English riding is a traditional style of horse riding that uses a lightweight saddle and emphasizes clear communication between rider and horse. It is similar to Western riding, with both styles based on teamwork. English riding is showcased at international competitions and used in events such as dressage, show jumping, racing, hunting, and polo. Horses trained in the English style tend to be obedient and taught intelligent refusal for safety. A mix of Western and English riding is common in some disciplines.
English riding is a style of riding that has its roots in centuries of European equestrian tradition. This style of riding is used throughout the world, and there are a number of branches of the English tradition. The other main riding style is western riding, which uses different equipment and a slightly different approach to handling horses.
It is common to see people heavily emphasizing the differences between English and Western riding. In fact, these two driving disciplines are very similar. A rider who has trained in the English style can usually learn western riding very quickly and vice versa. Both are fundamentally based on establishing clear communication between rider and horse and working together as a team to achieve goals.
The distinguishing feature of English riding is the English saddle, a flat saddle designed to be as light as possible. The idea behind this saddle design is that it allows the horse as much freedom of movement as possible and maximizes the contact between horse and rider. There are a number of different English saddles on the market, ranging from lightweight horse racing saddles to specialist dressage saddles.
Horses trained in the English tradition respond to pressure on the bit, to cues from the rider’s legs and feet, and to cues from a crop or a whip. It is not uncommon to see riders using a double set of reins for greater control, sometimes with two bits. Seating varies according to the discipline of the rider: jumping, dressage, polo and eventing, for example, all require different seats. English riding tends to be more formal, with an emphasis on correct seating, good posture and well-trained horses.
English riding is often showcased at the Olympics and other international equestrian competitions, because Western riding is mostly confined to the Americas. Horses trained in the English style tend to be trained to be extremely obedient, with less focus on freethinking, an important trait in Western horses. However, well-trained English horses are taught intelligent refusal, which involves teaching a horse to refuse to obey dangerous commands, for the safety of both horse and rider.
Dressage, widely described as ‘horse ballet’ is always performed on English trained horses on English tack. Show jumping, racing, hacking, hunting and polo are also events where English riding is the norm. For disciplines such as equestrian, eventing and trail riding, it is common to see a mix of Western and English riding.