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Encyclopedia > Western riding
Western riding is shown in this sculpture, "Great Western Tradition," by Doug Israelsen

Western riding evolved from the cattle-working and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and both equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West. American cowboys needed to work long hours in the saddle over rough terrain, sometimes needing to rope cattle with a lariat (or lasso). Because of the necessity to control the horse with one hand and use the lariat with the other, western horses were trained to neck rein, that is, to change direction with light pressure of a rein against the horse's neck. Horses were also trained to exercise a certain degree of independence in using their natural instincts to follow the movements of a cow, thus a riding style developed that emphasized a deep, secure seat, and training methods encouraged a horse to be responsive on very light rein contact. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1792x1344, 738 KB) The statue Great Western Tradition by Doug Israelsen in front of the American Quarter Horse Association museum in Amarillo, Texas. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1792x1344, 738 KB) The statue Great Western Tradition by Doug Israelsen in front of the American Quarter Horse Association museum in Amarillo, Texas. ... Conquistador (Spanish: kōn-kē-stŏ-dōr) (meaning Conqueror in the Spanish language) is the term used to refer to the soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas and Asia Pacific under Spanish colonial rule between the 15th and 17th centuries, starting with the 1492 settlement... For other uses, see Cowboy (disambiguation). ... The Western United States, also referred to as the American West or simply The West, traditionally refers to the region constituting the westernmost states of the United States (see geographical terminology section for further discussion of these terms). ... A lasso is a loop of rope that is designed to be thrown around a target and tighten when pulled. ... Lariat redirects here. ... A horse responds to neck rein techniques when it has learnt that a light pressure of the right rein against its neck on that side means for the horse to turn left, and a light pressure of the other rein against its neck on the left side means for the...

Note: "Western Riding" is also the name for a specific type of event within western competition where a horse performs a pattern that combines trail and reining elements.

Contents

Tack and equipment

A western-style bridle with a browband and decorative snaffle bit
A western saddle

The needs of the cowboy's job required different tack than was used in "English" disciplines. Covering long distances, and working with half-wild cattle, frequently at high speeds in very rough, brushy terrain, meant the ever-present danger of a rider becoming unseated in an accident miles from home and support. Thus, the most noticeable equipment difference is in the saddle, which has a heavy and substantial tree (traditionally made of wood) to absorb the shock of roping. The western saddle features a prominent pommel surmounted by a horn (a big knob for snubbing the lasso after roping an animal), a deep seat and a high cantle. Depending on the local geography, tapaderos ("taps") cover the front of the stirrups to prevent brush from catching in the stirrups. The cowboy's boots, which have pointed toes, higher heels than a traditional boot slightly sloped under the foot, are designed to prevent the rider's foot from slipping through the stirrup during a fall, preventing the rider being dragged. To allow for communication with the horse even with a loose rein, the bridle also evolved. Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 225 × 598 pixelsFull resolution (797 × 2119 pixel, file size: 98 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Snaffle Western riding Metadata This file... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 225 × 598 pixelsFull resolution (797 × 2119 pixel, file size: 98 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Snaffle Western riding Metadata This file... Image File history File linksMetadata No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File linksMetadata No higher resolution available. ... Tack is any of the various accessories worn by horses in the course of their use as domesticated animals. ... A saddle is a seat for a rider fastened to an animals back. ... A Western Saddle Western Saddles are saddles used in — or based on the ones used in — cattle ranching in the United States. ...

