Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve

Discover the differences in horseback riding styles

On horseback, you can seek out remote regions of Magnolia Branch by following our 10-mile trail that has water crossings and rugged terrain. The park also has a stable with 10 stalls for equestrians to camp with their horse and enjoy viewing wildlife and other activities of the park. 

When starting out and learning about horses and trail riding, it’s important to know the difference in the styles of riding, whether for sport or just for fun.

The two main styles are named after the type of saddle that is used for various equestrian interests: they are Western saddles and English saddles. Let’s take a look at each of these styles and how they benefit both rider and horse.


Western riding

Western saddles originally were made for cowboys. These saddles sit longer and wider across the horse’s back, giving the rider a more comfortable fit for all-day riding. Many riders of horse trails prefer Western riding because of the longevity of the trips. Riders also seem to have more control over the horse during Western riding because they use the shifting of their weight and neck reins to guide the horse. The primary purpose of the horn on Western saddles is for the rider to use when working cattle, not for balance, which is a common misperception.

There are different types of Western saddles suited for different activities and sports, such as barrel racing, western pleasure, roping and cutting, reining and competitive trail classes. Enthusiasts can use any type of saddle no matter the purpose, but some do give the rider an advantage or more comfort in a particular area of sport.

Horses performing in the equestrian show class of western pleasure benefit from this type of saddle because the rider’s weight distribution tells the animal how to present and move a certain way.

English riding

On the flip side, English riding saddles are much smaller and lighter and give the rider closer contact with the horse’s back. Because of this, English riders must learn to control the horse with balance, using the legs and reins to keep steady. Like Western saddles, English saddles are made specifically for certain types of activities, which include eventing, dressage, hunter and jumper sports.

In dressage competition, the horse follows a pattern of movements, changing pace and direction, and therefore receives better direction with a rider using the English saddle. Likewise, when jumping fences or trotting across streams or creeks, English saddles offer the close fit for the rider and horse to know what the other is thinking.

However, with both styles of riding, the position of the rider remains the same. The rider should sit upright, with back straight and legs naturally at the horse’s side. Riders should not lean forward or backward and should keep arms relaxed against their side, not flailing about loosely.

So keep this in mind next time you go riding. Choose the saddle and style that is appropriate for your activities. Maintaining proper care for you and your horse will ensure an enjoyable time for all.