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Bareback Horse Riding

bareback rider on horse
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Written by Andrea Parker

I pulled in at Champion C this Tuesday afternoon around five o’clock, before I had even turned off my car I realised that my short boots were in a rather useless spot, the front porch at home. Although I now have a bit of a collection of boots (read more about my Celeris Boots here), I had taken my other everyday pair home to clean.

Damn!

Having not ridden the previous day, I briefly thought about heading home to collect the boots. But that would take at least half an hour and I wasn’t particularly keen on riding late into the evening so early in the week. Instead I decided that the perfect solution would be to ride bareback. I rediscovered the joys of riding sans saddle a couple of years ago whilst at the beach, but have not done it for a while.

I’ve always viewed riding bareback as a fun past time, one that surely did not count as serious training. During my ride on Tuesday I was reminded that for me at least this is not the case. In fact quite to the contrary. I quickly realised how much harder it is for me and how much potential it offered as a training tool.

  • Balance. Without the saddle to rely on you have to find that sweet spot for balance on your own.
  • Fitness. You are working harder as you have to support yourself rather than relying on the saddle.
  • Increased feel. With nothing between you and your horses back you can feel much more. I started to play around with travers a little and could instantly feel that I was shifting my seat to the inside.
  • Without a saddle I have no choice to be 100% honest about how much weight Nonie is putting in my hands.

With all of these benefits, I’ve decided that I need to make riding bareback a more regular event.

I then stumbled across an article on last night which was discussing the purpose of the saddle. Interestingly this article said that in order to master their position, riders at the Spanish Riding School train without a saddle for up to a year. Furthermore, they often ride without stirrup irons. With a history that dates back as far at the 15th century who am I to argue with their methods.

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About the author

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Andrea is an Adult Amateur dressage rider who competes at medium level on her 13-year-old mare Mon Ami. Andrea shares her journey through the equestrian world on her blog The Sand Arena Ballerina and is working on an equestrian podcast called Equestrian Pulse.

9 Comments

  • Yes! Love this. I ride bareback often and have for many years. It is so good for many things. Position. Fitness. Communication. Getting rid of crutches. I could go on and on. I do everything bareback that I can with a saddle. I actually much prefer it to riding with a saddle, like having nothing between me and my horse. I also find that my aids are much more clear when I do ride with a saddle after bareback work.

    • Yes! I realised that I am relying way to much on a few things in particular, lots of work to do!

  • I use to ride my family’s horse bareback all the time up and down our dirt driveway . I only ever rode bareback because the saddle was too heavy for me to lift onto the horse, and I did not know how to cinch it up properly. I am now thankful for those first years without a saddle because I feel I have a good sense of how to find my seat and how to grip with my legs better than if I rode in a saddle. I think more and more people should be trained on how to ride a horse bareback before they ride in a saddle to understand how a horse moves and how to better communicate with the horse using their body weight and leg pressure.

  • Riding bareback makes such a big difference to my position and my ability to use my seat more that I try to schedule in a ride without a saddle regularly!

    • Yes, I’ve noticed the same thing. I sit with my deep abdominal muscles much more engaged, so I’m now making it a regular event too!

  • I love this! I don’t often ride bareback because I don’t have my own horse, but I did with Delight once. He’s a shark-finned TB so I had to sit back a bit and really balance well. Not the most comfortable horse to ride without a saddle. But it was very interesting. I would love to do it more often with a different horse.