Western riding has almost as many saddles as it does styles. Some of the earlier and
more popular forms of western riding began when the horse was used not only as a very
important farm worker, but also as the sole means of transportation. The western saddle
was preferred over it's lighter counterpart, mainly because of the extra rigging. The
saddle was used not only to carry a person many miles, but it also had to be a functional
piece of equipment. It was designed to carry things such as; canteens, ropes, bed rolls,
clothes, etc. The large sturdy horn was a useful anchor for tying a rope to, and using the
horses strength to pull with.
The saddle has undergone many changes over the years, each designed for a specific style of riding and usage. From the pleasure saddle with it's low sloping seat allowing ease of movement, to the equitation saddle, with it's raised back and form fitted padding keeping the rider snuggly in place, to the barrel racing saddle with rounded skirting to allow the horse ease of fast turning movements, and the roping saddle with the defined horn and rigging. Even the stirrups are specifically tailored to individual needs.
Today, the use of western riding still is implemented in ranch work, pleasure riding, and showing. It has refined and perfected its earlier uses, and demonstrates the partnership between horse and rider to perform its tasks almost effortlessly, with consistant balance. Most earlier forms of western riding have found their way to the show ring, from western pleasure(judged mostly on the horse), and and equitation(judged mostly on the rider), to trail, horsemanship, western reining, western roping, western dressage, endurance, rodeo, cutting, barrel racing, cross country, and countless others. It's truly a versatile form of riding.
I personaly perfer western riding over english because I love the western saddle comfort and western/cowboy look. Its hard to beat the looks of cowboy hats, boots and jeans and being a country gal it suits my style <*G*>.