Updated: Dec 20, 2019
There are few things that irritate me more than the English/Western divide. The absurd belief that:
A) Wearing an English saddle means you cannot train a western horse and Vice versa.
B) That training a horse in one discipline means that they are somehow restricted to that discipline only.
C) The Goddamn bitchyness!!
A Saddle's a Saddle
Saddles are a frustrating topic for me, fit, style and function are a topic for another post but the main issue with English and Western saddles is usually the people in them! I heard a story recently about a high level Dressage rider scoffing at a western rider and saying 'What would they know, all they do is cowboy riding', I've also heard plenty of Western riders comment on how uptight and 'stressy' the English riding world is. For me, a horse isn't 'labelled' as part of a discipline until several years into their training. Why? Because a good 80% of any horses training is universal. Sure, Reining horses dont need to half pass (that doesnt mean they can't) but Reiners, Jumpers, Hunters and Happy hackers all need brakes, steering, to work from the seat, to work through their backs and so on and so forth. You could take your huge warmblood and train them to Grand prix in a wester saddle if you do so wish. For me, a horse has a solid Foundation, and a decent set of moves before they are part of a discipline. It is in fact this attitude that creates problems in a horse in the first place. Western horses that cant cope with a contact, English horses that accelerate when given a loose rein... if people open their minds then these issues disappear. Take a look at these photos:
All these horses are being ridden in a western saddle, but they are not all 'western horses'. The Grey horse in these photos is Buddy, he has been in Dressage tests AND western classes. I never defined him as any particlular discipline because he simply did as i asked him to do. He could move his shoulers like a reiner but he could canter half pass and change leads. He STILL wasnt an English or Western horse. Eugh!
Restrictions in Training...
The idea that English horses doing Western exercises and vice versa will cause problems is simply laughable. As i said earlier, when people get so stuck on being a 'Dressage rider' or 'Western rider' they limit what their tunnel visioned discipline will allow. This can cause all kinds of problems. It is so important that English horses can deal with a loose rein comfortably, and that Western horses are happy with a contact. One of the best things i ever heard in regards to this was a lady i teach telling me a story about a conversation she had. When asked about her lessons with me, she was contually drilled on what i did, and what i was teaching her. Are they dressage lesson? Western lessons? Does he do Parelli? The ladies answer was perfect. She said 'He's a Horseman, he just rides...'
Last but not least... Dem Bitches!
The divide between the two styles of riding is many things but above all its sad. There are places i go where i am shunned if i wear my chaps or my stetson. Places where the horsemanship is so poor and the horses are practically screaming for help but me and the rest of 'us' are in the wrong because someones friends mums sister saw a demo they didnt like once and the guy wore a cowboy hat. Sadly we all get labelled the same.
It all comes down to one thing that isnt even horsey... If only people could just be kind to each other!