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Bareback Horse Riding Made Easy

Bareback Horse Riding Made Easy

Bareback horse riding is simply riding without any saddle on your horse’s back. Riding bareback can yield many benefits for you and your horse; but learning to do it well is not quite as simple as just removing the saddle and hopping on. Read on to learn how to prepare for riding bareback and our top tips to make the most of this exercise.

What is Bareback Riding?

Bareback horse riding is when you don’t ride with a saddle on your horse. You can ride either completely bareback (and get the notorious bareback dirt stamp left on your riding jeans) or you can primer your horse’s back with a bareback pad.

What are the Benefits of Bareback Riding?

There are several benefits of riding your horse bareback, both for you and your horse. Primarily, it strengthens the muscles that contribute to your balance on the horse’s back that can drastically enhance your stability in the saddle.

A second and mutually beneficial aspect of bareback riding is the increased connection you gain with your horse. You can much more quickly sense your horse’s emotions, tension, relaxation, and other nonverbal cues—and vice versa. This is a great way to become better acquainted with your horse’s “thing before the thing”: the emotional cues that occur before he reacts to something in his surroundings. Likewise, since your horse is so attuned to your body’s tension, relaxation, and movement bareback, this is a great time to practice mindfulness about your own emotional state, to become a better leader for your horse.

Training a Horse for Riding Bareback

There is no additional “training” required to teach a horse to ride bareback. However, some horses take to it better than others. If you have never ridden your horse bareback, it’s a good idea to have someone lead your horse with a halter and rope the first time to make sure your horse will respond well. Avoid riding horses bareback if they are dealing with any back pain or tenderness to begin with. If you know your horse is cold-backed, make sure he’s warmed up prior to hopping on.

How to Ride Bareback Step by Step

Bareback riding may seem intimidating, but it’s not a skill reserved for advanced riders. Any rider with a riding foundation can venture into bareback riding. You can start slowly and work your way towards longer rides and different gaits.

  1. Prepare Yourself for Bareback Riding: If you’re nervous about starting bareback riding, you can ease into it by doing “no-stirrup” work in the arena first or have a friend lunge you and your horse on a line while you ride with closed eyes to familiarize yourself with your horse’s rhythm and movement. It’s also advisable to wear a helmet when bareback riding since you have much less support from the saddle.
  2. Proper Bareback Form: Proper bareback riding form is simply proper saddle form, just put to a greater test. Relax your body, focus on keeping your weight in your heels, and follow the movement of the horse.
  3. Take it Slow: Start by simply walking your horse bareback. From there, focus on turning, reverses, and circles. From there, you can start moving up the gaits and incorporating transitions. Some riders even advance to jumping bareback once they gain experience! But remember to just stick with what you and your horse are comfortable with.
  4. Focus on Your Horse: It’s easy to get caught up in nerves when riding bareback. But when you focus on relaxing into your horse’s movement and pay attention to his cues, you’ve already mastered the better part of it. If he becomes tense, try something that you know will relax him before retrying the higher gait.

Use a Bareback Pad for a Comfier Ride

You might be wondering if you can gain all the benefits of bareback riding while also getting a little more comfort on your horse’s back. Good news: you can! Bareback pads are a great option to make your ride more comfortable for you and your horse while also keeping your jeans or breeches from getting the extra dirt and hair that didn’t come out at grooming time.

Parelli Bareback Pad

The Parelli Bareback Pad makes you feel like you are glued to your horse yet is thin enough to offer the feel of bareback riding. It includes two D-rings with latigos to fit a western style cinch, has a sturdy built-in handle, and a suede leather surface with medical felt under-pad. The Parelli Bareback Pad is a great accessory to have on hand in your tack room.

Bareback riding can be a great exercise to add to your routine. This skill can refine your riding and improve your partnership with your horse. But more than anything, it’s just plain fun! Remember to enjoy the ride.

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