Riding a horse is a totally individualistic experience, with all of us having our own quirks, preferences, relationship with the animal, and overall personal style. Although we all bring our own flair to our riding, most of us in North America tend to fall into one of the two most popular styles – Western and English.
The Western style of riding is heavily influenced by the Spanish Conquistadors who brought it to the Americas. The style was adapted by cowboys to suit the day to day needs on the ranch like herding cattle on horseback. The saddle used by cowboys tended to be more comfortable, designed for long periods of riding over rough terrain, and distributes weight evenly across the horse’s back for the animal’s comfort.
A rider’s attire is reflective of their preferred style of riding as well. Those who have adopted Western style often wear a wide brimmed hat, another element influenced by the hot sun of the cattle ranch, usually made of leather or felt. This style of riding often necessitates a more casual and practical dress code – denim was a favourite of cowboys and other manual laborers for its durability and affordability. The always-recognizable cowboy boot was designed for long periods of riding without slipping, and without laces to avoid any tangles while on the trail.
English riding has European and military origins. Saddle design focuses on allowing the horse freedom of movement to engage in activities like classical dressage and racing. English saddles are often used for everyday pleasure riding, and are used for Equestrian sports in the Olympic games.
Although particulars differ in each style - be it Western or English - the love of the horse and riding are universal traits shared across the entire sport.