I’ve been riding horses since I was six. My mom signed me up through the local recreational center, and I went to a stable that was pretty close to where we lived. I learned Western, and I’ve stuck with it. I learned how to ride the barrel pattern around two years after I started, and it’s incredibly fun. Now I volunteer at the stable, and when all of the volunteers have a break, we end up racing. Sometimes we barrel race; sometimes we weave cones lying down on the horse’s back or something else outrageous.
There are two different types of riding: English and Western. While they use the same animal, they differ in tack (saddles, bridles, etc...) and what events you can do (like jumping vs. barrel racing). You steer the horses differently in both disciplines: English uses the reins (the long leather straps from a horse’s bridle to the rider’s hands) directly, and Western uses something called “neck reining”.
English riding uses a smaller saddle, and a more complicated bridle. This is the type of riding that you see in the Olympics. English riders can compete in events like jumping or dressage.
Western riders use a bigger saddle, with a less complicated bridle. To name a couple of events, they can do barrel racing or reining. This is the type of riding you see in rodeos.
How I like to think of the two different disciplines is that English riders show what the human can do with the horse, and Western riders show what the horse can do with the human.
English riding is a discipline used mostly worldwide, and European countries dominate it in the Olympics. Western riding is used for trail riding all around the world, but rodeos are mainly in North America, with the exception of Spain and a couple other countries.
The reason why English is more popular is because there are many different types of disciplines inside it with their own different saddles and preferred horses, whereas Western riding is just Western, with no branches.
I’m an avid watcher of the Equestrian sport in the Olympics, which is only English riding. Every time the Summer Olympics roll around, I often wonder why Western riding isn’t in the Olympics.
Barrel racing is a popular sport, not only for the Western discipline, but for the spectators. Horse and rider race in what’s called a clover-leaf pattern around three barrels as fast as they can, without knocking any of the barrels over. It’s a fun, fast-paced sport that’s exhilarating.
Reining is another fast event, and though it’s not quite as fun as barrel racing, it’s still entertaining to watch. It’s a competition in which riders guide the horses through a pattern of circles, spins, stops, and gait changes. It’s amazing what horses can do. They can slide to a stop in seconds, turn on their heel with no plan to do so, and gallop as fast as 30 miles per hour. It’s more challenging than barrel racing.
I’d like to add both barrel racing and reining to the Olympics, at least as an exhibition sport. It would give Western riders everywhere the chance to compete at a higher ranking level than they can now.
This will both enhance the Equestrian Sport in the Olympics and the viewer's entertainment. People against this argue that since Western isn’t “worldwide”, the sport shouldn’t be in the Olympics.
The Olympics should give it a try. If a country doesn’t do the sport, they simply don’t enter it. This will make the playing field smaller and increase the competition. This will give a chance to purely Western riders to compete, much like their English counterparts, at the Olympic level and give them a chance to shine.