So. I'm a very horsey person in general and I'd like to apply as a wrangler at a dude ranch for a summer job (in a few summers, of course). The only problem is that I have almost always ridden english as a hunter jumper and I don't plan on stopping with that anytime soon. When I started taking lessons it was in a western saddle but haven't ridden in on for a while.
The only way I'd be able to practice riding western with any regularity is on one of our farm's draft horses, using an English bridle. We have a western saddle and would be riding on trails... but something tells me that there is a lot more to being a wrangler! What would I have to be able to do, and how would I manage to accomplish that with the resources I have?
The basics of riding are the same no matter where you ride.
I would not worry about the kind of saddle you may be using, if you are an experienced English rider, to go be a wrangler for a dude ranch that may use western saddles.
If the place you go is not too much into being in a traditional western atmosphere, more into trail riding itself, they may just let you keep using your English saddle anyway.
I was a "wrangler" in Europe for a trail riding business one summer.
I too used an English saddle.
For the client's horses, we used mostly duck tail military saddles.
We considered them best for the horse's back, when spending all day carting novice riders around, for them to enjoy the pretty scenery horseback.
Some rides, I even went out bareback, but not very often, as even all the very light rider's weight on such a small area is also hard on a horse's back.
I have been on several riding vacations out west; I did not mind the western saddles at all and really, if you are going to be in a saddle 3-4 hours at a time in hilly terrain, you want the comfort and security.
Also - OP there are several different kinds of places you could look into work-wise. The first are the "serious riding" ranches, generally catering to middle age clientele who want to see great scenery, maybe move some cows, then have cocktails and good food at night. (http://www.bitterrootranch.com/)
Then there "working" ranches, where you also get some serious riding but it is it is more focused typically on the cattle. (http://www.1plus1ranch.com/)
THEN there are the dude ranches that cater to families and people who have less interest in just riding; other activities are included as well. ( http://www.clazyu.com/)
Check out this website; you may want to contact some of the places that sound interesting and see how they hire people...
I only rode English Hunter/Jumpers before I became a wrangler at Southern Cross Ranch. I thought they would want me to learn WP or cow horse stuff, but they actually capitalized on my experience. They started giving me horses that were not working out in WP to try out over fences. This horse, this horse, this horse, and this horse went from kinda blah, not so nice WP horses to awesome hunter/jumpers.
Go for it! Becoming a wrangler at Southern Cross was the best decision of my life. Not only was it super fun, but I met my soon to be husband (OMG the wedding is on Saturday ) there.
The expectations definitely depend on *where* you're trying to work. Heck, some dude ranches wouldn't (still won't?) consider hiring women for barn jobs, regardless of how well one rode.
One general piece of advice that would probably hold true in a lot of places is to practice with a shanked bit and sitting a western saddle with appropriate-length stirrups. The two places English-trained riders have a lot of trouble initially is letting the stirrups down the last two holes to the correct Western length and not riding a Western-trained horse with English-type bit contact. For the latter, drape the reins over your fingertips and learn to feel the slight difference in rein weight between when the bit is hanging in the neutral position and when enough slack has been taken up to be felt in the horse's mouth.