of the horse, making it slightly more comfortable and ideal for longer trails.

English vs Western Horseback Riding - Which is Easiest?

The Western saddle may also feature a “horn” at the front, which traditionally would be used to wrap the rider’s rope when cattle driving.

When it comes to riding styles, the main difference is that in Western riding, you will hold the reins loosely in one hand, leaving the other hand free at your side or ready to rope in the cattle!

English vs Western Horseback Riding - Which is Easiest?

In English riding, the reins are held with both hands, giving more control of the horse at the bit.

With this style, you will need to learn the rise and trot, or post to the trot, which involves a period of slight suspension for the rider during this bouncy gait, where the horse is moving from one pair of diagonal legs to the other.

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English vs Western Horseback Riding - Which is Easiest?

The comparative gait in Western riding, the jog, is slightly slower and doesn’t move the rider so much, thus allowing the rider to sit without posting.

When it comes to what is easier, some say that if you ride English you can more easily transition to Western riding than the other way around. Why?

English riding involves a bit more balance and coordination of the reins and legs, so riders may not feel immediately secure in the saddle. The larger Western saddle makes it easier for the beginner to sit comfortably and feel more secure.

Both styles require practice, practice, and more practice to master, and neither is superior to the other. The riding style you choose will mostly depend on what you hope to achieve from your riding lessons, and what is more easily accessible.

If you’re interested in trail riding, it’s likely you’ll be learning Western style, but if jumping is your thing, you’re going to be riding English.

Whichever style you choose, a competent instructor will keep you safe and smiling in the saddle! 

Emma Hartley Emma is the Category Manager for BookHorseRidingHolidays.com, and is a sports enthusiast who loves the outdoors. She grew up around horses and loves spending time out in the countryside.

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English vs Western Horseback Riding - Which is Easiest?
English vs Western Horseback Riding - Which is Easiest?


  1. DMc
    October 9, 2019 / 10:09 pm

    After spending time on various “horse & rider” websites, we all know that many riders are pretty biased, toward whatever style they ride.
    When asked “which style is better”? My reply was this: As a child, as far back as I can remember, all I ever wanted to do, was to be on & around horses!
    Where I grew up, riding Western was predominate, so I learned to ride Western. That being said, I’d ride the ponies & horses of kids who were lucky enough to have one, but didn’t want to ride! I’d even gone into pastures & swung up on a horses without any tack, (not smart, but I was going to ride, one way or another)! Had English been the primary style of riding, I’d have ridden English. For me, it was never about the discipline, it was all about being on & around horses!

  2. Rob
    February 6, 2022 / 6:22 pm

    First full disclosure, I’m not a woman. It’s not a harder or easier thing. It’s just different. IMHO the horse doesn’t mind as much as some riders. Both start out with a direct rein and can progress to one hand or no hands depending on the discipline. Both can be done poorly. Both have opportunities for excellence. Both executed correctly have similar postures. An English saddle is generally easier to put on, a western bridal is usually easier. It may be easier to fall off an English saddle, but plenty manage to fall off Western saddles. There are horses that can make you fall no matter what saddle. Horses are ridden on the hunt and in endurance under English type saddles and western saddles without harm and a poorly fitted saddle of either type can injure a horse. The western horn is used to rope and dally. Cattle the world around, and even in the USA can be driven and sorted with English tack. Western riders often post the trot and english riders are required to sit the trot occasionally. Depending on the horses gait I prefers to sit western and english. Some western and Australian saddles are difficult to post in specially if they are too small. My favorite horse and saddle is the one I’m on. Bottom line enjoy what you have access too, and take care of your horse.

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