Bareback Adventures

Every now and then it's good to skip saddling and improve your riding skills.

By Kelli Neubert

February 9, 2017

150715 koch 143Riding bareback has benefits for both horse and rider.

We are lucky enough to have a couple of fields where we turn our horses out. Our place is connected by lanes and alleys and pretty much every pen and pasture is connected somehow. Rather than walk out to the field 18 different times, we generally choose to run our horses up from the pasture to a smaller catch pen every morning.

This job of moving horses from their pastures to our saddling area generally falls to me, and I really enjoy it. Not only do I like to see all of our geldings and fillies move and travel before we ride them (give them a quick once-over and make sure all is well), but I also enjoy getting another horse broke by riding behind said moving horses. It’s really great for young horses to become accustomed to being left by a fast group of horses. It’s a counterintuitive process for them to fall behind, and if it’s done enough (in a fairly smart manner), they become a lot more mentally mature and gain confidence doing so.

In our business, efficiency is a very important quality, so I’ve got a pen of my “using” horses close to where we saddle. If we are going to work cattle or buffalo that day, I saddle one of my geldings and prepare for a day of moving animals, both equine and bovine. If we are just going to work the flag, the machine, or just ride the 2-year-olds, then the task of moving horses from pasture to catch-pen falls on the unsaddled back of ol’ Buttermilk (my steady, very round, very smooth-traveling paint mare).

Ah bareback. The old reminder that our legs are not nearly as strong as we thought, and that our balance horseback relies heavily on a pommel, cantle, cinch and two stirrups. I was told when I was 10 that if I wanted a horse, I needed to save my money and buy one. So I did. However, my budgeting was not planned well, and after I bought a horse, I was penniless and saddle-less. This meant that I spent a lot of time riding without a saddle (until I finally had enough money to buy one myself). I can’t think of a better way for me to find my seat and my confidence riding. I can guarantee that I ruined many good pairs of pants (and possibly a couch or two) after my three-hour rides sans saddle.

barebackKelli Neubert tries to ride without a saddle once a week.

I’ve made a pact with my adult self to make a conscientious effort to ride something without a saddle once a week. I feel that it’s good for all of our horses (both owned and outside) to get used to, and it helps me with my balance and feel of a horse when I actually do have a saddle on its back.

And if you’re a certain kind of person, secretly, it might transport you to a different state of mind. Your imagination might see you with feathers in your hair and war paint on your horse in the 1800s. Or maybe a renegade knight that stole the king’s horse and had to flee the country with a bounty on his head.

Not that I ever think these things. My riding is serious, professional, and all work. That is all.

Anyway, if you’ve made the decision to jog down the bareback road, I’ve got a couple of tips from my own experience. My personal recommendation (at least starting out) is a horse with some mane, low withers and an easy way of traveling. Stay in a safe, controlled area. Don’t wear a pair of jeans that you care very much about. And by all means, until you develop enough leg muscle to post your trot without a saddle, avoid that dreaded extended trot. (I promise, your groin will thank you) And, as with all the other exercises and processes we aspiring horsemen attempt, keep after it. The stronger you get, the better you will be, and the more fun you will have.

All that said, I encourage any of the riders out there to be safe and try riding without a saddle once in a while. It’s made me a stronger, more balanced rider in the saddle, and it can be another great thing for your horses to get comfortable doing.

And I won’t tell a soul if you pretend like you’re an Indian warrior scouting buffalo 200 years ago while you’re doing it.

Not that I would ever think to do these things.

 

Tags: Kelli NeubertBareback