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Discussion on English trainer/Western rider

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New Member
Username: Cpacer

Post Number: 1
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Wednesday, Jan 12, 2005 - 1:19 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I've been a silent observer of this board since getting my horse in November. I read it daily and have taken in a lot of advice (I especially like looking at everyone's profile pics).

Anyway, my new friend is fairly green so I've hired a trainer to work with him alone twice a week until he's at the point where it makes sense to work with both of us. We (horse & I) ride western and are not interested in riding competitively--only trails and arena work for when trails aren't an option. Our trainer practices natural horsemanship and rides dressage, and will be using her dressage saddle while doing initial training (maybe a month or two). Will this create any confusion? My thinking is that it's fine for getting the fundamentals down--responding to the seat, queues, not bucking, etc. Do you think it's okay for me to ride him in between their sessions or would that interfere with what he's being taught by the professional versus what I might do (until I get trained with him)? Casually speaking when horses are defined as western, english, or both, what does that REALLY mean?

A few questions in there but I'd appreciate any thoughts...
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Username: Sunny66

Post Number: 633
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Wednesday, Jan 12, 2005 - 3:40 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I strongly believe that lower levels of dressage is the perfect discipline for all horses, no matter whether the horse will be used for cross country, hunter, jumper, western, trail, endurance, etc....As for you riding the horse/confusing the horse during it's training I would just ask your trainer and Enjoy!!

edited to say:

Christos may correct me here...but Classical dressage stresses the horse going forward, working from the hind end and reaching for the bit. If this is the training your horse is receiving...all should be fabulous (;)
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Fran Cilella
Username: Canter

Post Number: 170
Registered: 1-2000
Posted on Thursday, Jan 13, 2005 - 8:32 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I agree with Aileen--I know several very accomplished riders that used dressage to enhance their seat and their horses training for western riding. The three basic principles of dressage are looseness, submission and swing (very loosely translated from German--the German language has "better" words that describe these more adaquately). Any horse can greatly benefit from training built on this foundation.

I would discuss the confusion issue with the trainer since I am uncertain as to how green your horse is. I always worried about confusion with my mare as she is way better trained than I and I was worried that I would "un-train" her with my lack of skill. I was reassured that I would not hurt her training and indeed this has proven to be true. When someone with talent gets on her, she immediately responds like a pro...but she's an older horse (14) with many years of quality training.

Good luck!
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Cheryl Anderson
Username: Canderso

Post Number: 247
Registered: 3-2000
Posted on Thursday, Jan 13, 2005 - 9:09 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

What a GREAT question!!!

I have absolutely NO knowledge of western training but with the arrival of a western rider in our barn, a lot of questions have come to mind. More specifically:

1) Isn't the bit used differently? A snaffle is very different than a curb...when does western introduce the curb?
2) Aren't riders' legs used differently in giving the aides?
3) Doesn't western start with rein-back as a way to encourage working from the hind end? (A rein-back is NOT a movement you would ask in basic training.)
4) Moving into advanced stuff, doesn't a spin in reining want that hind foot to be planted? (A correct pirouette has all four feet continuing to move in the gait.)

(I just LOVE these philosophical posts!!!)

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Username: Redmare

Post Number: 48
Registered: 9-2004
Posted on Thursday, Jan 13, 2005 - 10:01 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

That's right Cheryl, Western and English are not just tack, they are vastly different styles of riding. Within those broad categories, you have numerous sub-styles.

The biggest difference that I've noticed, in general, is the way the aids are used. In Western riding, you have a drape in the rein, your legs relaxed, and you only cue when you want a change; the idea is for the horse to carry himself in a straight line, on a circle, whatever, till asked to do something else. Horses trained this way are VERY responsive because they're not used to being cued constantly. In English riding, you are on contact all the time, light pressure on the reins following the horse's movement, legs on and asking for bend, etc., all the time. Western horses do many of their maneuvers "straight from nose to tail" while in English there is a heavy emphasis on bend.

Your instructors may do things differently -- what I've described is my experience. Some instructors who are experienced in only one style, in an attempt to be "versatile," will apply the same logic to both disciplines so you'll have Western in an English saddle or English in a Western saddle, or some combination of the two. Confused yet?

