The past time of riding a horse is known as equestrianism. It can further be broken down into two major disciplines. These are fundamentally different as they require different saddles and some different types of tack. They are known as “English” and “Western” styles. In the United States the first style is known as “English” in other places it is simply known as “Classical” style. This is the style that is used in many international competitions such as the Olympics. In contrast the other style is known as “Western”.
This style developed from the Spanish Conquistadors who came to the new world. This style was refined in the Americas and became best known for its use by the America cowboy. While the classic style had evolved for use by nobles to journey from place to place or go out and hunt for pleasure, the western style evolved for a man to live and work in the saddle. You can see this in the saddle itself. There is a high pommel on the front, just the thing to hold on to or to wrap a rope around. The back is much higher allowing a rider more support after hours of riding. The stirrups tend to be rather wide to easily slide a boot into and the saddle tends to sport rings and places to attach other items to it.
The means of controlling the horse are different as well. While the classic style using two hands with a somewhat tight control on the reins to direct the animal exactly how you want it to go, the western style using a single hand on a looser rein. This allows another hand to be open to be working a rope or some other task. Though it also highlights that the horse and rider form more of a team then in the classic style where the horse is more directed.
Additionally the way the horse is asked to move is different in the western style. While the western style has a brisk walk to cover ground quickly, the trot is a bit more akin to a slow jog to allow the rider to not need to post. Also a western horse is rarely asked to keep up a full on gallop but they are asked to lay on the acceleration to catch a loose cow or perform in the rodeo. Additionally due the work done a horse ridden in the western style is often required to stop and stop very quickly from going full speed.