Migrated Other Riding

Bridleless riding adventure on the beach

horse with rider facing ocean surf on beach
Written by Andrea Parker

As long as you’re having fun, that’s all that matters. We’ve all heard it before. And yet somewhere along the way our ambition takes over and the fun can easily take a back seat. Regular readers will know that I love dressage and I genuinely take pleasure in the process of learning and mastering new skills. However I also recognise that there have been times where my goals have led me to develop tunnel vision. Consequently I’ve found myself spending far to much time in ‘the sand box’.

Somewhere along the way our ambition takes over and fun takes a back seat.

The problem with spending all your riding time in the arena is two fold in my mind. Firstly, at the end of the day horses need to be horses, and just like any other athlete they need time to play too. Secondly, by thinking that the arena is the only place we can learn we fail to acknowledge a whole other world of possibilities.

I’d recently realised that it had been a while since I had done anything just for fun. I hadn’t jumped on bareback to go for a stroll, we hadn’t gone to the beach or played around with trot poles. On Thursday afternoon I was bringing Nonie in from the paddock considering whether I would pull out some trot poles and have a different type of schooling session when I ran into two of the other girls who were there.

We got to talking and Haydie mentioned that she had just jumped her horse Tribal 1.6m bareback! I could recall hearing that Haydie rode her horses bridleless – this is something that I have always wanted to try. “Just get on and give it a go,” Haydie said. Haydie, who I didn’t know particularly well, quickly offered to give me a hand learning to ride bridleless.

That quick exchange was all the encouragement I needed. I was going to give it a go! Now to be clear, I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone. But I’ve had Nonie for seven and a half years, I have a fairly good idea of how she will respond to different things, I had a safe contained environment, other people were around and I was wearing a helmet. I saddled up, bridle included and took her for a quick trot down the laneway as a warm up and then headed up to the round yard.

Oddly enough the thing I was most nervous about was getting on her without a bridle and no one there to hold her. This relates back to a fall I had a few years ago when I came off another person’s horse when they took off as I was getting onto the horse and broke my arm.

I should have known that Nonie would stand there like a lamb and I got on without issue. We started off just with walk, halt, walk transitions and turns using the neck rope. Fairly quickly I felt confident enough to have a trot and Nonie didn’t disappoint. It was very validating to feel how well she responded to my seat aids to slow down and move forward in the trot. I even had a little canter. By the end of the ride I was on a high. Nonie had been an absolute gem and it was lovely to feel how freely she moved out underneath me without the bit in her mouth.

The following afternoon Haydie offered to give me more of a hand with bridleless riding and I happily accepted. We worked on getting a quicker response to the downwards transition and refining the turning aids. Nonie picked this up easily confirming something that I have often suspected.

Now we have photographic proof of our bridleless adventures.

The following day, I had an early start as a few of us made our way down to Grasstree beach, about 45 minutes South of Mackay. It is a perfect beach for riding horses on with a long, flat, firm and fairly straight strip perfect for a good gallop. It is also one of the quieter beaches in the region, meaning that for the better part of the morning we had it to ourselves.

We went for a trot and canter up and down the beach and then had a good trot through the water. If you’ve ever wondered what dressage riders find so addictive about the sport, a trot or canter through water might just give you some insight. The power that your horse produces as they move through the water is incredible.

The only downside was that in my rush to get out to the paddock I couldn’t find my old boots, meaning that I had to wear my good Celeris boots (fingers crossed they’ll be okay with a good oiling). Within minutes of trotting through the waves my poor boots were absolutely saturated.

Ever wondered what dressage riders find so addictive? A trot or canter through water might give you some insight.

Once we were done with the faster part of the ride we went back to the floats and took our saddles off so that we could go out a bit deeper and give the horses a swim.

Taking Nonie to the beach is always good fun, I generally feel a bit safer at the beach than I do when I am riding around the cane paddocks. This means that I feel more comfortable pushing outside of my comfort zone.

I’d love to know what you do for fun with your horse?

If you enjoyed this story remember to pin it so that others can find it, too.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: 

Love it? Share it!

About the author


Andrea Parker

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.