What is ?
Most of us have an idea of , at least in part based on watching Hollywood movies. As with all types of , there is a fascinating history behind the of . But, most importantly it is born out of the need to get a job done and that was to move and horses over distances on varied terrain. While you might imagine this is fast-paced work, for the most part, it is slow and careful, to maintain the value of they must arrive in good condition.
While the work is slow and considered the and need to be quick and agile to keep the herd together, to sort , catch them using ropes etc. From this need for fast agility, we see the various western disciplines today.
Western horses need to be comfortable to and reliable, if the rancher needs to jump off to deal with something he needs his to stand and wait, a rancher will use his to rope a cow etc. For this work based , a can not 'micro manage' his and needs to have free hands for other tasks. to free up the roping arm is essential, using a is on a loose rein with one hand, where the rein touches the to signal direction, the mostly takes his cues from the riders body weight and leg aids.
While there are many similarities with , is much more than a change of and clothing.
The terminology and form for the 's gaits are different, as we want them to travel low and very consistently for it to be comfortable over many hours and different terrains.
Jog: this is a slow, relaxed and smooth gait perfect for work. A will typically to sit to this and not rise. There are of course extended trots and working trots where the would rise or unlike rising , they will post staying just out of the .
: as with the jog this is slower and smoother than the canter, for the same reasons. The can become quite exaggerated in some competition settings.
Many western riders own a that has been bred for his ability to achieve these paces, but any breed of can learn western.
By now you will be sensing a theme - comfort! This also applies to western . The distributes weight more evenly to allow and to balance the weight of a roped cow. The position and seat also support a working to remain comfortable on long hard days.
The horn exists for a practical purpose to anchor a lariat when roping and there are various strings and rings to allow the to attach all of his gear. Saddles have evolved to support specific disciplines, a would be quite different from an equitation while still being easily recognisable as a .
- Horn - The horn their purpose is to secure one end of a rope while the other end is on a cow, or calf but also handy when getting on or off or for attaching saddlebags.
- Pommel - the same terminology as an though also known as fork or swells.
- Seat - Where the sits when .
- Cantle - The back of the seat.
- Latigo Keeper - this is to tidy away the end of the latigo.
- Latigo - used to secure the front cinch to the .
- Cinch - equivalent to the girth but attaches to the latigo.
- Fenders - the leather piece that attaches the saddle to the stirrup
- Stirrup hobble - an important safety feature to prevent the stirrup from flipping over
- Stirrup - provide security and help with rider balance
Western Bits and Bridles
is mostly associated with the curb bit, of which there are various designs, whatever the design the principle is that these are a leverage bit rather than direct pressure as a snaffle would be. Western horses will start in a snaffle bit before progressing to a curb or leverage bit.
The is quite different too, quite often without a throatlatch or noseband or browband. designs vary but quite often the aim is to get your so well trained that he needs very little fuss on his head or the .
Another iconic piece of equipment associated with western is the hackamore, the hackamore is a signal tool meaning that it has no leverage. With no leverage, the is looking to your body position and rein cue to perform.
As previously mentioned has evolved into the competitions that we see today (though there are still plenty of people still using this method of to manage today).
Cutting, , and reining demonstrate the agility, athleticism and quick thinking needed of a and . shows how these horses can navigate obstacles with ease. Rodeo has very obvious roots in cow and work. Showmanship highlights the partnership between and handler on the ground.
evolved from taking your finest into town or to get you to church on Sunday in your fanciest outfit, if you find fashion limiting, you'll love western fashion.
In recent years , and classes have become popular in an effort to get back to the roots of this .
Take a look at our 101 articles to learn more about each class.
What should I wear for ?
For leisure you will need a pair of boots (there is a difference between boots for dancing and boots for !), a comfortable pair of jeans and shirt. While we love hats, be aware these are not safety hats. Chaps are useful for where you may need protection from prickly bushes.
If you are taking part in a western competition then the outfits vary by the type of class. Boots are always a must and chaps will complete the look. Shirts are good for , cutting, classes and trail. Fancy classes such as or showmanship call for a little (or a lot) of bling, these include sparkling blouses, vests and jackets.
If you are competing and want to wear a hat then get the best one you can afford, there are a lot of cheap ones out there but they won't look in the show ring.
Where can you learn ?
We are fortunate in the UK to have western trainers located throughout the country who can teach you western on your own , if there isn't one local you will find that some trainers travel so it's worth reaching out to them even if they seem to far away.
To have lessons on a school you should look for a registered school, there are fewer of these around the country, so you may need to travel but it is worth it.
Below you can find our directory of trainers, coaches and tack stores 👇
The UK western community is very supportive and welcoming. Alongside the amateur and professional riders are coaches, trainers and member associations. Between them, they organise a variety of clinics and shows, ensure that trainers meet specific standards and provide other support to riders.