Conquering My Fear of Bareback Riding

My relationship with riding bareback is...not the best.  I have a vivid memory from college of me curled up in the fetal position aboard Teegan's saintly third level mare at a canter while riding bareback, while Mary stood at the other end of the lunge line yelling, "SIT UP!  SIT UP!!!!"  I'm not the most confident rider, and I also historically haven't had the most independent aids, so riding bareback - mostly the trot, but also the trot-canter transition - used to be utterly terrifying.  In fact, I can count the last three bareback rides I've had - that one, once on Izzy for a final three years ago, and once when cooling down Connor in December - because they stick out so vividly for me.

I'd planned on getting down to business in a big way with today's ride, since he still clearly needs a tuneup, so I was disappointed to find that I'd forgotten my breeches at home - and there's no WAY I'm riding in jeans.  I just don't know how people ride with that seam right...uh...there.  I wasn't not going to ride, so my only option was bareback.  I put my game face on, put his bridle on, and walked into the ring.

Turns out, riding bareback was probably the best thing I could have done.  I slowed things down and focused on remastering the basics of flexion, rhythm and relaxation for both of us at the walk.  I found it easy to notice and correct it when I was driving down into his back with my seatbones, and he was sharp and in front of my leg.  Most importantly, I realized that the left rein and connection trouble I've been having WAS outside rein related, as my trainer said, but it wasn't that I didn't have the outside rein: it was that I wasn't giving him any half-halts on the outside.  Once I half-halted and continued my communication on the inside rein, he immediately gave and relaxed.  I probably have been holding him with that rein, so he just rolled with it, and it escalated.  Just goes to show, it's almost always rider related, I just have to figure it out!

I had planned on just walking, but I was feeling pretty comfortable with him and his focus level, so I decided to take the big step up to the sitting trot (I'd post, but I really wanted to stay mentally and physically relaxed and not give myself a chance to tighten up).  It was here that I had a massive personal breakthrough: I realized that in a good, following sitting trot in which my seatbones are in constant contact with his back, my hips are moving as if they were part of his shoulders.  It was like he and I were one being instead of two separate animals, my legs and seat moving with his ribcage and shoulders in such perfect harmony.  My sitting trot on him in the saddle is the best it's ever been on any horse, but it's never felt like it did today, and I've never understood the biomechanics of it all that clearly before.

I do believe I will be doing more bareback work in the future...just not yet at the canter.

2 comments:

  1. Good for you!!!
    I love riding bareback. You do feel so much more with out the saddle in between. Comrade and I have worked up to the canter, but it took time since he has issues.
    I hope you get more comfortable. I have nerves, but for some reason not as many bareback. I used to jump and barrel race on our first two horses.
    One thing that I do as a crutch the first couple times on a new horse is put a leadline around the neck so if I need a stabilizer I hold that instead of their mouth.
    Have fun... and don't worry, our trainer who would ride our very green arab was not comfortable at all riding bareback.

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