Western Lesson

Olivia   February 9, 2018   22 Comments on Western Lesson

In all my years of riding, I’ve never taken a lesson in western riding. I’ve ridden western before:

grand conyon trip

pack trips

at a Dude Ranch

and on my own horses

Although I gave my western saddle to Dijon’s new owners, I still ride sort of western in the treeless saddle when doing trail rides or endurance rides. Nilla doesn’t neck rein very precisely, but she does enough to get down a trail.

Nilla at Run for the Gold Endurance Ride ©Robyn Burgess used with purchase

I’ve always wanted to learn more though. When we were at the dude ranch, I asked if we could have lessons, but most of the staff were europeans who rode English normally and just rode in a western saddle for the summer. The only one who really knew more advanced Western was injured or pregnant (I forget why she wasn’t available).

Levi was trained western and would probably prefer to be a western horse if he had his choice. He particularly likes not having a bit. As such, I’ve been on the look out for a bosal for Levi for months. They’re surprisingly expensive and I didn’t want to spend a ton on so I just kept checking the used tack sale every time I went. This last weekend, I finally found one. It was hideously orange and covered in a lot of built up dirt and grossness, but it was only $25 so I snatched it up. A few hours of scrubbing, a night of darkening, some time spent making a fiador out of rope, I had a pretty bosal.

Seasonal trainer was in town this week, so I signed up for a lesson. I still don’t have a western saddle and none of the western saddles at the barn fit him, so I threw my treeless endurance saddle on.

For the lesson, I first explained that I wasn’t even sure if Levi knew how to neck rein so much as he knows how to move off your seat and leg. Because I can ride him without a bridle at all, I wasn’t sure how much he was really moving off the neck rein or moving off my other cues. Turns out he knows how to neck rein very well. She said he turns his head really nicely when I neck rein him so he’s not just moving off my leg.

Because Levi was good, most of the lesson was focused on me and my form. Coming as a shock to absolutely no one, it turns out I have the same bad habits in western as I do in English. Apparently I have no control over my right hand. I was neck reining with the left, but any time Levi would get distracted (like when the dogs went by or when he heard another horse calling) I would instinctively raise the right hand to try to manipulate the reins. Even when he wasn’t distracted, my right hand would sort of creep up all on it’s own. Clearly I think pulling on the reins is the answer to everything.

right hand creepin’ up… uselessly

One of the amusing things to me about this lesson was being a beginner again. We even practiced zig-zagging through cones (technically empty plant pots). I don’t think I’ve done a lesson that involved zig-zagging through cones in years.


It also turns out that my insistent habit of staring at the ground when making turns carries over from English to Western. Especially if there are cones to be stared at. I’m actually pretty good about not looking at jumps, so I’m really not sure why I feel the need to look down at cones, but this is not the first time I’ve had a trainer comment on it.

It was a fun lesson though. Levi was really happy to not have a bit and we weren’t doing anything difficult for him so we didn’t have any arguments. That’s why I wanted to do the lesson. I thought it would be good for us to have a positive lesson experience.

22 thoughts on “Western Lesson

  1. martidoll123

    Always fun to think outside the box! He looks great and relaxed. I rode western as a kid and all my bad habits were there too…LOL funny that right??

    And I LOVE that photo of Nilla. I want to make it my piano picture (If i had a piano:) HA!

  2. Emily

    Looks fun! I secretly want a western saddle for May because I think it would be great for our long walk hacks (and the off property trail rides I will go on if I ever get a trailer), but I am also not excited at all about the idea of saddle shopping for another saddle.

    1. Olivia Post author

      You’ll probably have an easier time find a western saddle than I will. They’re mostly made for QHs and wider horses. There are about 10 western saddles at our barn and everyone was too wide for Levi. I stick to the treeless saddles for endurance. They’re super comfy and no fitting necessary.

  3. emma

    ooh what a fun change of pace! and honestly i kinda love going back to exercises like weaving through cones and stuff. my last barn always had them set up for beginner lessons and i would always play with them. they’re surprisingly tricky to do well!

    1. Olivia Post author

      Me too. I frequently weave in and out of the cones when I find them set up. I just haven’t actually had a lesson where I was working on it. Reminded me of my years of teaching at summer camps.

    1. Olivia Post author

      All of mine learn some sorta faux neck reining so I can trail ride more easily, but Levi’s the only one who does it properly.

  4. Kalin

    My western riding instructor does a lot of reining and working western stuff and I have immensely enjoyed learning the finer aspects of the discipline! I’ve found neck reining with a long, draping rein to be particularly challenging.

    The bosal looks great with your improvements!

    1. Olivia Post author

      The long, looping reins are harder. I can do it for the turns and everything up till we have to stop, then I need to shorten them. We have stopping issues in dressage to, so no surprise there.

  5. Suzy

    I’m planning on getting a western saddle once I get my tax refund! Hopefully I can find something to fit a small thoroughbred.

  6. Dom

    Exploring new disciplines is always fun! I want to take a true blue reining lesson and a real cutting lesson, but finding reputable sources for either is tough here in NJ…

  7. Ashley Wingert

    Nice score on the bosal! They’re so hard to find at a reasonable price, especially for a decent quality…kicking myself for selling mine years ago when I stopped showing.

    I had *such* a hard time learning to ride one-handed and not “cheat” and I still have a hard time with operating on that loose of a rein…early imprinting of huntseat and riding with contact.

  8. Stacie Seidman

    That’s so fun! Levi looks like he enjoyed himself too. That was a great idea to set yourselves up for a successful day.
    I took a couple of western lessons on a VERY broke western trail horse. OMG, I felt like such a moron. That horse knew so much more than I did! But it was really fun, and I got to do all the things they do in shows. Like spinning around in that tiny box. I could lope right into it, halt, and spin. Amazing. Obviously, I was doing none of that, and it was 100% the very broke horse. But it was super fun. I too wasn’t sure what to do with my extra hand. I’m sure it did some weird things while I was riding!

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