What is the Difference Between English and Western Riding?

One of the biggest questions that new riders have concerns the difference between English and Western riding. Is western or English riding more dangerous?

The two riding styles are vastly different, but require the same dedication and commitment to become proficient.

However, they are both enjoyable and you will have a blast learning with your equine partner. Let’s explore them below in detail.

Western Vs English Riding

English style riding varies in attire, the tack or equipment used, the horses that participate, and more. Let’s explore each of these differences.

Here is a cool video of Western riding boots.

@amsmithh Ladies if you know the answer you have to get them for him 😏#fyp #cowboyboots #boots #cowboy #country #western #bullriding #countryboy ♬ Somebody That I Used To Know – Collective Culture

#1 Type of Attire

In Western horseback riding, the clothing worn adheres to what many would call the cowboy look. Western riders typically wear simple long or short sleeve casual shirts, jeans, and western horseback riding boots.

women doing western horseback riding

Some riders wear cowboy hats while others wear helmets. When showing, the attire will be similar but often in bold, eye-catching colors and will feature sequins or other sparkly elements.

Check out the different attire styles in this video!

@editsundallesmoegliche #westernvsdressage#westernvsenglish#edit#fy#fyp#viral#goviral ♬ original sound – Aryana

English horse riding wear is traditional and formal. The long and short-sleeved tops are fitted and create sleek lines, and bottoms include breeches and riding tights.

A girl in english style riding attire

An English rider can wear either paddock boots or tall boots and must wear a helmet, Competition wear adds a stock tie and a show coat to shirts and the colors worn are neutral such as white, beige, navy, black and gray.

#2 Equipment Used

Western and English saddles and other equipment vary significantly from each other, and this is one of the biggest differences between the two riding styles.

Western horseback riding was developed on American ranches, where cowboys worked long days in the saddle herding stray cattle over rough terrain.

So, the saddles were designed to be comfortable and impart the rider’s weight evenly through the horse’s back, as well as a saddle horn and other attachments to tie their rope to so that they can pull cattle along and secure things.

a horse with western saddle pad on it

Other types of western tack include the Western bridle, tie-downs, cinches, headstalls, and breast collars.

Check out this cool video on Western riding.

@smith.horses English next! 🤠🤠 #duet #viral #foryoupage #blowup #horsesoftiktok #horses #horsepost ♬ original sound – Edits 🐎

There there are also a variety of saddles adapted to fit the needs of the various sports within the disciplines. Western saddles are bigger and weigh more than their English counterparts.

English saddles are lightweight and provide the rider with closer contact with the horse’s body.

They come in many different types to suit the sports within the discipline and can be flocked with wool, foam, or fiber.

Other typical equipment you will see in English horse riding includes martingales, the English bridle, and girths.

a horse with english saddle pad on it

Here is a cool video of English Riding.

@smith.horses English 🤍 Can i get 1000 likes?? #viral #duet #foryoupage #blowup #horsepost #horses #horsesoftiktok ♬ original sound – Edits 🐎

#3 Sports or Events Participating In

Another notable difference is the equestrian events that take place within each style of riding.

In Western-style horseback riding, the events highlight the skills that horses will need when doing ranch work.

These include reining, cutting, barrel racing, speed events, pole bending, western pleasure, team roping and penning, and trail riding classes

a women playing western riding game

English horse riding events include dressage, showjumping, cross country, saddle seat, hunter/jumper, eventing, and endurance riding.

All of these sports incorporate some element of how horses were trained for the military, where horses needed to be light on their feet and were required to jump.

a men playing english horseback riding game
@equestrian_ed1tzz Western VS English – Which one ?! //Me:English// #horsesoftiktok #englishriding #westernriding #westernvsenglish #erinwilliams #equestrian_ed1tzz ♬ original sound – Horse & Eq Edits ♡︎𐂃

#4 Horses Used in Sport 

Another difference in western versus English riding is the horses used in each specific discipline.

Common breeds used in western disciplines include Quarter Horses, Paint Horses, Appaloosas, Missouri fox trotters, and Tennessee Walking Horses.

These horses are ranch horses known for their speed and or cow sense and herding abilities, which are key in western riding events.


I love how this TikToker explains it.

@quinlanr25 I’m both 🥰🐴 #western #foryoupage #ItsOurHome #equestrian #english #ride #QH #ottb #ifykyk #horsesontiktok #loveriding #loverboy #fypシ #freefire ♬ original sound – ✨❤️equestrian house❤️✨

On the other hand, horse breeds used in English horse riding come from the warmblood class.

These are sleek, long-legged horses known for their athleticism, graceful movement, and or jumping ability.

