Help Going Bareback
So the last 10 minutes or so after every lesson I always take the saddle off Tango and just go bareback. Obviously I'm fine with walking, but at the trot as soon as I feel myself bounce I tense up. I do it in the saddle too when I go stirrup-less, and even when I am relaxed if I feel myself bounce I tense up and then, naturally, bounce more, which in turn makes Tang go faster and which makes me even more uncomfortable. She usually stops pretty easy though when I pull back on the reins, even if I am gripping with my legs-thank GOD! I'm slightly better at it bareback, but still-as we get faster and I jostle around I get tense. I grab a handful of mane but it doesn't really help. I'm not even thinking about the canter yet, and the fact that the Indians galloped bareback while shooting a bow and arrow is nothing short of holy status in my eyes.
What can I do to relax? I only get to do bareback trotting once a week, 'cause Tango's fast and hot enough that I don't need to try it and lose control in the middle of the field here at home. By the end of it I had-somewhat-learned to just go with it, but even as soon as I start slipping, however minimally, I totally freeze up. I wouldn't say I'm afraid to fall, though I haven't yet on Tang, it's just that it's inconvenient and I'd rather do what I can to stay on. I guess part of the problem is her back is thin, but 99.9% of the problem me...*sigh* it's times like these I wish we rode our big Percheron mare...her back is as wide and cushioned as a recliner.
And I used to trot and canter around on our tiny old pony no problem...just Tango's a lot bigger, and I don't know what my problem is.
Shay-la uses this trick with new riders who are having difficulty keeping their balance bareback. She gets them to slide as far as they can down one side, and then they need to use their butt/thigh muscles to get back to centre. It definately takes awhile, but as you progress you can slide further and further, and get used to "popping: yourself back up using just your muscles.
Like any muscle in your body, they need to have a memory before they can adapt. I depend entirely on my thighs when I ride bareback - from the knee down, my legs pretty much just dangle. If my horse spooks or spins, it's my iron thigh catching her side that keeps me in place, not clamping my lower legs onto her.
Practice posting without stirrups/bareback. It may seem hilarious at first, but when you can do it easily, you know your muscles have learned how to be tight and ready at all times. I can be as relaxed as can be on my horse, but as soon as they do something silly, my thighs literally clamp down on their own before I can even react - the joys of muscle memory! :lol:
Everyone starts out having a rough go of it! I've been riding bareback my entire life, since I was yo young to heave a saddle over my head! Just work on training your muscles, and the relaxation will come!
Here's a funny pic of mine - you'd probably swear I fell off after this was taken, but I can promise you I did not! She deeked to the side because of the gate and I thought I was a goner, but that upper leg muscle/knee saved me!
Really? My lower legs have never dangled when riding bareback. I keep them on the horse just as I would in a saddle.
Totally agree with what MacabreMikolaj said.
It helps to try to do a form of posting the trot bareback all the time, too. That's what I've always done, just a slight up and down...I haven't ridden bareback in awhile (no way am I getting on my current narrow withered, bouncy, sometimes spooky TB bareback) but as I recall I believe it helps to slightly tense and relax your butt muscles (or squeeze the very top part of your thighs) in rhythem. If you try while sitting or even better while sitting reclined with your feet up on the couch, as I am right now lol, you can feel that it lifts you up slightly.
Its all to do with the upper thighs, I completely agree. Having your heels down also helps you keep that contact with your thigh. Don't grip with your knees because this can really offset your balance. Why don't you have a lunge line lesson bareback, that way your horse in under control and you can really focus on that balance?
MacabreMikolaj, what do you mean? Like, sit to one side of her back and then readjust myself as we're moving? Anyways, I'll try that, and maybe I'll ask my instructor to do a lunge lesson bareback..
Until fairly recently, I was blessed with my "bareback partner" being little pony with a back as wide and comfortable as a couch and a trot as smooth as silk. we won every bareback competition, because it just wasn't fair for us to be competing against people with horses that don't feel like couches at all gaits! Then I started riding other horses bareback. Ones with actual spines. It didn't go so well the first time- the bouncing was so uncomfortable! Cantering is fine on every horse I've ridden bareback, but trotting is very difficult.
What I did to improve my balance and relax, is I started on a longe line with stirrups and everything. I did sitting and posting trot on a very bouncy horse, but with my arms straight out to the sides. That helped my balance. then I got rid of the stirrups, and repeated. Finally, I took off the saddle, and held on to reins and mane, and did sitting and posting trot. By that time, although I wasn't perfect, the balance practice had really helped, and I could ride the trot comfortably.
A relaxing technique I've always used, is before I do something potentially scary or challenging, I halt and take one huge breath, and imagine it going up from your lungs to your head, then down from your head to your toes. That always relaxes all my muscles, making what I'm about to do a whole lot easier! Good luck
Okay, this might sound stupid, but I swear it works. Have someone holding the lunge line. Start out standing still, and find what you think is your perfect balance. Then close your eyes. The first time I did this, I realized that where I thought my body needed to be was not the best position. Once you find your balance with your eyes closed, do the same thing at the walk.
MacabreMikolaj is absolutely right about using thigh to grip. As for posting bareback or without irons, I did both when I was showing a lot. It really helps your inner thigh develop, and it really helped me figure out how to post with irons, without putting weight in my irons.
Once you have the walking with your eyes closed, move into a trot (eyes open at first). When you feel confident enough, close your eyes for a stride or two.
The older gelding I used to run barrels on was very smooth, and I used to lope patterns on him bareback. When we went to the trainer, after our work we got to play in the pond. He loved swimming, and it was good exercise.
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