Western Horseback Riding Basics

If you've ever been horseback riding or wanted to go, it's important to know the Western horseback riding basics first. The Western style is by far the easiest method and is the most common for beginners to learn. Western riding is generally identified by the type of saddle. The Western saddle has a large horn, also called a pommel, in front where a rope can be looped. Whether you want to take up Western horseback riding as a hobby or just want to know the basics for the occasional trail ride, there are some things you should know.

Things you'll need:

  • Boots with heels
  • Appropriate saddle with pommel
  • Reins
  • Horse
  1. You must wear the proper clothing. In Western riding this usually means jeans and a boot with a heel. It's important that the boots have heels because if for some reason the horse spooks and throws its rider, the heel will prevent the rider from being caught in the stirrup and pulled along behind the horse. Traditionally, riders do not wear a helmet, but it is encouraged for safety reasons.
  2. The main difference between Western horseback riding, English or other styles is the equipment used. Western riding uses a larger saddle with a large pommel in front which can be used both for maintaining balance and holding a rope. The reins are also different, usually consisting of two long strands as opposed to other styles which use a connected rein.
  3. Western riding uses different gaits than the English style. Horses have four natural gaits or speeds. The walk is a four-beat gait, the trot is a two-beat gait, the canter is a three-beat gait and the gallop is a fast four-beat gait. Western riding substitutes the trot and canter with the jog and the lope, which are essentially the same gait with a shorter stride.
  4. The basic Western horseback riding technique isn't very different from other styles. You will use your legs and heels to gently give the horse cues and your hands will also communicate with the horse through the reins. Depending on the horse you're riding, it may only require a gentle tap with your heels or squeeze with your legs to get them going. Some horses have a tender mouth and you'll want to be gentle on the reins unless you really want to put on the brakes.
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