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Mountain Horseback Ridding
Dressage, jumping and cross-country offer forms of what Americans refer to as 'English riding'. Western riding evolved stylistically from traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish, and its skills stem from the working needs of the cowboy in the American West. A main differentiating factor comes from the need of the cowboy to rope cattle with a lariat (or lasso). The cowboy must control the horse with one hand and use the lariat with the other hand. That means that horses must learn to neck rein, that is, to respond to light pressure of the slack rein against the horse's neck. Once the cowboy has twirled the lariat and thrown its loop over a cow's head, he must snub the rope to the horn of his saddle. For roping calves, the horse learns to pull back against the calf, which falls to the ground, while the cowboy dismounts and ties the calf's feet together so that he can be brand it, treat it for disease, and so on. Working with half-wild cattle, frequently in terrain where one cannot see what lurks behind the next bush, means the ever-present very great danger of becoming unseated in an accident miles from home and friends.

These multiple work needs mean that cowboys require different tack, most notably a curb bit (usually with longer bars than an English equitation curb or pelham bit would have) which works by leverage, long split reins (the ends of which can serve as an impromptu quirt) and a special kind of saddle. The Western saddle has a very much more substantial frame (traditionally made of wood) to absorb the shock of roping, a prominent pommel surmounted by a horn (a big knob for snubbing the lasso after roping an animal), and, frequently, tapaderos ("taps") covering the front of the stirrups to prevent the cowboy's foot from slipping through the stirrup in an accident and resulting in a frightened horse dragging him behind it. The cowboy's boots, which have high heels of an uncommon shape, also feature a specific design to prevent the cowboy's foot from slipping through the stirrup.

Technically, fewer differences between 'English' and Western riding exist than most people think.

Western pleasure
the rider must show the horse in walk, jog (a slow, controlled trot), trot and lope (a slow, controlled canter). The horse must remain under control, with the rider directing minimal force through the reins and otherwise using minimal interference.

Reining
considered by some the "dressage" of the western riding world, reining requires horse and rider to perform a precise pattern consisting of canter circles, rapid "spins" (a particularly athletic turn on the haunches), and the sliding stop (executed from a full gallop).

Cutting
more than any other, this event highlights the "cow sense" prized in stock breeds such as the Quarter horse. The horse and rider select and separate a calf out of a small group. The calf then tries to return to its herdmates; the rider loosens the reins and leaves it entirely to the horse to keep the calf separated, a job the best horses do with relish, savvy, and style. A jury awards points to the cutter.

Team penning
a popular timed event in which a team of 3 riders must select 3 to 5 marked steers out of a herd and drive them into a small pen. The catch : the riders cannot close the gate to the pen till they have corralled all the cattle (and only the intended cattle) inside.

Trail class
in this event, the rider has to maneuver the horse through an obstacle course in a ring. Speed is not important, but total control of the horse is. The horses have to move sideways, make 90 degree turns while moving backwards, a fence has to be opened and/or closed while mounted, and more such maneuvers relevant to everyday ranch or trail riding tasks are demonstrated.

Barrel racing and pole bending
the timed speed/agility events of rodeo. In a barrel race, horse and rider gallop around a cloverleaf pattern of barrels, making agile turns without knocking the barrels over. In pole bending, horse and rider gallop the length of a line of six upright poles, turn sharply and weave through the poles, turn again and weave back, and gallop back to the start.

Halter class
here the horse is shown with only a halter and without a rider, but with a handler controlling the horse from the ground using a leadrope. The standard position of the handler is on the left side with the shoulder near the horse's eye. The horse is taken through a short pattern where the horse and handler must demonstrate control during walk, jog and turns. In regular halter class, judges will put emphasis on the performance and build of the horse when awarding points, in 'showmanship at halter' the performance of the handler and horse are both judged equally. Clothing of the handler and the halters tend to be more flashy in this discipline. Halter class is particularly popular with younger riders who do not yet have the skill or confidence to partake in other forms.

Steer wrestling
Europe does not allow this activity because of animal welfare concerns, but it occurs in the United States of America, usually at rodeo events. While riding, the rider jumps off his horse onto a steer and 'wrestles' it to the ground.

Roping
also banned in Europe. In calf roping, the rider has to catch a running calf by the neck with a lasso, stop the animal in its tracks, rapidy dismount the horse and immobilize the calf by tying three of its legs together. In team roping, one horse and rider lassos a running steer's horns, while another horse and rider lassos the steer's two hind legs.

Bronc riding (riding a bucking "wild" horse for a timed duration) counts as a separate event, not considered part of Western riding as such. It consists of bareback bronc riding and of saddle bronc riding.

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