Bareback Horse Riding: Benefits and Mastery  

You Just Gotta Try It!

Bareback horse riding came first. Long before the invention of the saddle, man was riding his horses bareback. Truth be known, when it comes to horse and rider, a saddle is not a necessity, but merely a handy tool of convenience!

Look who's been been riding bareback

The Native American Nez Perce Indians were some of the greatest horsemen on the Plains. They rode their bareback horses with such skill as to be the envy of Lewis and Clarke, the settlers of the Old West and the American cavalry too.

Bareback horse riding is arguably, the fastest way to develop your skill as a rider. Many riders use their saddle and their reins as a crutch. Humans tend to be rather lazy creatures. We won’t learn anything unless we have to, and that goes for balance as well. It’s only natural for a rider to take advantage of the stirrups and the saddle horn that sit so conveniently at their disposal.

Interesting History Fact

The Nez Perce Indians (people of the horse) developed the Appaloosa horse breed we know and love today.

The very origin of proficient horsemanship depends on the balance that can be achieved with riding bareback. Without the aid of a saddle, a bareback rider is forced to develop supreme balancing skills or suffer the immediate consequences. It’s a ‘do or die’ learning process. It’s amazing how fast you can learn to perfect your balance when your own immediate physical safety depends on it!

Developing as great sense of balance isn't the only benefit to riding bareback. You will find a beautiful channel of communication opens up between you and your horse. Without several inches of blanket and leather saddle between you and your horse, you will feel their every move. Your horse was always been moving and sending signals to you, but now you are suddenly much more aware of them.

The benefits of bareback horse riding are priceless.

When bareback, you can feel your horse’s intentions clearly and respond faster. This channel of communication goes both ways. The horse can feel your every move as well. With such close contact between horse and rider, you’ll find yourself responding too and sending out ever more and more subtle signals. This beautifully silent communication between horse and rider becomes nearly invisible to the observer. Horse and rider are like one. It doesn't get any better than that!

Your horse is the best riding instructor you will ever have. Nature made it that way. If you ride and have never been bareback horse riding, you are cheating yourself. Try going native and ditch the saddle for a little while. You will be a better rider for it and your horse will appreciate it too.

This is what Mastery of Bareback Horse Riding Looks Like 

Riding Bareback
Getting Started with a Lunge Line

Riding bareback is something every horseman should master. Bareback horse riding will quickly develop essential balancing skills and train your body to feel your horse, like no other riding activity can. Not only that, but you will use and develop muscles you never knew you had!

There are two great ways to learn how to ride bareback. One or both of them will go along way toward developing your riding skills.

Bareback Riding on a Lunge Line

This method only works if your horse knows how to work off a lunge line and you have a partner to help you out. The big challenge for you as the rider is that you will be riding the horse completely naked. No, I don’t mean unclothed…I mean you will have nothing on the horse, not even a bridle. This means you will not be able to use the reins or your horse’s mouth to find your balance.

Start out with your partner lunging the horse in a circle at a walk with you on your horse’s bareback. When you are comfortable with this, hold your arms out from your sides, like a little kid playing at flying an airplane. Your job is not to control the horse in anyway, but rather maintain perfect balance while your friend directs the horse.

When you have mastered the walk, introduce the trot and finally the lope. You will want to practice in both left and right directions. By now you realize that you will have mastered sitting the stop and how to maintain your balance during turns as well….a challenge, no doubt. If you want to take this balancing act a step farther add small jumps to the lunge path.

Bareback Riding Out and About

We always rode bareback as kids

Now that you have mastered the art of bareback horse riding in a controlled environment, it’s time to take it to the next step. Go for a trail ride without your saddle. Out in the real world you will be exposed to any number of situations, all of which your horse will be responding to as well. You will be using your fine sense of balance and newly honed muscles to control your horse.

Bareback Pads

Beware that bareback pads do tend to slip!

You will be more challenged riding bareback without a bareback pad. This is because pads have a handle on them which you may be tempted to use and they give you a more grip-able surface. It’s much harder to slide off a bareback pad than it is to slide off your horse’s slick summer coat. Without the pad you will be forced to anticipate and respond to your horse’s movements in a very timely manner. The pad offers a little more forgiveness in that regard.

Bareback pads do have their place. If you’re concerned about your horses comfort or you have a horse with extremely high withers, like my mare Hana, you won’t be able to tolerate a very long bareback ride with out a pad. Just refrain from using the ones that have stirrups on them, otherwise you’ll be defeating the whole purpose.

Riding bareback is as natural as it comes. Most horses rather enjoy it too. My daughters horse, Mystic, who tends to be cinchy, just loves going bareback. You can just see the happiness on her. Mystic responds so beautifully to leg ques when they are bareback, my daughter really notices the difference.

Last Christmas I gave my daughter a bareback pad. At first she was reluctant to ride without a saddle. But now that she has begun riding bareback, she hardly ever wants to use the saddle or the bareback pad. I couldn't be happier!

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