They include breeds such as thoroughbreds, Friesians, Hanoverians, Trakehners, Andalusians, and Lusitanos, among many others.

friesian horse running fast

#5 Gaits or Way of Going 

Horses in English horse riding constantly need to use a variety of speeds and have bigger movements, as well as go over obstacles.

Thus, riders need to learn to post the trot so that they can follow along with the horse’s movement better and avoid bouncing out of the saddle.

In Western horse riding, horses are encouraged to move at a consistent relaxed pace with the occasional burst of speed. Their trot and jog are slow and steady and use smaller steps.

Related: What is Western Horse Riding?

Is Western or English Riding Better for You?

The discipline that is best for you depends on what you want to get out of your riding experience and your preferences.

If you want to jump and or experience the elegance that comes with classic riding techniques, English horse riding is for you.

This video sums it up very well.

@discoverthehorse Which One is Your Favorite? 🐎 #WesternRiding #EnglishRiding #Horses #equine #englishvswestern ♬ You Can’t Take Me – Bryan Adams

However, if you want a more laid-back or casual riding experience that does not place as much emphasis on formality or correct position, then Western horseback riding will be a better fit for you.

English vs Western Riding Boots

There is quite a distinction when it comes to the boots mostly because of the difference between the sport, style, and equipment used.

If you’re looking to buy your first pair of riding boots, it’s important to understand the differences between the two so that you can make an informed purchase that meets your needs.

English Riding Boots

English riding boots are a style of tall boots worn by people riding horses in English riding disciplines throughout the world.

In addition to describing a specific style of boot, the term also encompasses other features of English riding equipment and attire.

The toe cap and heel are rounded. They typically have a Cuban or Spanish-style heel rather than the Western-style roper heel found on cowboy boots.

A person with black English riding boots

Traditional dress boot has a closed front with laces; field boot is front-laced with elastic sides and no back seam.

Paddock boot is ankle-high for everyday wear, and the tall boot is full height with laces at the back and buckles at the ankle to hold them in place while riding.

Western Riding Boots

Western boots are designed with a more pointed toe than English riding boots, which have a dressier, more rounded toe.

The different shape of each boot is designed to accommodate the different stirrups used in each type of riding.

In Western riding, boot heels are also designed with a more pronounced slope, which helps keep the rider’s foot from slipping through the stirrup while riding.

Western boots are usually made of leather or suede, while English riding boots often have leather tops and rubber soles.

A person with brown Western riding boots

The leather top on an English riding boot is typically taller than western boots, but the rubber sole offers greater flexibility for walking and running in long jumps.


Is Western or English Riding Easier?

man riding a horse for dressage riding, one of the types of english riding

It is agreed upon that western horseback riding is generally easier than English horse riding. This is because posting the trot is not required and it does not require as much coordination of aids, so even novice riders can enjoy Western riding.

Is Western Riding Safer Than English?

Western riding is considered safer than English because the Western saddle is larger and provides for more even weight distribution. However, both styles carry the same amount of risk because you are working together with a 1000 lb. animal with a mind of its own.

Is Western or English Riding More Expensive?

an equestrian lady doing saddle seat riding

Western riding lessons are usually less expensive than English, and the same can be said regarding show class entry fees. Everything is more expensive in the English world because it is generally formal and high-end.

Is Western or English Riding More Popular?

This depends on where you live and the preferences of your region. Generally, Western horseback riding is more popular than English horse riding in North America, while English horseback riding is more popular in European countries. Certain sports within these disciplines will also have varying popularity depending on where you live.


There are many differences between Western and English riding.

However, no matter what style you choose you will need to be a confident rider and will get to experience the joy that comes with partnering with your horse and build friendships that will last a lifetime.

So, you should choose the one that best fits your preferences and abilities.

A women doing western horseback riding

 Which one do you like between Western vs English riding? Please share your choice below!


  • Fought, Emily. 2020. “English vs Western…” Your Horse Farm. Your Horse Farm | Ramm Fence. March 12, 2020. https://yourhorsefarm.com/english-vs-western-riding/.
  • Jayne Pedigo Wilson. 2003. “English versus Western Riding – Which Is Easier?” Expert Advice on Horse Care and Horse Riding. Expert advice on horse care and horse riding. January 17, 2003. https://www.equisearch.com/articles/english-vs-western-riding-page2-17556.
  • thomas.derbyshire@googlemail.com. 2020. “English vs Western Riding: Complete Horse Riding Style Comparison.” AHF. December 28, 2020. https://amazinghorsefacts.com/english-vs-western-riding/.
  • “Which Is Better: English or Western Riding?” 2018. Horses & Foals. September 4, 2018. https://horsesandfoals.com/english-or-western-riding/.


Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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