The Flat Saddle Crowd
By Lee Pitts
People who ride horses fall into one of two categories: English or Western. They are as different as night and day, Republicans and Democrats or Holsteins and Brahmas.
Take their clothing, for example. English riders wear helmets, white pants and velvet jackets. If you see a Western cowboy wearing a velvet jacket, it probably has a painted picture of Elvis on the back.
Instead of Wranglers, English riders wear something called “jodhpurs,” which look like they have enough room in the thigh to hide two fairly large sized dogs. They also wear tall boots made from only the finest English leather and they’re worn on the outside of their jodhpurs.
Some New Mexican cowboys are known to wear tall boots too, but theirs are tooled in El Paso and are at least partially covered by their batwing chaps. English riders have no use for chaps or silver spurs with big rowels.
The biggest difference are their saddles. English saddles, also known as pancakes, pimples and postage stamps, don’t have a horn, but the riders don’t need one because the traffic in their snobbish neighborhoods is never congested.
Western saddles need a horn, which cowboys use to tie off their rope after roping a calf or a cow. English riders don’t carry a rope and wouldn’t know the difference between a calf and a cow.
English saddles also don’t have skirts or saddle strings, which cowboys often cut off their saddles to temporarily repair a barbed wire fence to keep the neighbors “trichy” bulls from infecting their herd. Snooty English riders aren’t even required to dismount and fix all the fences they knock down.
Without saddle strings, the English rider has no way to tie on a set of saddlebags, which on a Western saddle might contain a bottle of LA-200 and the cowboy’s dinner. English riders eat at the country club and probably think LA-200 is an endurance ride in Los Angeles.
Western saddles are used in events like cutting, roping and reining, where the crowd might hoot and howl when the horse goes down the fence to cut off a cow, or slides and stops leaving long skid marks.
English horses like to chase foxes, play polo and jump over fences. The crowd at an English event goes absolutely bonkers when a horse changes leads or walks sideways.
Fancy-pants English riders learn to ride at private schools or in expensive and exclusive riding academies, whereas Western riders learn to ride on ranches and in rodeo arenas.
Hoity-toity English horses never drink from a river or stream, have never had to paw through snow to get a bite of old grass and they eat hay so fine it’s usually reserved for milk cows. A Western style horse may not have ever tasted grain but has been fed cactus during droughts.
The tails of English horses are finely braided and tied with little white or pink ribbons, while the tail of a Western horse is decorated with cockleburs and might actually be cut off as a warning to others the horse is a man-eating knucklehead.
This raises another BIG difference between English and Western horses: The Western horse is apt to “get the kinks out” every morning by trying to buck its rider halfway to the moon. Both the horse and the rider seem to enjoy the exercise.
A Western horse is considered gentle just as long as it doesn’t fall over backwards. The English horse doesn’t have a bucking gene and considers it bad form to even crow hop a little.
An English horse knows five gaits: the walk, trot, canter, rack and run, whereas the Western horse only has three speeds and thinks the rack is the place they might be sent to get unceremoniously hosed down with freezing cold water.
An English horse has never rode pens in a feedlot and would look out of place in the back end of a sale barn. A Western horse is seldom invited to a fox hunt or the Olympics.
A Western horse has a name like Bedpan or Root Canal, while the name of an English horse might contain a word like Viscount, Duke or Baron. The ancestry of such a horse can be traced back four centuries, while the sheriff and brand department might trace a Western horse back through five states.