Two major styles of riding exist in the United States: English and Western. The split between the two camps includes things such as: the type of tack, clothing, headgear, breeds of horses, gaits favored and the types of equine sports and activities participated in. In other words the split is more of a chasm. I once read of a clinic that was designed to encourage riders to learn both styles, but I doubt those that riders of one style would care to spend the money to acquire the accouterments of the other and suspect the clinic was poorly attended even though it was a good idea.
I live in the East, as have my ancestors before me, and somehow I sense that try as hard as I can I could never, ever be a real cowboy. I would always feel a little self conscious decked out in Western wear, and as much as I admire cowboy boots, I have never had my feet in any. I will tell you that riding breeches really are very comfortable to wear on a long ride. The seams of the usual blue jeans will rub your inner thighs absolutely raw. However, I am sure Westerners would not be caught dead in breeches. I could go on but you get my point, I am sure.
All of this said, I absolutely believe that a rider is a rider and a good horse person is a good horse person regardless of the particular style of riding they favor. I have learned a lot from Western horsemen, and I owe a few of them debts of gratitude that I can never repay. That little spark of the cowboy that is in me would say that I will suffer no man speak ill of them neither.
Cowboys, the West, the Western horse and the Western movie are as American as you can get. They are real cultural icons to be treasured by all of us. I enjoy watching Western riders compete. Barrel racing has to be a lot of fun. I bet I could get into cutting horses. I even have also been tempted to try my hand at riding a mechanical bull. I have sat through enough half-hearted bucks on horses over the years with no problems. I secretly think I would be good at bronco busting, but I have enough sense not to try. So, helmets off to Western riders. I am happy to share the trail with them.