Western Riding is a style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching 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 a lariat with the other, western horses were trained to neck rain, 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.
Western Riding requires 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.
“Western Riding” is also the name for a specific event within western competition where a horse performs a pattern that combines trail and reining elements.
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