Detail of a western curb bit
A set of romal style reins
A set of split reins

The biggest difference between "English" and "Western" bridles is the bit. Most "Western" horses are expected to eventually perform in a curb bit with a single pair of reins that has somewhat longer and looser shanks than the curb of an English Weymouth bridle or a pelham bit. Two styles of Western reins developed: The long split reins of the Texas tradition, which are completely separated, or the closed-end "Romal" reins of the California tradition, which have a long single attachment on the ends that can be used as a quirt. Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 358 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (1169 × 1955 pixel, file size: 132 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Bit shank Western riding Metadata This... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 358 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (1169 × 1955 pixel, file size: 132 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Bit shank Western riding Metadata This... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 249 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (787 × 1895 pixel, file size: 80 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Whip Western riding Metadata This file... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 249 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (787 × 1895 pixel, file size: 80 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Whip Western riding Metadata This file... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 271 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (945 × 2091 pixel, file size: 161 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Rein Western riding Metadata This file... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 271 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (945 × 2091 pixel, file size: 161 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Rein Western riding Metadata This file... A curb bit is a type of bit used for riding that uses leverage. ... A pelham is a type of bit, consisting of a mouthpiece, a shank, a curb chain, 2 rein rings per side on the shank, and one cheekpiece ring on the top of the shank. ... A quirt is a forked type of stock whip which usually has two thongs at the end (like the tails on some tawses). ...


Though the differences in equipment appear dramatic, fewer differences between "English" and Western riding exist than most people think. Both styles require riders to have a solid seat, with the hips and shoulders balanced over the feet, with hands independent of the seat so as to avoid jerking the horse in the mouth and interfering with its performance.


The clothing of the Western rider differs from that of the dressage or "English" rider. Practical Western attire consists of a long-sleeved work shirt, denim jeans, boots, and a wide-brimmed hat. Usually a rider wears protective leather leggings called "chaps" (pronounced with a soft "s" sound--from the Spanish chaparajos) to help the rider stick to the saddle and to protect the legs when riding through brush. Clean, well-fitting work clothing is the usual outfit seen in rodeo, cutting and reining competitions, especially for men, though sometimes in brighter colors or finer fabrics. Chaps are sturdy leather coverings for the legs. ... Steer roping Rodeo is an outgrowth of Mexican bullfighting. ... Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a calf away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time. ... Reining is a Western horseback riding competition. ...


Other events may use flashier equipment. Unlike the English traditions where clothing and tack is quiet and unobtrusive, Western show equipment is intended to draw attention. Saddles, bits and bridles are frequently ornamented with substantial amounts of silver. The rider's shirt is often replaced with a jacket, and women's clothing in particular may feature vivid colors and even, depending on current fads, rhinestones or sequins. Hats and chaps are often color-coordinated, spurs and belt buckles are often silver-plated, and women's scarf pins and, when worn, men's bolo ties are also ornamented with silver or even semi-precious gemstones. A bola tie or bolo tie is a type of necktie consisting of a piece of cord fastened with an ornamental bar or clasp. ...


Western horse show competition

Competition for western riders exist in the following forms:

