l realised it’s a long time since I posted any photos. As usual this was because I didn’t take any. But when I saw how beautiful he is in his new summer coat I got the camera-phone out and grabbed a couple of pictures before l tacked up.
The other thing I have to share is that during our cool down after this morning’s schooling session it occurred to me that it might be a reasonable time to try taking the saddle off and having a little walk around without it. In an ideal world my first ever bareback experience would be with an instructor and a lead rope, but the business insurance for the lessons/instructors means there can be no bareback riding in a lesson, so that was out*. On the other hand I had a tired horse (so he’d be happy to walk slowly) and an empty indoor school (so no one else to worry about and minimal distractions/spook triggers). I decided to have a go.
I took the saddle off and led him to the mounting block. Was getting on going to be manageable? It was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I tend to forget that at 15.1 he’s actually quite short, so from the mounting block l could just get on as usual by throwing my right leg straight over despite not having a stirrup to use. I landed a little off centre and a little far back and he started walking off immediately but I was able to fidget myself into place OK.
Having survived mounting I realised I was actually on a horse bareback! It felt a bit precarious and I wondered what would happen when we came to a corner. Neither of us were very relaxed – both finding it strange. He moved very carefully, as if I were an overfull glass of water he needed to carry without spilling. That suited me fine! The corners came and went and they were fine too. I was very conscious of the noises from outside the school. A lawnmower started up close by. We were both aware of it but it did not cause problems and we continued concentrating on moving in balance together. I was surprised how comfortable it was, but then he is well padded and not high withered. We only did a couple of laps of the school on each rein. I might have gone on a little longer but I heard hooves outside and thought we were about to have company. I didn’t fancy being on bareback when the doors opened and a horse and rider joined us because it would distract us one way or another, so l hopped off. (Actually the hooves turned out to be a horse being loaded onto a lorry parked just outside, but by the time I realised that I was off already.)
It was an intimate feeling, both physically and mentally. I was aware of his skin, fat, muscle and bone each with their own way of moving beneath me. We were both conscious of my balance with a fiercer focus than usual.
I’m very glad I tried it and I feel it went well. I will do it again but only rarely. I felt I might be causing him discomfort because my weight would be much less evenly distributed over his back than with a saddle.
I don’t know if I’ll ever want to trot bareback but it would be out of the question for now – I can’t sit well in a saddle so it would be hazardous for both of us to try that any time soon. The next target is to sit the trot well enough in a saddle to be able to canter without stirrups. At present if l take my stirrups away we do OK at a very slow trot but he still finds canter transitions hard and cannot canter easily from anything but a fast trot. So I increase the trot speed towards something he can canter from and lose my balance which again means he can’t canter because my balance is upsetting his. It’s a work in progress. When the day comes that I can easily manage all three gaits without stirrups then I might consider trotting bareback!
Anyway, I can now say that I have ridden my horse bareback, and I’m proud of that.
* While it was a riding school we were not allowed to bareback on the premises at any time. Now we can, at our own risk, at any time except lessons.