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Riding Bareback
 By Winniefield Park   •   19th Oct 2014   •   1,799 views   •   0 comments
Riding Bareback
Image Credit: Polo The Weirdo

My saddle is still in sad shape. The mold has been cleaned off, but it's still waiting for a cleaning and conditioning. When I wanted to ride this week, I left it at home, and rode bareback. I found Trillium's sidepull in the tack room green and fuzzy, I gave it a wipe with a micro-fiber cloth I happened to have in the truck. Even dry, it did a good job of cleaning it up, so I think I'm going to put a couple in my tack trunk for emergencies. Bit and saddle were the only thing I gave up. I was otherwise ready to ride with helmet and riding boots. Just because you're riding bareback doesn't mean you can forgo your safety gear. The risk of falling off might even be greater without a saddle.

When I was a kid, I desperately wanted a bareback pad. They were so cool and colorful. But my mother would never let me have one. I now understand why, because they can be more of a hazard than a help since they can slip and turn easily, and they rarely have safety stirrups. Any pad or blanket might have the same effect, although there will be no stirrups to get tangled in.

Mounting can be a challenge when riding bareback. Unless you're particularly agile, a mounting block or having someone give you a leg up may be the way to go. I find on my 15.3HH horse that I need to stand on something sturdy to hop up, even though I'm quite tall. Better use a mounting block, than accidentally elbowing or kicking your horse on the way up. If you've not ridden bareback before, it's helpful to have someone lunge or lead the horse until you feel centered. Riding bareback, helps you learn balance and feel. Your alignment should be the same as in the saddle.

Related: Understanding Your Horse's Back
Related: Three Secret Steps To Foolproof Your Horse
Related: Jumping Backwards
Related: Improving The Seat

Posting the trot can also be quite a challenge riding bareback. It is possible, but it takes practice and muscle. Riding bareback is a good way to learn a sitting trot, even on a horse whose trot throws you out of the saddle a bit. Of course, it's easier to ride a horse with a nice smooth jog and that might be the best place to start. High withers can be a little hazardous. I remembered this as I was trotting, and my horse decided she didn't want to do a daisy-cutter trot through long thick grass. It was a good reminder not to get day-dreamy and assume my horse will go into auto-pilot mode. Pain can be quite a convincing teacher sometimes.

And of course, you're allowed to cheat a bit if your horse has a nice thick mane to grasp if you lose your seat. Grabbing a handful of mane will be much kinder to your horse than using the reins to hold yourself on.

There's many good reasons to ride bareback. You have a better connection with your horse, it's warm when it's cold out, and sometimes, when time is short, it's a way to get the most out of your riding time. What are your tips for a good ride bareback?
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