  • Western pleasure - the rider must show the horse together with other horses in an arena at a walk, jog (a slow, controlled trot), and lope (a slow, controlled canter). In some breed competitions, a judge may ask for a hand gallop, and (rarely) an extended trot. The horse must remain under control on a loose rein, with low head carriage, the rider directing the horse with nearly invisible aids and minimal interference.
  • Reining - considered by some the "dressage" of the western riding world, with FEI-recognized status as a new international discipline at the World Equestrian Games, reining requires horse and rider to perform a precise pattern consisting of circles at a lope and gallop with flying changes of lead, rapid "spins" (a turn in one spot on the haunches), "rollbacks" (a rapid turn immediately followed by a gallop in the opposite direction) and the crowd-pleasing sliding stop (executed from a full gallop).
  • Cutting - this event highlights the "cow sense" prized in stock horses. The horse and rider select and separate a cow (or steer) out of small herd of 10-20 animals. The cow inevitably tries to return to its herdmates; the rider loosens the reins and leaves it entirely to the horse to keep the cow from returning to the herd, a job the best horses do with relish, savvy, and style. Depending on the level of competition, one to three judges award points to each competitor.
  • Team penning: a timed event in which a team of 3 riders must select 3 to 5 marked steers out of a herd and drive them into a small pen. The catch: riders cannot close the gate to the pen till they have corralled all the cattle (and only the intended cattle) inside. The fastest team wins, and teams exceeding a given time limit are disqualified.
  • Trail class: in this event, the rider has to maneuver the horse through an obstacle course in a ring. Horses must cross bridges, logs and other obstacles; stand quietly while a rider waves a flapping object around the horse; move sideways, often with front and rear feet on either side or a rail; make 90 and 180 degree turns while moving backwards, open and close a gate while mounted, and other maneuvers relevant (distantly) to everyday ranch or trail riding. While speed isn't judged, horses have a limited amount of time to complete each obstacle and can be penalized for refusing an obstacle or exceeding the allotted time.
  • Halter - also sometimes called "conformation" or "breeding" classes, the conformation of the horse is judged, with emphasis on the both the movement and build of the horse. The horse is not ridden, but is led, shown in a halter by a handler controlling the horse from the ground using a lead rope.
  • Halter Showmanship, also called (depending on region, breed, and rule book followed) Showmanship at Halter, Youth Showmanship, Showmanship in-hand or Fitting and Showmanship - In showmanship classes the performance of the handler is judged, as well as the cleanliness and grooming of horse, equipment and handler, with the behavior of the horse also considered part of the handler's responsibility. The competitor is judged on his or her ability to present the halter horse to its best advantage. The horse is taken through a short pattern where the horse and handler must set up the horse correctly at a standstill and exhibit full control while at a walk, jog, turning and in more advanced classes, pivoting and backing up. Clothing of the handlers tend to parallel that of western pleasure competition. Halters are leather ornamented with silver. Showmanship classes are particularly popular with children who do not yet have the skill or confidence to succeed in riding events, but also can be some of the largest and most competitive classes at the highest levels of show competition.

Western Pleasure is an equestrian show event that tests a the suitability of the horse for appropriate gait cadence and speed, along with suitable disposition traits. ... The trot is a gait of the horse where the diagonal pairs of legs move forwards at the same time, a diagonal gait. ... Horse gaits are the different methods by which a horse, either naturally or through human training, moves itself. ... Reining is a Western horseback riding competition. ... An upper-level dressage competitor performing an extended trot Dressage (a French term meaning training) is a path and destination of competitive horse training, with competitions held at all levels from amateur to the Olympics. ... The Fédération Equestre Internationale (commonly known as the FEI, or informally in English as the International Equestrian Federation) is the international governing body of equestrian (horse) sports. ... The World Equestrian Games are the world championship for Equestrianism, administrered by the Fédération Equestre Internationale. ... The flying change is a movement performed by a horse in which he changes leads at the canter. ... Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a calf away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Ranching. ... Trail riding is riding on trails as opposed to riding on roads or courses. ... A horse being shown at halter Halter is a term used to describe a type of horse show class where horses are shown in hand, meaning that they are led, not ridden, and are judged on their conformation and suitability as breeding stock. ... See Equine conformation ... Horse wearing a halter. ... A competitor showing her Arabian in a 4-H showmanship class. ...

Western Equitation

Western equitation (sometimes called western horsemanship, stock seat equitation, or, in some classes, reining seat equitation) competitions are judged at the walk, jog, and lope in both directions. Riders must sit to the jog and never post. A riders equitation is her/his ability to ride correctly with a strong, supple position and effective aids. ... The trot is a gait of the horse where the diagonal pairs of legs move forwards at the same time, a diagonal gait. ... Horse gaits are the different methods by which a horse, either naturally or through human training, moves itself. ...


In a Western equitation class a rider may be asked to perform a test or pattern, used to judge the rider's position and control of horse. Tests may be as simple as jogging in a circle or backing up, or as complex as a full reining pattern, and may include elements such as transitions from halt to lope or lope to halt, sliding stops, a figure-8 at the lope with simple or flying change of lead, serpentines at the lope with flying changes, the rein back, a 360 degree or greater spin or pivot, and the rollback. Riding aids are the cues a rider gives to a horse to communicate what they want the animal to do. ... The rein-back is a dressage term to indicate the four-beat movement in which a horse is asked to back up. ... Reining is a Western horseback riding competition. ... The flying change is a movement performed by a horse in which he changes leads at the canter. ...


