The world of equestrian sports is highly varied and includes a wide range of exciting disciplines. By far, disciplines that employ an English riding style are some of the most popular, with many of these disciplines included in the Olympics. In this guide, learn all about the beauty of English horseback riding and the many disciplines that utilize this elegant riding style.
What is English Riding?
English horseback riding refers to the style of horse riding that originated in England and is commonly practiced in many parts of the world today. This sophisticated riding style comprises a variety of disciplines that focus on proper form, technique, and communication between horse and rider.
The term “English” in this context refers to the English saddle used in this style of riding, which is distinct from the Western saddle used in Western riding. The English saddle is lighter and allows for closer contact between the rider’s seat and the horse’s back. This saddle has a flatter seat and provides support for the rider’s legs, which aids in maintaining the proper position and balance during various movements and activities.
English riding is known for its elegance, precision, and the strong bond that develops between horse and rider. It requires dedication, practice, and an understanding of horse behavior to achieve effective communication and coordination. English riding includes both recreational and competitive aspects, and riders can participate in a range of disciplines such as dressage, show jumping, eventing, equitation, and more.
10 Types of English Riding
There are many different equestrian sports and disciplines that utilize an English riding style. Some of the most common include:
- Show Jumping
- Fox Hunting
- Saddle Seat
- Hunt Seat
- Endurance Riding
English Horseback Riding Disciplines Explained
Let’s take a closer look at what each English riding discipline entails.
Dressage is all about precision, control, and harmony between horse and rider. Deeply rooted in English military history, this discipline involves a series of carefully choreographed movements and tests that showcase the horse’s obedience, flexibility, and athleticism. Riders are also expected to display composure and poise while competing, and a strict dress code is typical of most dressage events.
2. Show Jumping
Show jumping is an exciting and challenging discipline where horse and rider navigate a course of jumps. This discipline requires a great deal of trust, dedication, and athleticism from both horse and rider. The objective is to clear each fence without the horse knocking them down or refusing to jump, while also aiming for speed and accuracy. Jumps or obstacles can vary in terms of height and complexity throughout the course, with the difficulty increasing at higher competition levels.
Where show jumping takes part in a controlled environment like a show ring, cross-country riding takes place in a more open environment with jumps that mimic naturally occurring obstacles across fields and wooded areas. As part of eventing or as an individual discipline, cross-country involves riding over natural obstacles and varied terrain. Speed and accuracy are important aspects of this discipline, as well as the safety of both horse and rider.
4. Eventing (Three-Day Event)
Eventing is considered the triathlon of horse riding, combining dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. Originally intended as a test for mounted cavalry to ensure they were ready for the battlefield, this English discipline tests the versatility, endurance, and all-around abilities of both horse and rider. Though not for the faint of heart, this discipline is nevertheless fun and rewarding for accomplished equestrians.
Similar to show jumping, hunter classes require a horse and rider to navigate a course of jumps. However, the courses in the hunter jumper discipline are judged by a single judge or panel of judges by the horse’s movement, style, and manners while jumping fences and other obstacles. The emphasis of the hunter discipline is on aesthetics, focusing on the horse’s smoothness, consistency, and natural jumping technique, where the winner is determined by the opinion of a judge(s), whereas the object of show jumping is to speedily and accurately complete the course, and the winner is determined by the time on the clock.
6. Fox Hunting
Fox hunting is a traditional English riding discipline with an extensive history. During fox hunting events, a team of horses and riders follow a pack of hounds (or a singular hound) as they track a fox through rough terrain. Though traditional fox hunts ended with the capture of a fox, most contemporary fox hunts either use an artificial scent and dummy fox, or call off the hounds once the fox is found.
Learn more: Fox Hunting Attire and Etiquette
Unlike other English riding disciplines that primarily assess the horse’s performance, equitation places the spotlight on the rider’s skill, position, and aids while riding. The primary goal of equitation is to demonstrate the rider’s ability to influence the horse’s movement and perform various maneuvers with precision, grace, and subtlety. Equitation is commonly seen in horse shows and competitions, where riders are judged by a judge or panel of judges based on their riding position, form, and effectiveness in guiding the horse.
8. Saddle Seat
The saddle seat discipline is most commonly seen in American competitions and events though it is still a form of English riding. The saddle seat discipline is known for horses’ high head carriage, animated gaits, and the use of specialized saddles. Riders typically sit farther back in the saddle than in normal disciplines to emphasize the horse’s high steps and footwork.
9. Hunt Seat
Hunt seat is a style of English riding that is commonly seen in hunter and equitation classes. Though the object is to clear obstacles, this discipline focuses on the rider’s position in the saddle, which should emphasize a balanced, forward seat that closes the hip angle slightly and allows the horse greater freedom of movement. Hunt Seat also highlights the need for riders to effectively use their aids for communication with the horse. Hunt seat riding is named after its historical association with fox hunting, where riders needed a secure and comfortable seat to best allow their horse to navigate varied terrain and clear varied fences.
10. Endurance Riding
Another discipline evolving from military training exercises, endurance riding is an intensive equestrian sport. Endurance riding tests the stamina, speed, and fitness of both horse and rider over long distances and challenging terrains. The primary objective of endurance riding is to complete a set course within a specified time, while closely adhering to veterinary checks to ensure the horse’s well-being throughout the competition. Additional weight may be added to increase the challenge for both horse and rider.
Apparel for All English Riding Disciplines
Equestrian disciplines that employ the English style of riding are incredibly exciting, challenging, and rewarding. We hope you’ve been inspired to start your equestrian journey in one of the many disciplines listed above. Need some gear to get started? R.J. Classics has you covered with the highest quality horseback riding apparel for training and competitions. From the show ring to the barn, you can look stylish and feel great in breeches, show shirts, and more from R.J. Classics.
You might also like: