Bareback riding

I spent yesterday stripping out stalls in the barn; the horses only come in to eat, so I hadn’t really dedicated the time or effort into removing the powdery mix of dirt and old shavings coating the floors. I would have preferred to keep the horses entirely out of their stalls until I could shovel in a load of gravel screenings to level the floors and cover that with rubber mats, but yesterday’s weather made me rethink my plan. It was extra windy, rainy, and hail was predicted for the evening. While Moe and Gina are perfectly content to live outside in all kinds of weather (as evidenced by the winter they spent blanket-less and barn-less in a friend’s cow pasture), I wasn’t keen on half of their precious hay blowing away. Additionally, my neighbor is re-fencing one of her pastures and asked if Candy could stay in my barn at night until it’s finished. I didn’t think Candy would be into staying in a strange barn alone all night long, and that’s how I spent a few hours stripping and re-bedding Moe and Gina’s stalls.

That activity left me with enough energy to ride…but not to drag out all my tack. Instead, I borrowed a bareback pad from my neighbor, threw on a thick western pad to add some cushion, and hopped on Gina bareback.

barebackgina

I don’t ride bareback often; my horses are stereotypical high-withered, bony-backed Thoroughbreds and not very comfortable. The addition of a bareback pad (and that cushy western pad) was a big help! I scrambled aboard Gina and was immediately amazed at just how much more I could feel! I could feel when I was weighting one seat bone more than the other. I could feel when Gina was very slightly counterbent. I could feel when I collapsed my side. And I could feel when Gina was really, truly using her back and stepping into the contact.

I took the opportunity to work on the sitting trot, which has been a struggle for me on Gina. She’s got a big trot with lots of suspension that’s difficult for me to sit; this is 100% a Stephanie problem. I had a couple of hairy moments when she sprang into the trot, but after a few strides, I was able to absorb the motion of trot better bareback than I ever have in a saddle! I had to really focus on using my core to stay centered and upright. It was hard work! For her part, Gina was very good- she stayed at a moderate pace and didn’t even spook at a saddle pad flapping in the wind.

Cantering was, by far, my favorite part of yesterday’s ride. Gina’s got a lovely canter, but riding it bareback was just awesome! In the few strides I was able to get myself together, Gina took these really uphill, powerful steps. I imagine that’s what a dressage canter is supposed to feel like all the time.

Riding bareback was a lot of work. I frequently had to remind myself to relax- I could feel tension building in my arms and hands. My core got quite the workout, as did my thighs. I was sweating by time I hopped off, and Gina looked pretty tired too! I felt like it was incredibly beneficial, though. We haven’t worked on regular dressage stuff in ages, but now I’m thinking that some bareback dressage rides need to part of my regular rotation!

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

12 thoughts on “Bareback riding”

  1. I ride Paige bareback as often (or more often…) than I do with a saddle, especially now that she’s huge pregnant and nothing fits right. It helped me get my confidence a lot, especially since all of our rides are out in hilly fields. Things do get hairy a lot though. Next winter you’ll get to enjoy pregnant mare bareback rides. 😉 They’re…interesting. haha.

    1. I don’t know if I’d trust Gina bareback in a field! She’s pretty reliable, but when she has a time, she has A Time. I hope I get to enjoy preggo mare rides next winter! If not…well, we’ll just keep hunting until one of us dies. 😉

    1. Oh, you know Moe- he’s so personable that he doesn’t care who he’s stabled next to. There’s talk of cloning him so we can have a Moe in every pasture to settle everyone down haha!

  2. I love riding bareback too, though I do have a healthy fear of popping off before or after cantering during a very fast trot! It’s so great for fixing balance and seat issues, and really dissecting what’s going on underneath you! I think that’s what I’ll do tomorrow. 🙂

  3. Putting a western pad under the bareback pad is genius! I will have to try that!

    I don’t ride bareback nearly enough. I should because I know it will help my position, but right now I know that I won’t be able to stick on bareback if crap hits the fan and that makes me nervous.

  4. I love bareback rides for the very reasons you mentioned. I can feel so much more of what’s happening, and the communication between myself and the horse is much clearer. So much so that I’m forced to be more aware of what I’m asking.

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