Riding bareback is riding without a saddle but some people may use a bareback pad, which is a piece of cotton or wool in the shape of an english saddle. While a saddle is usually best when you're just starting out, there are many benefits to riding without one. For instance, riding bareback helps you build up your balance, and forces you to exercise different muscles. You have to rely on your legs and your balance to keep you on the horse. And sometimes, you just want to ride, without the hassle of tacking up. Ride bareback!

Your First Time

So, you decided to "take the plunge" and try riding bareback. For your safety, you should have

  • A good horse -- A good horse for riding bareback will have several of the following characteristics.
    • Calm -- This is important. If you try to ride bareback on an excitable horse, you could get seriously hurt.
    • Smooth -- It is easiest to ride bareback if your horse's gaits are relatively smooth
    • Well-trained -- Green horses and green riders do not go together. Even if you are a top eventer, if you have never ridden bareback before, you are considered a green rider for the moment.
    • Short -- While not the most important thing in a bareback-riding horse, short horse = short falling distance
    • Familiar to you -- It's best not to try a new skill on an unfamiliar horse.
  • A helmet -- your chances of falling off, at least once, while trying bareback riding, are very, very high. Always wear a helmet.
  • A spare stirrup leather or something to tie around the horse's neck -- Not tightly, but you may want an emergency handle (opt)
  • Body protector -- Even more protection in case of a fall (opt.)
  • A bareback pad -- This will give you a better grip on the horse, and you may not be as sore afterwards. But there are some risks to using a bareback pad, so read the rest of the article carefully. (opt.) Note: Rideing without a bareback pad allows the horses sweat to come in contact with your jeans, this small amount of moisture makes it alot easier to hold on with your inner thighs, maintaining good rideing posture.

Getting Started

To get on the horse, use a mounting block, or have someone give you a leg up. If you are strong enough and your horse is steady, you can vault on from the ground.

When you get on the horse, center yourself on the horse's backbone. Reach forward and grab the lowest hairs on the horse's mane, or the rope around the horse's neck, if you have one. If you are using a bareback pad with a handle strap, grab that. Move forward or backwards until you can grab your "handle", whatever it may be, without having to lean forward. When you're ready, take a deep breath, and signal your horse to walk.

The Emergency Dismount

Before you get started, you should know how to do an emergency dismount -- unfortunately, it is likely that you will have to do one sometime while riding bareback. An emergency dismount is always the best way to go if you feel yourself falling. You are less likely to be hurt.

To emergency dismount, lean forward, drop the reins, slide one leg over the horse's back, and land on your feet... before you land on your head. You have to do this very quickly, though. Your horse may stop, but he also may keep going. That's fine. Most likely, you're in an enclosed area, so he can't go far.

The Walk

Keep your weight in your seat bones, move your hips with the horse's movement, grip with your calves, and if you feel yourself slipping, stop the horse and balance yourself. When you start to feel more balanced, try weaving poles at the walk, or stopping and reversing direction.

The Trot

If you ride western and are used to sitting to the trot, or you are a dressage rider with a good, balanced sitting trot, this should be easy. If you are used to posting though, this could be difficult. In fact, you may even want to skip this gait and go straight to the lope for a while.

But if you're up for a bit of a challenge (and possibly a very sore seat!), here's what you need to know to trot:

Again, keep your weight low. Try to keep your horse's trot slow, because an "energetic" trot will be harder to sit to. Move your hips and seat with the horse as much as you can, and grip with your calves, not your heels. Stop the horse or slow to a walk when you become really unbalanced, then try again. You'll get the hang of it soon enough. If your horse does have an energetic trot that you can't slow, try posting the trot. Let the horse's movement push you up and forward and remember your proper diagonal.

The Lope

(Also called the canter) You may actually find that loping is easier than trotting. When you think you are ready, signal your horse to lope. Remember to sit back on your seatbones. Do not lean forward. Many riders can tell you where you go when you lean forward - over the horse's head! That should help your balance. Keep your seat on the horse's back at all times. Again, move your hips with the horse's motion. You should find this fairly easy to do, if your horse has a smooth lope. If you're an English rider, pick up your trot diagonal as soon as your horse comes from canter to trot. This will make the transition more comfortable for you and your horse.

More Advanced Skills

Once you become more balanced, you can try other things such as jumping low jumps, weaving poles, and barrel racing. For jumping, lean forward and rise up just a bit gong over the jump. It's kind of like loping, but with one little jump. You should be able to do it just fine.

For polebending and barrel racing, all you really need is balance and a good seat.

You can also so things like lay down on your horse, if you both have a strong bond and trust each other, not to mention experience with bareback riding. To do any of the following, please make sure no injury comes to anyone, you're sure you know what you're doing, and you have the horse walk so you don't lose your balance on the irst few tries. To lay down, you could put the reigns on your feet to steer or stop the horse, and just lay your head on his hips. You could also stand, as long as you are sure you won't hurt you or the horse. Just get your balance and get to your feet, holding the reigns.

Another fun trick to try is getting up on the horse Indian style. Indian style is where you grip a small chunk of the mane towards the withers, still holding the mane tightly you move your body to the side of the horse with your back face their neck; you then kick your right leg out and swing it up over the horse. It is a very fun Trick to try and very useful. You need a very calm horse, that's used to quick motions. Remember to where a helmet just in case and good luck!

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