Differences between English and Western Horseback Riding Equipment
Understanding the difference between equipment used in Western and English style horseback riding and trails will help you decide on which outings will be the best suited for your corporate team, family or group of friends. We’ve briefly explained the differences below.
Western horseback riding dates back all the way to the Wild West when cowboys went on cattle drives and used horses as their way of getting around. The style evolved from the American warfare methods of old and the general ranching needs of the time. The cowboys spent many hours in the saddle to drive cattle, take care of ranch duties and often also to deliver mail. They needed the most comfortable way to control their horses using one hand only. Most often they would have a rope or gun in the other hand and they didn’t have the luxury of being concerned about the elegance of their riding.
The horses were trained to change direction at a very light touch on the neck and the cowboys often used their body’s position in the saddle to communicate commands. The style required a very deep seat for comport and to protect the cowboy from slipping when performing roping or other ranching duties. As a result, the cowboy and horse communication was styled for light rein application.
The biggest difference in equipment used in Western and English horseback riding styles is the saddle. The Western-styled saddle has a knob where the lariat used for roping is wrapped once the breakaway animal has been captured. The seat is deeper than the English saddle and the stirrups are covered by taps to prevent branches and long grass from getting caught in the stirrups. The cowboys wear pointed shoes with rather high heels in comparison with English horseback riding boots. This is to prevent the buckaroo’s feet from slipping right through the stirrup, which can cause severe injury when the rider falls, especially if dragged behind a speeding colt.
The bit part of the bridle also differs between the English and the Western horseback riding styles. The English riders use shorter reins with a Pelham type of bit or the double bridle. The cowboys use one pair or longer reins and a curb bit. When it comes to riding clothes, the English prefer the hard hat dressage cap and formal dressage clothing consisting of the boots, tights and the shirt with a formal jacket. Western riding attire consists of the wide-brim traditional cowboy hat to protect against the sun, loose shirt, denim, sometimes protective leather around the legs, known commonly as chaps which protect against scratches, the high heel pointed boots and if driving cattle, the bandana.
Where to find Western horseback riding and trails?
Go east from Pretoria to Diamond X Ranch a few kilometres outside Rayton where you will be able to participate in cowboy picnics, adventure cattle drives or relaxed out rides and replenish at the traditional saloon or as true cowboys call it – the watering hole.