Horse Riding Terminology & Saddles (Let's Refresh!)

By Felicia West & Kwase Hjulstrom

Riding Terminology and Saddles

Anybody who is new to horse riding knows that there's a big learning curve when it comes to all the different words and terms commonly used. 

In this article we will be covering some riding terminology that may be new to you, as well as the main differences between Western and English tack.

Let's Start with the basic terms.

How many of you knew there was actually a term for the way one moved up and down when riding a horse in trot? Strange I know... but there is, and its called Posting! A Posting Trot is when you raise and lower your seat in rhythm to your horses two-beat trot. It makes the trot smoother and generally more comfortable for both you and your horse so long as you have the muscle to perform it correctly. I bet your thinking now, well what is a trot? A trot, A two-beat speed, this is kind of like jogging for a horse. Like people, some horses have a slow "jog" and others prefer a faster "jog". You can slow down and speed up your horses trot just like you can a walk or a canter. Now, Have we have really gone to fast? What is a canter? and not to confused with a Gallop (which I think all non-horse riders believe is happening when a horse is going faster than a trot) A canter, is  three-beat speed which is generally faster than a trot, but not always. This is comparable to running for a person. A gallop, is a four-beat speed, this is as fast as a horse can go! This is like a person sprinting. It's what you see racehorses do during a race.

Now that we have the basics down, lets look at some other terms.

Leads: When you're cantering, one of the horses front legs is going to go further forward, that's your lead. You always want your lead to be on the inside of your circle when riding as it keeps the horse better balanced. There is a more subtle lead when trotting, which matters when you're posting (see below).

Lead: This is a term used to indicate the horse's leading leg in canter for example you might hear "Pick up your right lead canter, or land in your left lead."

Lead changes: (See above) This is a term used to establish how skilled one's horse is at completing these changes automatically. "Phury's lead changes are great!" 

Leg yield: This is a lateral movement in which a horse travels both forward and sideways at the same time. This can be either right or left.

Sitting trot: This is an action in which the rider sits in their seat while the horse is in trot. 

Halt: This term is use to bring one's horse to a stop

Half-Halt: A command used to communicate to the horse that the rider is about to ask for some change of direction or gait, or other exercise or movement. (this term is up for debate, some trainers use some don't )

On the bit: A horse is  "on the bit" when he carries his head in a near vertical position.

Inside leg: The legs of horse and rider which are on the inside of any circle or curved track being travelled. 

Lunging: Training a horse by working it in the various paces on a circle using a long longe or lunge rein. "Patty, have you lunged your horse today?" New riders often have their first lessons on the lunge line as they learn the basics of position, this is so they don't have to worry about controlling the horse.

Shoulder-in: Two-track movement in which the horse is evenly bent along the length of its spine away from the direction in which it is moving.

English Saddle & Western Saddle

I might have touched on this on a previous article but let's start again at the top.

Visually, the most obvious noticeable difference between an English Saddle and a Western Saddle is the horn (or pummel for tying rope) at the center of the Western saddle to which the English saddle is without. The English saddle being smaller, lighter weight, and typically having a shorter stirrup. In western, you generally have a deeper seat, higher cantle (the back part).   There is also difference with the bridle, in the Western arena typically they don't have nosebands and in English world they do! The bits also normally vary in intensity. Because English reins are supposed to be held shorter (less length between rider and horse), you generally have a more mild bit. In western, because most of the movement of the horse comes from your legs, the reins are held longer, or more relaxed. The reins in English are traditionally joined in the middle with a buckle so they are adjustable to each horse. In western, you generally ride with split reins. There are two lengths of leather, each join to one side of the bit, and they cris-cross in the middle. This is so you can more easily ride single-handed. 

There are many activities you can enjoy in both English and Western, and several that you can do in either discipline. In western there is pole bending, roping, and barrel racing, to name a few. In English you have jumping and dressage, Endurance to name a couple. Both are quite rewarding, but due to limitations in time and resources, riders frequently have to choose between the two.

Which seat do you like to ride?