There are so many different types of saddles out there. But what about bareback riding?
If you’ve never tried it before, you probably have lots of questions. Is it comfortable for you and for your horse? Is it safe?
One thing is for sure – it’s very different from riding in a saddle, and it requires experience and skill to do it properly.
In this article, we’re offering practical advice on how to do it in the safest way possible. We also want to point out potential risks so you can decide on your own if bareback riding is for you.
What Is Bareback Riding?
People are used to seeing riders in a saddle, but there’s also another form of riding. Bareback riding means a rider is sitting directly on the horse’s back, without any type of saddle. Not everyone can do it since it requires a lot of practice to maintain balance without any support.
There are several pros and cons regarding bareback riding. On the one hand, it seems more natural since you can communicate with the horse without any gear – just using your body. On the other, the lack of appropriate tack increases the risk of injury, both for the rider and the horse.
Does It Hurt?
As mentioned, bareback riding can feel uncomfortable for both you and your horse.
A rider is at higher risk of falling off the horse since they don’t have appropriate support without the saddle, reigns, and other horse tacks.
There have also been studies that show that riding without a saddle adds to the pressure on the horse’s back and may cause pain, bruises, and tissue damage.
However, if you don’t turn bareback riding into a habit or do it daily, there probably won’t be any severe damage for either you or your horse.
How to Get On and Off Without a Saddle
Suppose you’re a bareback riding enthusiast and want to practice this form of riding from time to time. In that case, you may be wondering how to get on the horse without the saddle and stirrups. Will you need someone to help you each time you want to mount your horse?
It may sound challenging, but it’s possible. The best way to mount your horse is to use a mounting block that you can stand on. That way, you’ll be taller, and you’ll then be able to put your leg over the horse’s back.
There are different kinds of mounting blocks – with two or more steps. You should choose one depending on your horse’s size and your needs.
You can also have someone lift your leg up and help you get on, but a mounting block is best as you may not always have someone around to assist.
When you overcome this first challenge, you will also need to make sure you know exactly how to ride a bareback horse. It will be different than what you may be used to if you rode with a saddle before, and you’ll have to go through an adjustment period.
If you’ve been riding in a saddle for a long time, you may want to forget your old habits and try to focus on learning this as a completely new skill.
Tips for Safe Bareback Riding
The first thing to know is that you must always start at a very slow pace. Check your posture and make yourself as comfortable as possible until you feel stable. Bear in mind that you need to be careful not to hurt the horse with your legs.
Remember that riding without stirrups will make you feel unbalanced. There’s a lot of practicing to do before you’re ready to ride faster.
Use the Bridle
You may have ditched the saddle, but at least at the beginning, use the bridle until you’re more experienced. It’ll provide some balance and give you more control over the horse.
Avoid Open Areas
Riding in a closed area, like a ranch or a yard, is more suitable for beginners until they get used to bareback riding. It’s safer than an open area where you have little control over where the horse goes if you lose your balance.
Try Using a Bareback Pad
A bareback pad may give you more comfort and stability than riding entirely bareback. Some experts advise these for novices but recommend models without stirrups. In case of a fall, your leg may get entangled in the stirrup and cause a more severe injury.
Make Sure You’re Aligned
The recommended posture for bareback riding is where your ear, shoulder, hip, and heel are aligned. This posture provides you with as much balance as possible without a saddle. You can achieve more balance by sitting nearer the front, closer to the horse’s back.
Safety Comes First
Bareback riding doesn’t need to be a risky activity if you do it right. It can be fun and give you a beautiful feeling of freedom and connection to your horse.
However, there’s some learning to do before you relax and go on adventures with your horse. You need to feel stable and confident that you can safely get on the horse, control it, and manage unpredictable situations.
When you gain enough experience, you’ll be able to fully enjoy riding without a saddle.