OK, here comes my first entry! (excuse me if it rambles, I am a world-class rambler)
So, recently I've been working on riding bareback. My instructor is HUGELY for bareback riding, and after doing it twice in a row I definitely agree with her (well, I would anyway, because she IS my instructor ) This week, nobody else was booked in, so I rode for half an hour on my own instead of the usual hour. Normally I ride with two other people but one of them only comes every two weeks and the other broke her toe :(. So it was just me.
I rode Pita, who actually I haven't ridden for a while, and never bareback. I would normally have ridden one of two other horses, but both of them are currently off, one is lame, and one is having a break because she had a very busy week. Pita was probably NOT the best choice for learning bareback because you always have to be on top of what he's going to do as well as what you're doing yourself but I think it really has taught me more than a horse that just goes around the arena whenever you ask. Plus, he's not one of those lazy horses that's very slow and you have to constantly remind them to wake up and stop dragging their feet - he responds to very light aids, usually.
I walked and trotted without too much problem. I was a lot better at this than last week because my instructor gave me a hint which REALLY worked - put all your weight into your hips. This helped me sit back and be a lot more secure so I wasn't bouncing around everywhere.
The thing about Pita is, he has two 'tricks' which he thinks (thinks) gets him out of work. He doesn't realise it really WOULD be more pleasant for both of us if he just avoided doing these things, but no. Horses . The first thing he does is swerve across the arena. And he has the bendiest neck I think I've ever seen in a horse, ever. It's quite a lot of work sometimes to pull him around and send him back to the outside. This has gotten a LOT better since he first came to the riding school a little over a year ago. He used to do it constantly, but now it's quite easy to shut that one down.
What's a little more tough is his new-found love of running into the corners. He is a VERY clever horse and knows how to get there, too. Normally, this is easy to stop, with a saddle on, so you're very secure and can put all your effort into stopping him. However, when he runs into a corner, he usually goes PAST it (so you think he won't do it) often with his head down, going around nicely, and then he'll spin and run back. This can be quite hard to stick to, if you're not expecting it - or even if you are expecting it - and so you can't put all your thoughts into stopping him. However, I did manage to stop him (for the most part) eventually, by squeezing the inside rein, holding the outside rein, and using a lot of outside leg to stop him going into it.
We also did a little cantering, although when he was reverting to his corner tricks we didn't because it was hard enough to fix them at a trot. Cantering is a LOT easier to sit to than trotting - way, way easier, probably because it's a lot smoother. It also felt quite strange, because you can feel their legs and muscles moving underneath you heaps more than you can with a saddle. I was quite proud of myself in my cantering, because I kept him from going into those corners or swerving around and even when he did spin and run to a corner I was ready, I didn't fall or lose my seat and I stopped him quite quickly. He also put his head down (not sure why) while we were cantering the opposite direction and was trying to drag the reins through my hands - being a pain - but I stayed firm and didn’t put up with that either.
Afterwards it was time for a nice warm shower for Pita in the wash rack, and time to pull all the white hairs off my legs . One of the boarders was grooming her absolutely beautiful horse and really did make my day when she told me I had done a great job. It just made me warm and happy inside. So I told her that her horse was absolutely gorgeous and she fell to pieces and told me how much she loved him. Aww… Horse owners are so proud of their steeds :).
Yeah, sorry, that was really long. But I had a lot to say! And a huge, enormous, BOWL of cookies, with icecream, cream, and lots of chocolate if you read all that! (you deserve a medal if you even tried)
Feel free to leave a comment/advice/etc. just please, be constructive. I am still learning and I have a great instructor. Thanks :)