So to answer the poster's question, at the bare bones basic level it's not terribly important what style you teach the horse, so long as he goes forward, turns left and right, and stops. This may be all the rider needs for trails and fun stuff.
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Christos Axis
Username: Christos

Post Number: 573
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Thursday, Jan 13, 2005 - 11:08 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I have never used a western saddle and I hardly know a thing about western riding, so I can't really comment on this.
There may be things in each style (English/Western) that will be undesirable in the other, I really do not know.
As for riding the horse during his training, cp, you have to. As he becomes more and more sensitive in your trainer's hands, you have a chance to adjust to it. You'll dull him a bit with every session, but your trainer is there to reajust him as necessary.
This way, both yours and your horse's skills are honed to perfection.
On the other hand, if your trainer fine-tunes the horse, hands him over to you and leaves, the horse will adjust to your dull skills very very fast and all your trainer's work will be lost.
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Linda Lashley
Username: Lhenning

Post Number: 50
Registered: 6-2003
Posted on Thursday, Jan 13, 2005 - 2:04 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

At the stable where I took lessons, there were several horses that were taught both styles. They do have the ability to discern between the tack and adapt their movements accordingly.

I ride only Western, but as a novice I have spent many hours reading and learning all I can about riding and horses. So much written information is out there regarding dressage and English riding that I found myself picking up and using the style and discipline in my Western riding. That may sound like I'm confused (maybe I am), but it has helped me be 1. better balanced 2. to use my seat and legs rather than relying on reins for control 3. to develop better rhythm. Those are important skills in both disciplines.

I also spend time watching Western style videos and that is where my goals lie, but there is always something to be gained from learning both sides. You might want to try learning some of the English skills to help you understand your horse better. IMO switching between styles might be confusing in higher levels, but at the beginning stages it seems like a good basis of education.


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Username: Cpacer

Post Number: 2
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Thursday, Jan 13, 2005 - 3:22 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thank you for everyone's feedback! All very interesting, especially the emphasis on riding during training (can't imagine all that going down the tubes). I've been reading many books too, almost to the point where I'm over-thinking stuff. The one that resonates the most with me is the Mary Wanless (recommended by HorseAdvice people) in regards to how much of everything else is controlled from your mid-section alone, which probably applies across the board. It sounds like there's not too much difference to the horse if you're in a western or english saddle, guess I was thinking there was different pressure or something.

Our trainer has been great so far, starting from the ground up and emphasizing how smart the horse is (guess that's what makes me nervous in not wanting to "ruin" him). I've found my horse to be very forgiving though, and feel that once he trusts me completely we'll be best buddies. Sometimes I swear he can read my mind when we're having one of those super tuned-in days, but he sure knows what he can get away with...
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Holly Wood
Username: Hwood

Post Number: 539
Registered: 3-2001
Posted on Thursday, Jan 13, 2005 - 3:52 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I recommend that you watch your trainer ride as often as it is possible for you to do so . . . not only ride, but watch her work and cue the horse from the ground. Training is just lots of repetition and consistancy and reward . . . a good trainer will do just that. In my experience, I have found that I can train a horse to do what I ask, but unless I train the owner/rider, too, the training can easily go "down the drain."
It won't hurt your horse for you to ride in between the times the trainer rides, because if she is consistent with her cues, the horse will understand and respond to her and come back to it's previous level of training, but it will be best for you and for your horse if you get trained along with the horse.
As far as the difference between western riding and english riding . . . no difference if you are using a balanced seat approach . . . especially with a dressage saddle which rides with a longer stirrup similar to western. If the cues are given to the horse in the same place (thinking of heel and lower leg, here), in the same way, and praise is given after the correct response to the cue, you will just be reinforcing your trainer's training . . . I hope I am being clear here . . .
If your horse is green, I assume he is being ridden in a snaffle, and you can ride the same way in a western saddle with a snaffle . . . gradually, as the horse becomes better trained, he will respond to the indirect rein/neck rein, and if you feel it necessary, you can move to a curb bit for neck reining . . . but I would not make the move until you get excellent response to the neck rein with the snaffle first. The rider's control is more limited with a curb, unless the horse's mind has been finely-tuned to light requests of the snaffle.
Hmmmm . . . I hope this makes sense to you. Ask for clarification if it seems confusing.
It would be wonderful for horses if all the novice owners/riders were as concerned and thoughtful as you are.
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Username: Cpacer

