*taking mod hat off* I am also highly offended by OTTB's post. It is naive, judemental and frankly tactless to speak so poorly (and off base) of that which you don't know.
Western sports do not attract me in the least. I have zero interest in racing around barrels or chasing down calves. I'm also highly annoyed at this new thing called 'Western Dressage' where someone is giving obvious cues and moving around in the saddle so much a toddler could see it. To me, a Western saddle is good for one thing - ranching. Anything else is just kind of boring to me.
I tend to agree about the Western dressage. Won't go into that, that's for another thread another day. There are many things western that are not boring just as there are things english that are not boring. Both styles have disciplines that some would find boring. I am saying this as someone who has spent 20+ years riding both english & western and in the more "adrenaline rush" disciplines. There is nothing boring about sitting a 20+ ft sliding stop (with NO horn, I could do the same in my close contact or bareback) riding a well trained cutting horse, a 1D barrel horse just as there is nothing boring about jumping. Are there things I think are boring about english, darn right but I wouldn't go spouting off about western being better just because I find english flat classes horrifically redundant and boring.
English always struck me as more in depth, requiring more skill, and no handy horn to grab onto when you're in trouble. I had this opinion before I started riding and had no real exposure to the horse world. My information was from books, magazines, and what I saw on TV.
This is offensive. Rarely do western riders grab a horn when they are in trouble. I can ride out a bucking fit, spook, bolt english or western or bareback for that matter. When I'm in a sticky spot, I generally drop my stirrups - I do better with having the total freedom of using only my seat. There is skill in both western & english riding and to think otherwise is ridiculous.
Now that I ride, I've used a Western saddle and can feel the difference between it, and even a cheap GP. In a GP I am required to pay attention to my balance. In a Western I can cheat and just sit there and grab onto something. In a GP I can jump without being stabbed in the gut by a horn. In a GP I can do training level dressage moves without having to swing bulky leather around so that my foot is in the proper position. I feel more connected to the horse, instead of feeling like I'm sitting in a chair with my feet planted on the ground.
Ride a quality reining saddle. I feel as close to my horse in my reiner as I do in my close contact (neither were cheap I can assure you.) There is no cheating, just sitting there grabbing onto a horn. If that is what you have seen and what you think western is, you've been watching poor riders. If I ever felt like I was sitting in a chair with my feet on the ground I wouldn't own a single horse, let alone a dozen.