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Riding Styles / Disciplines Defined Overview
(For reasons of safety and complete riding education, Equestrian Outreach supports dressage principles as the basis of any beginning equestrian instruction and or equine training program.)
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Riding Styles: Arguably there are two distinct riding styles Classic (English) and Western. Within these two riding forms are Riding Discipline such as Dressage in the Classic (English) Riding Style and its counterpart in the Western Riding style; reining. (Click here for a Dressage and Reining U Tube Video) Courtesy ET Barry and Monica Jencks.
Classic or Western: A wise equestrian once said:” Any good rider can ride any good horse”. Though the differences between Classic (English) and Western riding disciplines appear dramatic, there are some similarity's. Properly implemented, both styles require riders to have a solid seat, with the hips and shoulders balanced over the feet, with hands independent of the seat so as to avoid disturbing the balance of the horse and interfering with the horse performance. With a 2,500 year heritage most experts agree that classic riding instruction is a good starting point for all equestrians.
Classic (English) Riding: Classic (English) riding is a term used to describe a form of horseback riding that is seen throughout the world. There are many variations in classic (English) riding, but all feature a flat classic (English) saddle without the deep seat, high cantle or saddle horn seen on Western Saddles nor the knee pads seen on an Australian Stock Saddle. Saddles within the various classic (English) styles are all designed to allow the rider to communicate with the horse through the use of riding aids and allow the horse the freedom to move in the most optimal manner for a given task. Tasks ranging from Dressage Riding (Dressage Saddles) to Show Jumping (Show Jumping Saddles) to Horse Racing (Thoroughbred Horse Racing Saddle). Classic (English) saddles are smaller, lighter and designed to lower the riders center of gravity as much as possible without interfering with the riders communication with the horse. (To see an interactive illustration of a classic saddle and its parts click here). Classic (English) riding also differs from western riding in most other parts of riding equipment (Tack) such as the bridle. Classic (English) Bridles also vary in style based on discipline, but most feature some type of cavesson nose band as well as closed reins, buckled together at the ends, that prevent them from dropping on the ground if a rider becomes unseated. Clothing for riders in competition is usually based on traditional needs from which a specific style of riding developed, but most standards require, as a minimum, boots; breeches or jodhpurs; a shirt with some form of tie; a hat, cap, or equestrian helmet; and a jacket.
Western Riding: Western riding is a style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors. Both Western riding equipment (tack; such as the Western Saddle) and riding style evolved into a form of riding shorthand, designed to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West. American Western cowboys needed to work long hours in the saddle over rough terrain, sometimes needing to rope cattle with a lariat (or lasso). Because of the necessity to control the horse with one hand and use a lariat with the other, western horses were trained to neck rein, that is, to change direction with light pressure of a rein against the horse's neck. Horses were also trained to exercise a certain degree of independence in using their natural instincts to follow the movements of a cow, thus a riding style developed that emphasized a deep, secure seat, and training methods encouraged a horse to be responsive on very light rein contact.