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Friday, July 06, 2012

It's not that I'm on a mission to convert English riders to Western, it's just that....

...when they come over to my place to try Western riding, they like it and they come back!

I am careful not to speak disrespectfully of English riding.  I do respect it. When done right, it's an art form, full of tradition and elegance.  Done wrong - and yes, it can be done wrong - it's a mess of tight reins and grippy knees and snobbery all wrapped neatly in the guise of propriety.

Western riding at its worst is all flapping arms and jerking reins, horse heads flipped up sky high with mouths open to get away from ridiculously harsh bits, and yee-haw and yahoo.

At it's best however, Western is just as much of an art and science. (In fact in my opinion, even more so.)  Western horses learn to collect themselves without constant contact on the reins.  They can be sped up or slowed in each gait, steered with one hand, and move sideways, back, and pivot in circles.  They move along with the lightest cue possible. They can stop with a lift of the reins and a shift of the rider's weight.

Around here in my neck of the woods, English is more common.  This isn't really cowboy country.  Generally, if people want their kids to learn how to ride, they look up a local reputable stable and sign up for lessons - and the majority of the stables are exclusively English.  Then, there are a handful of rural families who keep a few horses and have western saddles to put on them.  Some of those are heaving the saddles onto the horses and hanging on for dear life; others are actually riding western.  There is good and bad in both disciplines.

I believe that good riding is good riding, no matter what tack you're using or what you're wearing.

The fundamentals are the same!  Sit up straight, get your legs under you, use those legs to move the horse.  Soft hands; don't pull on the horse's mouth.

I love English riders.  They have beautiful posture and great balance.  They have a hard time at first with long stirrups and loose reins, but my job is to help them get comfortable and really use their seat and weight.  It's a whole new world.

Above all, people learning how to ride their horses fairly and kindly - and enjoying their horses - that's really what it's all about. (I love my job so much!)





5 comments:

redhorse said...

Well, like they say, you should learn to ride the horse, not the saddle.

I rode English for over 30 years. I did some dressage and jumping. I was very comfortable in an English saddle. Now I ride Western, just trail riding or fooling around in the back yard. It seems like less work, sitting the trot instead of posting, no contact with the mouth or micro-managing. Now all I need is a horse under 16 hands.

Heidi the Hick said...

Yeah it does seem like less work... Except that riders leave my place with all thei muscles singing and moaning!!!

I think riding should be fun. That's why I want the horse moving off of very light cues. But it takes work to get it to that point. Then it's less work. Then we can ride and enjoy. The whole thing just seems more practical to me.

I'm betting if you did dressage and jumping you've got a heck of a good seat already.

You know, my gelding is 15hh and he's the biggest horse I've had. I can barely get on without a ladder. I keep forgetting that in most of the horse world, he's actually not very big.

Heidi the Hick said...

Yeah it does seem like less work... Except that riders leave my place with all thei muscles singing and moaning!!!

I think riding should be fun. That's why I want the horse moving off of very light cues. But it takes work to get it to that point. Then it's less work. Then we can ride and enjoy. The whole thing just seems more practical to me.

I'm betting if you did dressage and jumping you've got a heck of a good seat already.

You know, my gelding is 15hh and he's the biggest horse I've had. I can barely get on without a ladder. I keep forgetting that in most of the horse world, he's actually not very big.

Heidi Willis said...

I hardly ever see English saddles around here. We're all western cowboy. :)

I think of English as being elegant and proper, I suppose, because the English are so much more proper and elegant than us Americans.

Still - it's good to be flexible, and good that your students get a taste of something they'd be less likely to get elsewhere there.

Paul Tee said...

I ride both English or Western, it makes me no-never-mind.

Wait! I don't have a horse. Not even a saddle.

In my books I ride, canter or full out gallop... wanting to catch up with all my aspirations.

Paul Tee... alive and well on www.seeWordFactory.com