So DH is desperately trying to get me to show our new mare WP with him because he shows our other mare. I am fine with WP if it's done the right way (you know, actual 2 beat trots and 3 beat lopes and horses not falling on their front end the entire time). However, I'd rather school the horse in my english saddle because I'm just a better rider in it ...
I see breed show folks schooling their english/western combo horses all the time in western saddles even if they are schooling for hunt seat. I even went to a show the other day and watched a guy school in a western saddle and go back and switch the saddle really quick to an english saddle right before the class...
I school only in a western saddle but that's because I'm a really crappy English rider...more accurately: a really good English faller offer!
I think it depends on what you're comfortable and which way the horse works well. Some horses might mind going back and forth. Some riders just can't get comfortable in a western saddle after so much seat time in an English one.
I'd say experiment both ways and let the mare tell you what she likes.
I know plenty of riders that school saddleseat horses western. One, sometimes they are hotter so it is nice to have more security, but two, there is sometimes thoughts about the additional surface area of the western saddle to be more comfortable to the horse.
I've ridden English horses western and western horses English. I guess it comes down to personal preference as long as you have the chance to school a few times wp in the western saddle before the show.
I am used to riding in an English saddle and now a dressage saddle. If riding in a western saddle the two most comfortable were the Reinsman roughout and Continental 's Penni Gerardi. I think both are cutout under the stirrup and have an equitation style seat so great for those that like a lot of feel under their leg.
Well, I haven't had a problem with it. My gelding decided to grow shoulders between 5 and 6 years of age. Now he only fits a full QH bar saddle that makes my hips ache. So I school in a extra wide tree dressage saddle at breed and open shows and switch to the show saddle only when I have to.
Two observations from this though 1) you will get weird looks from people, and 2) you are going to want to make sure that the horse goes the same in both-it took my boy a couple rides to realize that even though the saddle was different the expectations were the same.
Oh, I'm likely to do whatever, in whichever saddle. I am not showing these days but I'll work one in a 'pleasure' way of going in an English saddle (often with a bosal on the head just for variety) or randomly do 'English' stuff in the western saddle.
The last horse I showed much, both English and western, just knew which way to go 'on show day' depending on the tack. But for schooling he'd just get the message via ESP (and seat, legs, etc).
I schooled her over the weekend for the first time in my close contact jumping saddle (only saddle I have that is wide enough for her) with the stirrups let out a little bit. Everything went very well, but there are definitely somethings we need to work on.
She has been rode by someone who pretty much does not use her legs and yanked on her face, so she is super leg sensitive and completely dead in the mouth The close contact saddle was great because I was able to keep my leg on her and get her used to feeling my legs there. Her poor mouth is going to take more work though. I try to stay out of it as much as possible and use my seat and voice to slow her down. You can tell that all the reins used to mean to her was "Put your head down now!"
She is also totally dependent on the rail to go in a straight line. Once again because she is not used to leg pressure and the reins just mean put your head down. So my goal is to get her used to being guided by leg pressure.
Anyway, in just one ride she came far. She stopped jumping and speeding up every time I put my leg on her and by the end of it she actually trotted a straight line off the rail.
Something to think about: if you're not totally comfortable in a Western saddle, maybe you need to spend some more time in it before the show to GET comfortable. If you ride her mostly in an English saddle and then switch right before the class, it might be a bit of a shock to both of you!
"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden
I'm guessing that she is spur trained, so it's normal for her to know that lifting your rein hand means to tuck her head. Her whoa and slow down is a lower leg squeeze. Try using your spurs gently for guiding. If she's done the all-around and not just rail events, she should be able to pull off the rail.
Also, I understand riding in your most comfortable saddle! I tend to school hunt seat in my western work saddle since I hurt my back--I need the added security. If you are new to showing western, though, practicing more often in the western saddle will help--promise! It will change your body position, which should end up being more familiar to the horse if that's what she's trained for. So, your spur and leg cues will be easier for her to read. There is a lot of variety in western saddles, just like in hunt saddles. The top end is Harris, Blue Ribbon, older Chavez. They all sit a little bit differently from one another, but they all offer a close-contact option (where the skirts are cut out under the fender, so your leg hangs more underneath you and closer to the horse). Huber, Wenger, and Flick make nice work saddles that are comparable, and Wenger also makes a show saddle.
Best of luck with her! It's always exciting to get a new horse and figure out their buttons!