So, which is easier? I’d have to say western is easier than english. For one thing, the larger saddle provides a more secure seat for the novice rider. My dad, a complete novice, sat very precariously in my english saddle for about two minutes before begging to be let off, but earlier this year, happily trailed up and down a Colorado mountain-side, secure in a western saddle!
In english riding, the rider has to learn to post to the trot, a bouncy gait in which the horse springs from one diagonal pair of legs to the other diagonal pair, with a period of suspension in between. In western riding, horses go at a slower gait called the jog, which doesn’t dislodge the rider nearly so much. In addition, the wider seat and raised cantle and pommel of the western saddle give even the most novice rider much more stability.
English riding, even for the beginner, involves the coordination of multiple factors, such as legs, reins and balance to maintain control of the horse. This can be difficult until it becomes second nature to the rider. In western riding, as my father demonstrated, even the greenest of riders can enjoy an afternoon on horseback in relative safety.
Having said that, it is my opinion that it is actually better for someone considering learning to ride, to start out with english riding lessons. Why? Because someone who is comfortable riding in an english saddle and giving “english” aids, will have no trouble converting to western, if they should decide that they’d like to participate in the western equestrian sports. By contrast, someone who has learned to ride in a western saddle will essentially have to learn to ride all over again if they should decide they want to participate in one of the english equestrian sports.