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shellybean 07-22-2013 10:42 AM

How to get my horse to accept bareback riding?
I'm dying to ride Apollo bareback. I'm assuming he never had been before I got him (he was just started under saddle and had a couple rides when I bought him). A few months ago, back in February, I was lazy and didn't feel like tacking up so I thought I'd try riding bareback... I had ridden him 3 or 4 times and he was doing great. I leaned and laid on his back and he didn't care so I decided I'd hop on and within 2 seconds he had me dumped over his head. I don't know if it was because he was a little on the thin side so it was uncomfortable for him/hurt him? Or if it was just a whole new experience and it freaked him out? I tacked him up and got back on and he didn't have a problem with me riding in saddle...

He is now at a perfect weight so I want to try again, just incase that was the reason he threw me. He's about 3 months restarted under saddle and he is doing SO well. How should I go about starting him bareback?

Poseidon 07-22-2013 10:54 AM

I assumed my mare (who is now 10) had never really been ridden bareback or taught that it was okay to be ridden bareback, so we did this slow process:

1. Bareback pad for its cinch. First, I put on her saddle pad like I normally would for my saddle, then the bareback pad and cinched it up so she still got the "Oh, there's a pad and a cinch. I am going to be ridden." The hardest part of this was getting her to stand still by a mounting block to slide on.

2. After a while of her being okay with me being able to hop on with a mounting block, I took away the normal saddle pad and was just using the bareback pad so I'd have more contact with her back. Took some more practice with being okay with the new pressure.

3. After a while, I worked up the courage to try it without the bareback pad at all. It went splendidly.

This was over the course of at least a year and a half, but it was sparingly. If it was done daily, it probably shouldn't take long. We have reached the point where I convinced a friend to just throw herself up without a mounting block as I've been scared to since my mare kicked out last time someone tried. Totally chill with it. Woo!

BritchesNStitches 07-22-2013 10:54 AM

It could be that he was uncomfortable/it was a new experience, so good on you for waiting to try again until he had a few months of under saddle work before you tried again. Riding bareback is a whole new level of contact to have with your horse, so try to be as light and smooth as you can be when mounting him. It could be that the mount startled him. So, try just mounting quietly and then dismounting to get him used to the way you feel without a saddle. Perhaps investing in a simply bareback pad may ease the transition from saddle to bareback and may make him more comfortable with the idea of a closer contact feeling. It is awesome to be excited about trying new things! Just remember to take it slow so that the both of you can have an enjoyable experience!

DuckDodgers 07-22-2013 11:17 AM

I had a similar experience with my horse not too long after I got him. We were both pretty young, and it never dawned on me that he might take issue with me just hopping on his saddleless back as I have done numerous times with other horses. He immediately shied away and I fell on my butt. The next time I tried I had him calmly standing by the mounting block, and I started petting him on both sides of his back, leaning on him and getting back off, leaning my weight over, wiggling a little bit, and petting him, and when it was time to get on I didn't do a drastic grab mane and swing myself over motion. I stood at the top of the mounting block and calmly lowered myself on his back. There was no issue, and he just stood there quietly. I did this same method with the OTTB that I've been riding, and he was nice and calm for the process as well.

It is possible that your horse was having pain issues at the time, but I think it's just as likely that he was not expecting such a close feel on him and got scared by the new sensation. Remember, horses are prey animals and are naturally wary of a potential attacker jumping on their backs!

amberly 07-22-2013 11:33 AM

My horse Brisco is 22 years old.
He has been ridden bareback so many times.
Every spring he is like this...

But I will be working with him on that, haha!
The first time I tried getting bareback on him was a few years ago before my brother graduated college. Brisco is 15.1 hands, so we had to get a running start to get a jump big enough.
But we could run and jump on his back and he would be asleep the whole time if he weren't eating.

But this year when I decided it was time to get my balance better with him, it was like a brand new thing for him.
I can lay my hand across his back with my hand on the other side - but as soon as I raise up on my tip-toes with the same position, he raises his head and widens his eyes.
I did manage to lay partway on his back, but then he decided it was way too strange for him and he did his little mini buck - which for his size and complete laziness would be an inch off the ground!!

But I thought that since he was fine under saddle, then I would get a saddle pad of some sort that wasn't too thick but enough to make him think I was saddling up, and then get on him from above and hang on for dear life.

Saddlebag 07-22-2013 11:37 AM

Did you clamp your legs to his sides? that'll do it.

BlueSpark 07-22-2013 11:59 AM

just go back to basics. my horses are always started bare back, so they never have a problem. OTTB's are ridden in a saddle that barely qualifies as a scrap of leather, practically bareback with stirrups, I have never had a OTTB react badly to bare back, and I have restarted dozens.

when I go to start a horse under saddle, I first get them used to having my hands rubbed all over them. then I desensitize to having a rope flung all over, and swung over, under and beside them(usually at this point I would introduce a saddle pad and saddle, but this has already been done with this horse). when they stand calmly for that, I move on to being able to bounce beside then on both sides, as if you were about to jump up. then bring a bucket or mounting block, and get them used to you being above and over them. pet them all over, then lean on their back.
progress to being across the horses back, stomach down, from both sides. this is the safest position to be in on a horse that may react unpredictably, as you can slide off and land on your feet in the event of a melt down. at this point you want to rub the horse all over, as far as you can reach, neck, butt, flank. wiggle around. when the horse stands quietly for you to rub them all over, jump on and slide off, move on to the next step.
from the previous stomach down position, with the rein on the mounting side shortened so the horses head is tilted towards you, swing your foot over, so you are sitting properly astride. lean forward and rub the head and neck. rub the horses butt, swing your legs, lean back. get the horse used to you mounting and dismounting from both sides, sliding off the rump, flopping all over. once the horse stands quietly for this, go ahead and ride.

Palomine 07-22-2013 04:58 PM

When I was young, I rode every horse bareback usually, and never thought about whether they would be fine with it or not.

You could be bumping mouth, bumping sides, or clamping down.

Or horse could be picking up you are timid and reacting to that.

You need to ride with your crotch and not your legs.

DuckDodgers 07-22-2013 06:07 PM


Originally Posted by Palomine (Post 3133849)
When I was young, I rode every horse bareback usually, and never thought about whether they would be fine with it or not.

You could be bumping mouth, bumping sides, or clamping down.

Or horse could be picking up you are timid and reacting to that.

You need to ride with your crotch and not your legs.

I wouldn't think that bumping the mouth, leg clamping, etc would be the issue if the bucking happened immediately upon getting on when she was not anticipating any issues. Others may be different, but with most folks who have been riding for awhile when no issue is anticipated the first instincts upon getting on a stopped horse aren't to bump the reins or clamping with the legs. I would think that would be a much more likely explanation if the horse had been moving when this happened. It's definitely something to consider though- the problem most likely won't get better if any of those problems aren't fixed! I had never given bareback riding a second thought until I decided to hop on my horse that day and he scooted right out from under me! :lol:

shellybean 07-23-2013 11:48 AM

I never gave riding bareback a second thought either! lol Although 4 out of the 6 times I have fallen have been bareback...2 when I had a bareback lesson and fell off twice cantering (longggg time ago, when I was 8 yrs old). Another when a 17.3 hh warmblood spooked and I went striaight up in the air and landed on my tail bone (that was probably my worst fall...couldn't walk normal for a month), and then when Apollo threw me.

I had literally just slid on off of a mounting block, and as soon as I was on his back he threw leg clamping or rein bumping ect. I think it just caught him off guard?

Thanks for all the tips. I'll have to see what works for him...I'll probably have someone hold him on a lead rope as well, just to be safe.

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