Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
My horses are both AC/DC, so to speak. My youngest daughter prefers to ride western. I prefer English, although I sometimes use an Australian saddle for more security.
The gelding will neck rein, but is also content with direct contact and a snaffle. He seems happier moving under an English saddle, but he still has plenty of get up and go under western.
The mare hated bits when I got her 2.5 years ago and has been ridden bitless - but I put a snaffle in her mouth yesterday, used very light pressure and she seemed VERY happy with it - chewed the bit constantly, but stretched out with head lowered and ears forward and went forward with enthusiasm. It was hard to believe she was the same horse that 2+ years earlier had taken me 3 days to get a bridle on and acted terrified when the bit finally went into her mouth.
However, she still acted terrified of releasing it when taking it off, so maybe I know now what her bad experience was...
Other than the mare not knowing how to neck rein, I can't tell much difference to them in the style of riding. I can put an English saddle over a Navajo blanket on the gelding and have him neck rein, or a western saddle with bitless on the mare, or any other combination that happens.
In the end, good riding is good riding. Are you balanced for the type riding you are doing? Does the saddle, regardless of type, fit? Do you have light hands? Do you give the signals to the bit (or bitless bridle) with your finger or with your arm? Do you pay attention to your horse? Are you active, or do you think a horse is an ATV?
English saddles put more pressure per square inch than western. Western bits are easier to abuse than most English, although people can savagely abuse a bitless bridle as well. But the basics are close enough that the horse can quickly adapt. After that, it is just training and learning what the horse is best suited for and what you are interested in doing.