If you have recently purchased a horse and are just getting into the hobby of owning and caring for one of these majestic animals, you may be in the market for purchasing tack. The two main types of tack commonly purchased are western and English tack. There are many differences between the two, and both have specialty saddles for certain disciplines. However, the main differences for a regular riding saddle can be found in the saddle, the bridle, and the riding style.
The most obvious difference between English and western saddles is the fact that the western saddle has a large pommel with a horn on it. This is used as an anchor for a lasso to gather animals. Some English saddles still have the pommel, though no horn is attached atop. Western saddles also have a very high back to be as comfortable as possible for the rider. English saddles are also quite deep (to keep the rider seated), though they may not have a seat back which is as high. English saddles are very light and small while western saddles are quite large to spread out the weight of a rider over the back of the animal.
An English tack bridle has an extra nose strap, which is not employed in a western bridle. This is to give the rider a bit more control over the animal. A western bridle has a small metal post that comes off the bit and attaches to the reins. This adds a bit of pressure to the horse, which allows the rider to command sharp turns and maneuvers, as seen when cutting a herd. English bridles are also connected at the ends, whereas western reigns are open.
Typically western saddles are made for career cowboys who will be riding for full days. That is why they are a bit larger. English riding style is much more close contact and connection with the horse, so rider and horse can work as a team. For more information on riding styles, check with a trainer near you.
Determining what you will be using the saddle can help you to decide which style to purchase. If you are going to hire a trainer, you should talk to them about whether to get an English tack or a western tack. If you are going to learn to jump or dressage, you will need an English saddle.