Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bareback Riding




Last New Year’s I hung up my stirrup irons, then eventually put away my saddle completely, and rode bareback until spring. I’m starting a little earlier this year. I began wishing for a side saddle when I was about 15 or 16. But, I’ve wanted a bareback pad since I want about 10. I finally bought myself one. The 10 year old in me really wanted a green one, but I thought William would look more distinguished in black.

My reason for buying a bareback pad, was not so much to give me traction on the horse, but Mr.W.P. Grey seems to find the feel of my thigh muscles gripping his bare back at the canter either strangely provocative or down right annoying, because eVeRy.TiMe.We.CaNteR: he bucks. If he doesn’t start out crowhopping, he ends crowhopping, and when he gets like that he is not easy to pull up.

He has a big, bold, ground covering canter, and we have worked all summer on a smooth, loose reined transition. If I stay out of his face and leave my legs off him, he will step off quietly and lope along smoothly like a top notch western pleasure horse. If I get a little tense and interfere, he gets chargey and it’s off to the races. Then he might slip or trip on less than perfect footing, which makes him mad, and conditions have been known to disintegrate from there. This is all more likely to happen when I am bareback and clinging for my dear life. If I am ever going to canter aside, we need to work this out.

I feel riding bareback has a lot of comparisons to riding aside. You need core strength and to develop independent balance, and you have to trust your horse. You have to be aware of your seat bones and keeping one on each side of the spine. If you hold tension in your upper body, your shoulders will end up somewhere around your ears and you may be inclined to flap your chicken wings ...ummmm I mean elbows. You cannot rely on stirrups for anything.

I’ve just completed my second ride with the bareback pad. The first ride Grey was very careful of me, jogging along like he was giving a pony ride. This is a little strange considering his frequent delight in seeing if I am truly paying attention and have my heals down.

Today was cool and brisk and I had a snorty horse under me. But, he was obedient and had a lot more impulsion at the trot allowing me to work on keeping my shoulders and chicken wings down …and keeping one seat bone on each side of his spine. Yes, I can feel his spine through the pad, and I was surprised how often my seat bones went astray, twanging on the spine which I sure is not pleasant for the horse either.



I was able to get my calves off his side and let my lower leg hang properly. By the end of the ride, I was stretching my legs down and back and lengthening them along his side instead of perching with my knees too high. He went along at a very nice, straight medium trot, not behind the vertical and generally giving me everything I work so hard for in my dressage lessons and daily ride without my asking. And I haven’t figured out exactly WHY other than I was concentrating on my riding, not him. And we all know the root of all riding problems is the rider, not the horse.

Both rides we cantered on each lead uneventfully with no dolphin moves or pronging like an antelope, and he seemed quite pleased with himself. After 20 minutes or so in the ring, we headed out the driveway and up the road. This was an exercise in trust. He is generally better behaved out of the ring than in it, but the nervous adult re-rider in me says that cantering up the road bareback is a risky endeavor if not plain stupid. We trotted and had a short canter. We are baby stepping our way to more confident and balanced riding in order to ride aside that much more elegantly.

4 comments:

  1. That's great! Bareback is so much fun. I'm always amazed at how much less I can feel once I put the saddle back on. Have you ever tried riding bareback 'sidesaddle' (or should that be 'sideback'?)? [I don't advise it, btw!]

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  2. Umm NO.. I won't be riding bare back any time soon. I have a passionate and loving relationship with my stirrups!.. or even stirrup!!

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  3. Sounds great! Good boy, WP!

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  4. Nice review about bareback riding. It just gives us more reasons to tell our riders why bareback riding is so much fun and why riding on baretek bareback pad is so much secure and a true saddle alternative, be it the western or english bareback pad.

    Steve
    http://www.baretek.com

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