We often receive requests from people interested in Parelli Natural Horsemanship for lessons and courses, who ask us if we do English or Western riding. Well, we do both or neither one nor the other. What do you mean?
In Horsemanship we have a learning part dedicated exclusively to the Foundation and another dedicated to Specialization. The Parelli Natural Horsemanship Program is divided into various learning levels (10 in all) and the first 4 are dedicated to the Foundations in which we (human beings) must learn how to move, how to communicate and how to ride a horse, rather than teaching something to the horse.
At this stage, therefore, it is not so important whether you are riding with an English or Western saddle because what matters is learning how to ride a horse correctly and effectively. The type of saddle at this stage is of minimal importance (except for the horse's back more than anything else). It is during the Specialization phase (which takes place beyond Level 4 Parelli) that one specializes in a particular discipline (show jumping, dressage, cutting, reining, racing etc.) and therefore it is necessary to adopt a specific type of saddle rather than another.
The English or Western saddle therefore depends on the specialization we want to pursue. In most riding schools, on the other hand, teaching starts directly from the Specialization, completely skipping the Foundations which instead are the basis for being able to manage, ride, communicate and have excellent results even in competition both from the ground and from the saddle. Unfortunately, this type of concept of horse riding is still far from general equestrian culture and people prefer to go directly to the University without going to elementary school, middle and high school. With the disadvantages and common problems that often ensue: poor horse management, behavioral problems of various kinds, difficulties in competition, injuries for horses and riders due to a lack of knowledge of the Foundations, up to the sale of the horse because it is too problematic. Returning therefore to the type of riding, it is clear that we can ride with an English or Western saddle (at Front Ranch we have both types of saddle) or we can prefer one type over the other (out of habit or for trim and comfort), but this shouldn't affect us when it comes to doing a normal equestrian activity that does not require a specialization and therefore a type of saddle rather than another. If we want to go on a trail ride or have a Parelli lesson we can safely use both types of saddle. What really interests us is learning how to move WITH the horse and FOR the horse. The choice of the saddle will take place at a later stage.