Post Number: 3
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Thursday, Jan 13, 2005 - 4:19 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thanks Holly, I do plan on receiving training together and I just love to watch her work with him. Double-edge sword of finally being able to afford my own horse is my commitment to Corporate America too, but I take fragments of vacation days to take part in the education.

Yes, he's in a D-ring snaffle with a fun little copper ball in the middle. He was in a Tom Thumb bit when I "test rode" him and I could tell he hated it. Against the advice of the seller it was the first thing I changed and boy what a difference. You couldn't catch him with his mouth closed or holding still before. We'll baby-step to the curb, afterall we have 25-30 more years together!

ps. you have one of my favorite pics!
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Holly Wood
Username: Hwood

Post Number: 540
Registered: 3-2001
Posted on Thursday, Jan 13, 2005 - 4:51 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Your perception with horses is a gift . . . I am glad you ended up adding one to your life . . . I have a feeling that the "one" will grow to include more as time progresses.

Not everyone is as perceptive as you when it comes to horses' responses to the Tom Thumb. A trainer I worked with in Colorado always started his polo horses in a Tom Thumb . . . yet, he couldn't understand why his horses always stiffened their necks and threw their heads . . . so in true polo fashion, he tried correcting it by tighter martingales, draw reins and stronger signals on the reins . . . The really sensitive horses (and most of his were Thoroughbreds off the track) won't bow to it . . . and end up with stiffened backs and sore legs. I loved doing the retraining in a snaffle, to get the horses to come down softly with their noses, but as I said, unless I could train the rider, too, the training went down the drain . . . and he was my boss . . . soooo . . .

In a private discussion, one of the HA members, Terri Haynie, directed me to an article on the Tom Thumb at: I believe you will find it fascinating, and it will affirm your feelings about your horse's response.

I'm glad you like the pic . . . one of my favorites, although I really need to update that profile.
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Kim Glaza
Username: Kckohles

Post Number: 39
Registered: 7-2000
Posted on Friday, Jan 14, 2005 - 12:51 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post


Ride, ride, ride. That is your horse and it really doesn't matter how great the trainer can ride him because it isn't her horse. The more time you spend in the saddle the better. Experiencing things and finding places where you are challenged is where your trainer will be able to help you the most. You need to build a relationship with your horse and that is where the focus of your "training" should be. Your trainer can help you figure out where you and your horse are not communicating effectively. Having your horse ridden by the trainer is good but don't worry about "ruining" him.
In my opinion there is almost no difference between english and western if they are being ridden correctly. Granted that isn't always the case.

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Cara Rathsack
Username: Cacherm

Post Number: 3
Registered: 8-2004
Posted on Friday, Jan 14, 2005 - 2:59 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

So true, it's your horse. Just remember that you don't have to have a perfect ride all the time. The horse always believes what you asked if it was wrong or new was a mistake, your automatically forgiven! I try to tell myself that when riding. Both English and Western are so much fun, I've been riding and competing in both for 5+ years, I learned English first like you. One of the main differences between English and Western is that is has a longer stride than Western, it's not "faster". One of the tips that I have taken from my past lessons and training is to use different bits for each discipline including trail riding. I you are using a snaffle now for Western and English try something like a Kimberwiecke (spelling?) for English. It's very similar to a curb but still very different that he will be able to tell the difference. Your conversion to the curb may go more smoothly. I did a lot of ground work before that ever happened also. Using different bits, the horse will know what to expect. You are going to have to learn to communicate with your horse AND learn how to listen back. If you stop listening when your horse is talking, there will be no more conversations. If you are having a hard time with a cue, stop, and go back to something easier that you both know and work on that. Then go back and try again. My horse has such a temper that when he is frustrated he absolutely loses it! It will take time, and just let it be a fun learning experience for both of you!
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