What is Western horse riding? - Travel Tips

Taking a dude ranch vacation? Learn about Western riding and hear a beginner's take on what it's like to ride Western style.

by Darley Newman

Many people who are new to horseback riding wonder about differences between English and Western riding. In our Equitrekking Great American Ranches TV special, we explored the Western style of riding, which you may encounter if you visit an American dude ranch, guest ranch or take a trail riding vacation.

The below video delves into the Western style of riding and interviews some travelers who have tried it for the first time while on a ranch vacation. The video transcript is below. Find your ranch vacation match by searching for great dude ranch vacation destinations in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide.



Western Riding and Ranch Vacations Video Transcript

DARLEY NEWMAN: Many ranches in the United States have horses that are trained in the Western style of riding and use western style tack as opposed to the English style, which is also common in the United States. Western saddles are usually heavier saddles with the big horn on front and a deep seat. That deep seat can help you feel more secure in the saddle.

The horn was traditionally helpful when working cattle and separating out other animals from a herd. Once a cowboy roped an animal, the rope could be wrapped or tied around the horn to secure it.

Western riders traditionally keep the reins in one hand and do something called neck reining to guide the horse. Many horses are trained to move away from pressure on their necks. This one handed riding method goes back to a time when cowboys rode the range and needed a free hand to rope cattle and perform other tasks. If you travel to a modern ranch to ride, you’ll find people of all ages and levels of riding from all over the world, and many horses that are used to novice riders.

ANGELA: My first time riding in America, so straight away, I said to Eddie. Eddie, I’m not an experienced Western rider. Don’t worry, he said, cause he’d been watching me riding. He said I’m putting you on my champion horse and I thought, my God, what are you doing, you know. Anyway, he said you’ll be fine on him, because he could see that I was light with my hands and um, as I say, we got on straight away.

KEN: Guests first come. They’re a little apprehensive. Ah, they are going to do something that’s unknown to them and it’s like everything else. Every kind of an adventure. The longer you’re at it, the more comfortable you become. I think that also you strike up great friendships. We find that people become friends instead of guests over the years we sit and visit for hours about old guests or different places we’ve been or different places we’re going to go see. It’s ah. It’s a phenomenal experience. They do. They really become close friends and we correspond with them for years.

DARLEY: There are many ways to explore North America’s wild spaces, including saddling up at a traditional or modern ranches. Wherever you end up, take advantage of your time in the great outdoors and the peacefulness nature can evoke if you sit back to enjoy the ride.

Learn more about great places to saddle up to ride Western, including dude ranches, guest ranches, working ranches and cattle drives in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide.