What is the difference between British and American horses?

What is the difference between British and American horses?

There are numerous different riding styles, but western and English are the most prevalent in North America and many other locations. If you’re new to riding, you may be wondering about the distinctions between English and Western riding styles. The basics of each are actually very similar. Yet none is easier to learn than the other, since mastering either requires time, attention, and practice. Yet, here are the main things to consider when taking riding lessons in a certain riding style.


The Western riding style evolved in response to the necessities of cowboys working livestock on horseback. The Western saddle is designed to distribute weight more evenly over the horse’s back, allowing the horse and rider to balance the weight of a roped cow. A Western saddle’s seat is comfortable for extended hours of riding across rugged terrain. While roping cattle, the saddle horn is used to secure the lariat. Saddle strings were used to secure several pieces of equipment required by a working cowboy. Currently, there are several saddle types that may be utilized for various activities such as speed games, equitation, roping, and others.

English riding takes many of its traditions and equipment from European mounted military styles. The saddle has been reduced in size and weight. There are a few versions developed for various disciplines, similar to the western saddle. A newbie who is just getting started may choose an all-purpose saddle. All English saddles are intended to allow the horse to move freely while offering a secure seat for the rider.

English saddle
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Type of Horse

Western horses are compact and capable of traveling steadily all day with short bursts of speed to pursue stray livestock.

English-style horses are taller and leaner, allowing them to go large distances at a range of speeds and leap over a variety of obstacles.

However, some individuals have surprising talents, and a stocky Quarter Horse may surprise you in the dressage ring, while a Thoroughbred might have unexpected “cow sense.” Every rule is subject to exceptions. Regardless of your horse’s breed or type, you may probably find some success in any discipline or riding style.

Quarter Horse
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The gaits of a horse are labeled differently by western and English riders. Generally, an English horse is expected to have a long flowing way of going, with variations of speed, cadence, and collection, while a western horse is expected to travel low, smoothly and very consistently. Below are the distinctions between each gait.

  • Walk: Very similar for both English and Western.
  • Trot/Jog: A jog is a very smooth, comfortable movement that is somewhat quicker than a stroll. The jog is beneficial for tracking livestock herds. Riders jog in place and do not post. Unless a seated trot is necessary in the show ring, the trot is posted in English riding. This is one of the most significant contrasts between English and Western riders. While riding western, a quicker trot is posted or ridden at two points.
  • Canter/Lope: The Western lope is a comfortable, leisurely canter. English riders will learn that the canter can be very elevated, extended, or collected with many variations in speed depending on the specific discipline or style.
An English horse in dressage
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The classic western hat is the most distinguishing feature of western riding. A casual shirt, trousers, and western-style boots round off the appearance. Even while competing, many Western riders choose to wear sporty-looking helmets.

English riders use a hunt hat or helmet in the classic design. A fitted jacket, shirt, jodhpurs or breeches and jodhpur boots or tall boots complete the English rider’s habit.

A woman dressed in English riding attire poses in halter class show position in the meadow with a white Arabian stallion.
 catnap72 / Getty Images

The Basics of What You’ll Need to Know

Neck reining will be taught to western riders. English riders will ride with a rein in each hand and post the trot. If you want to compete, you will need to acquire a variety of abilities. You’ll need to learn to braid or band a mane, pull a tail, and other grooming details depending on what you are competing in.

English and Western Riding Disciplines

After learning the basics of either style, there are many sports you can try. Here are a few examples:


  • Team penning
  • Cutting
  • Reining
  • Speed Games
  • Trail Classes
  • Pleasure and Equitation Classes
  • Roping
  • Trail riding


  • Dressage
  • English or English Country Pleasure
  • Jumping
  • Hunting
  • Mounted Games
  • Polo
  • Hunter Pace

Sports where you may ride in either English or Western style

Some sports allow for either style of riding.

  • Trail riding
  • Endurance racing
  • Competitive trail riding
  • Competitive mounted orienteering
  • Several local open shows include courses that are a combination of English and Western.
Pete Saloutos / Getty Images

Related Questions

  • What are the two types of horses?

    Many people are unaware that all breeds are classified into five categories: draft, light, gaited, warm-blooded, and pony. Each class has distinct physical characteristics and specialities. Draft horses are usually tall, muscular, and hefty. On average they weigh over 1,600 pounds and are 64 inches.

  • Were horses ever native to North America?

    Over millions of years, ancient horses roamed the North American continent. Then, many, many years later, horses played an important part in laying the groundwork for the United States. Yet, horses disappeared from the continent for an unexplained cause at one point in time.

  • What breed of horse did the Native Americans use?

    The Appaloosa, Quarter Horse, Paint Horse, and Spanish Mustang are the most popular Native American horse breeds. Native Americans impacted the majority of current American horse breeds, either directly or indirectly. Horses quickly became a vital component of Native American culture once they were initially obtained by native tribes.

  • What are the 3 most popular breeds of horses in the US?

    What are the Most Popular Horse Breeds?

    1. Quarter Horse in the United States. It’s the most popular breed in the U.S. and with good reason. …
    2. Arabian. …
    3. Thoroughbred. …
    4. Warmblood. …
    5. Morgan. …
    6. Appaloosa. …
    7. Pony. …
    8. Tennessee Walker.

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