Riders must use a western saddle and a curb bit, and may only use one hand to hold the reins while riding. Two hands are allowed if the horse is ridden in a snaffle bit or hackamore, which are only permitted for use on "junior" horses, defined differently by various breed associations, but usually referring to horses four or five years of age and younger. Horses are not allowed to wear a noseband or cavesson, nor any type of protective boot or bandage, except during some tests that require a reining pattern. A curb bit is a type of bit used for riding that uses leverage. ... Snaffle bit. ... A hackamore is a shank-based bridle for a horse. ... A noseband is the part of a horses bridle that encircles the nose. ...


Riders are allowed two different styles of reins: 1) split reins, which are not attached to one another, and thus the rider is allowed to place one finger between the reins to aid in making adjustments; and 2) "romal reins," which are joined together and have a romal (a type of long quirt) on the end, which the rider holds in their non-reining hand, with at least 16 inches of slack between the two, and the rider is not allowed to place a finger between the reins.


The correct position for this discipline, as in all forms of riding, is a balanced seat. This is seen when a bystander can run an imaginary straight line that passes through the rider's ear, shoulder, hip, and heel. This means the rider's feet and legs must hang directly in balance so that the heel hits this line, with heels down. The rider should also be sitting as straight as possible, but with their hips under their body, sitting firmly on their seat bones, not sitting on one's crotch with an arched back. The rider should have their weight sunk into their seat and distributed through their legs. The rider's shoulders should be rolled back and their chin up to show that they are looking forward.


The western style is seen in a long stirrup length, often longer than even that used by dressage riders, an upright posture (equitation riders are never to lean forward beyond a very slight inclination), and the distinctive one-handed hold on the reins. The reining hand should be bent at the elbow, held close to the rider's side, and centered over the horse's neck, usually within an inch of the saddle horn. Due to the presence of the saddle horn, a true straight line between rider's hand and horse's mouth is usually not possible. Common faults of western riders include slouching, hands that are too high or too low, and poor position, particularly a tendency to sit on the horse as if they were sitting in a chair, with their feet stuck too far forward. While this "feet on the dashboard" style is used by rodeo riders to stay on a bucking horse, it is in practice an ineffective way to ride. An upper-level dressage competitor performing an extended trot Dressage (a French term meaning training) is a path and destination of competitive horse training, with competitions held at all levels from amateur to the Olympics. ...


See also

Steer roping Rodeo is an outgrowth of Mexican bullfighting. ... For other uses, see Cowboy (disambiguation). ... Western Pleasure is an equestrian show event that tests a the suitability of the horse for appropriate gait cadence and speed, along with suitable disposition traits. ... A riders equitation is her/his ability to ride correctly with a strong, supple position and effective aids. ... A Western Saddle Western Saddles are saddles used in — or based on the ones used in — cattle ranching in the United States. ... Reining is a Western horseback riding competition. ... Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a calf away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time. ... A horse being shown at halter Halter is a term used to describe a type of horse show class where horses are shown in hand, meaning that they are led, not ridden, and are judged on their conformation and suitability as breeding stock. ... A competitor showing her Arabian in a 4-H showmanship class. ... The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) is the national governing body for most equestrian sports in the United States, including dressage, driving, endurance riding, eventing, hunt seat equitation, hunter, jumper, paralympic, reining, roadster, saddleseat equitation, vaulting, and western riding. ... The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), based in Amarillo, Texas, is an international organization dedicated to the preservation, improvement and record-keeping of the American Quarter Horse, a breed of horses known throughout the globe for endurance, performance, conformation, and pedigree. ...

External links

  • American Quarter Horse Association
  • United States Equestrian Federation

 
 

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