Being Brave, Riding Bareback

Since I’ve decided to go into academic riding, I’ve become a bit of a loner when it comes to training and courses. I currently live in Warsaw, Poland, and to my knowledge there is nobody in the area that does this kind of riding. Meaning I don’t have a teacher right now or at least someone who could correct me from time to time. I really enjoy watching the online videos of Bent Branderup, in which he says that riding bareback is a good way of schooling your seat. So, the conclusion is that, for now, I need to teach myself and a good way of doing that is getting rid of my saddle.

Easier said than done. I hadn’t noticed that, apparently, since my riding accident, I’ve become quite a chicken, because the sheer thought of riding my horse without saddle made me sweat. As a child, I learned riding on ponies, bareback, in the forest. How much I have changed since then! I realized that I didn’t seem to trust my horse at all! I couldn’t accept that. I took baby-steps. I first rode a couple of rounds without stirrups when I warmed up Nazir in walk. Then I rode all of the walkΒ without stirrups. Then also some trot, etc. Then came the day when I was confident enough to get on Nazir without saddle. This was last April, just a month and a half ago. The photos below are taken from a movie that I made of myself during this first bareback ride.

bareback_3

It felt amazing to sit on him without saddle! To feel all the muscles move and every small reaction, every tension. I got used to it quicker than I thought and already felt comfortable after a few rounds. I actually did a whole training session then. Next day, I tried again with saddle, and what a big difference it is! So stiff and doesn’t let much feeling through. I decided to buy a pad so I can go bareback more often. Nazir is no pony and his withers can be very ouch πŸ™‚

bareback_6

In the movie I made of myself, I could clearly see how I was not sitting properly on my sitting bones but leaned on my thighs a lot. Not really sitting deep. It became better towards the end of the session already. After two training sessions without saddle, my husband, who is not a rider at all, said to me: “You’re sitting much better, much more ‘in’ the horse somehow!” I hadn’t told him about my sitting-experiment and was very happy about his observation.

I’m mostly riding Nazir with a Barefoot Ride on Pad now. It doesn’t have any stirrups and it’s not more than just a little padding for more comfort. As we start our journey towards the academic art of riding, we work mostly in walk and a little trot in addition to groundwork and lunging. I’m basically educating him now like a young horse, the education he should have received years ago, and that I should have been taught in riding school as a child. I think the whole bareback thing has changed our relationship a lot, at least I trust him much more. It’s like he’s taking care of me. I notice now that he actually allows me to sit on him. It’s easy to forget that with a saddle on. It even made me brave enough to go without a bit a couple of times. I wouldn’t have managed that half a year ago!

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If you decide to join me in my experiment, please remember to wear a helmet. Even the calmest horse can spook, and even the best riders can have accidents. Let’s not take unnecessary risks, alright? And do your horse a favour and use a step πŸ™‚

 

11 Comments on “Being Brave, Riding Bareback

  1. I love riding bareback in the winter. Sort of a seat heater πŸ™‚ It is a great way to improve balance, feel and – as you said – trust in the horse. I think with no saddle we sit differently automatically, with our legs more forewards (I guess it’s the kind of stool seat the dressage rider doesn’t want).
    What I like to do too – I am a student of horsemanship (and I had a glimpse into the Acadamic Art of Riding too) – is to ride with no reins but a stick to steer the head (if necessary). I found that having no reins to grasp and to focus on, I can concentrate on my seat which becomes deeper and more centered. I can steer the horse from the core – and in case of emergency in use the stick to redirect the nose. I hope I don’t bore you to death here. I am just a bit excited to find someone who shares my interests πŸ™‚

    • Not boring at all! Thanks for the input, I think I want to try that, too! About the reign: I’m trying to go one-handed much more often, also makes me focus more on the seat and less on the hand. And you’re right about the sitting. I want to write something more about it next time. In the dressage as I’ve learned it over the last years, everyone is afraid of a ‘stool-seat’, which is nothing more than sitting on your bum and letting your legs hang loose. I learned riding without saddle, and my riding teachers as a kid always told me to take back my legs more and not have a stool-seat! So I guess my seat as a kid was the more natural one. Ha, what a nice adventure it is πŸ™‚

  2. Loved riding ponies bareback as a child, and the saddle felt so restrictive afterwards. I don’t ride much at the moment, but when I do I see a lovely classical trainer in australia called Susie walker. Riding a classically trained horse is such an amazing experience. There is another teacher here, called Manolo Mendez. He’s put out a DVD for in hand training that looks wonderful. Congratulations on being so dedicated to changing your riding, with limited help. And for being brave and trying bareback again!

    • Thanks πŸ™‚ I slowly enjoy working all by myself, I learned to be critical about how I do things, distance myself from my actions a little bit. I’m filming myself, comparing it to what I see on teaching videos, schooling my eye. If I encounter a problem, I have to find a way to solve it. I guess everything is good for something πŸ™‚
      I would love to ride a classically trained horse once, too. Glad you found a good trainer!

  3. This was really helpful for me especially since I had a riding accident a year or so ago. I ride mostly school horses which makes it harder to really experiment and regain my trust in horses. There a few horses I know that I could probably try something like what you’re doing on. I think that it will help me trust horses that I don’t know very well a lot more. Thank you so much, this is one of the most helpful things I have ever read. πŸ˜„

    • Wow, thanks! I’m really glad this might help you πŸ™‚
      Fear is not something that’s talked about a lot in the horse world. Some grit their teeth and go through with it anyway, some are too afraid and give up riding all together.
      I found that taking small steps is the best way for me. If there is something I’m afraid of or uncomfortable with, then I try to think of what it actually is that I’m afraid of, where exactly does it start, when does the funny feeling in the stomach start. Some time ago, in my case, it already started when I was putting on my riding gear at home. For some time I did mostly thinks with the horses that I was comfortable with, like grazing, going for a walk. Grooming, playing ball. It made me feel safer again, and the horses liked it, too. Then, when I was riding again, I took care not to overdo it, don’t let the ambition rule me.
      I fell off a young horse that couldn’t be stopped, in full speed, and broke my spine. It’s already a long time ago, but there are still situations when it comes up again. Like I discovered just recently that riding bareback didn’t make me feel so good.
      It’s like this big scar that nobody can see. And then, when I did another step again, I’m all proud of myself πŸ˜‰
      The hardest part was to admit it to myself though.
      But I’m being carried away here…thanks very much for stopping by!

  4. I enjoyed Reading your article, you describe clearly what Γ  lot of oir studente experience during theorie first barebacking rides.
    Have fun trying out more bitless rides; when both you and your horse know how, ots really not any less safe.

    • You’re right, it’s really not less safe. It’s just in our heads…as with so many things πŸ˜‰
      Thanks very much for your comment!

  5. Happy for you that you are having these wonderful experiences, for me this post is so related to the one about sharing space and time with your horse and he laid down with you. My horse was fairly dangerous and I too had several accidents. I think sharing that time doing nothing will lead you to more trust,which in turn leads to not only bareback but for us this week first time with the cordeo,I think you can find some academic riding videos of this. But I only did basic riding,it was first time but who knows maybe some sidemovements bridleless in the futre.My mare is a very hot Lusitano so this is deffinately testament to fact it can be done, if you build the bond and connection. Here is how it looked,it felt like magic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzghl3hWL6U&list=UUSC03h57_Rb8mGtUiLZNdag I also ride bareback But I do use a pad my mare is really not that comfy,unfortunately it was at the saddlers having new girth straps put on when I did this. But I also love my academic riding saddle. Lovely to read about your journey very similar to mine. x

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