...when they come over to my place to try Western riding, they like it and they come back!
I am careful not to speak disrespectfully of English riding. I do respect it. When done right, it's an art form, full of tradition and elegance. Done wrong - and yes, it can be done wrong - it's a mess of tight reins and grippy knees and snobbery all wrapped neatly in the guise of propriety.
Western riding at its worst is all flapping arms and jerking reins, horse heads flipped up sky high with mouths open to get away from ridiculously harsh bits, and yee-haw and yahoo.
At it's best however, Western is just as much of an art and science. (In fact in my opinion, even more so.) Western horses learn to collect themselves without constant contact on the reins. They can be sped up or slowed in each gait, steered with one hand, and move sideways, back, and pivot in circles. They move along with the lightest cue possible. They can stop with a lift of the reins and a shift of the rider's weight.
Around here in my neck of the woods, English is more common. This isn't really cowboy country. Generally, if people want their kids to learn how to ride, they look up a local reputable stable and sign up for lessons - and the majority of the stables are exclusively English. Then, there are a handful of rural families who keep a few horses and have western saddles to put on them. Some of those are heaving the saddles onto the horses and hanging on for dear life; others are actually riding western. There is good and bad in both disciplines.
I believe that good riding is good riding, no matter what tack you're using or what you're wearing.
The fundamentals are the same! Sit up straight, get your legs under you, use those legs to move the horse. Soft hands; don't pull on the horse's mouth.
I love English riders. They have beautiful posture and great balance. They have a hard time at first with long stirrups and loose reins, but my job is to help them get comfortable and really use their seat and weight. It's a whole new world.
Above all, people learning how to ride their horses fairly and kindly - and enjoying their horses - that's really what it's all about. (I love my job so much!)