Riding Bareback -- The Walk

I've never been particularly comfortable riding bareback, but events combined in recent weeks to encourage me to try riding my horse bareback for the first time in about eight years.
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I've never been particularly comfortable riding bareback, but events combined in recent weeks to encourage me to try riding my horse bareback for the first time in about eight years.

I've never been particularly comfortable riding bareback, not only because my horse has a spine and withers like a relief map of the Himalayas, but because my sense of balance seems to leave me without the security of a saddle. However, events combined in recent weeks to encourage me to try riding my horse bareback for the first time in about eight years.

First of all, I'd been a part of?discussions?about the benefits of riding au naturel and second, one day when I got to the barn (a distance of 20 miles from my home) I discovered I'd left my saddlepads hanging out to dry on the balcony railing. Rather than disappoint Amanda, who had accompanied me to the barn that day, I jokingly suggested we try riding bareback.

One thing I should point out here is that my elderly Thoroughbred gelding, Annapolis, is 16.2 hands high. So the first challenge was simply to get on board! Since Amanda was manning the digital camera, I decided to opt for the "climb up the fence" method. Not particularly elegant, as you can see from the photograph below (especially when the horse steps away at the wrong moment), but effective. My days of vaulting?onto a horse's back are long gone.

Other methods of getting on a horse without the benefit of a saddle and stirrups are to have someone give you a leg up or to hop on from the bed of a truck or other convenient perch.

The rider should sit on the fleshy part of his/her bottom--no problem here!?

The reasons for riding bareback are many,?and include balance, feel, finesse, confidence and connection. As soon as I was on board, I became aware of the second of those points. I could immediately feel Annapolis' spine! But after a moment, even just at a standstill, I was able to feel whether I was in balance or had more weight on one seatbone or the other and was able to adjust my position.

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Christine Barakat of Horse & Rider advises to sit on the widest, most comfortable part of your rear. I've got plenty of padding there, so that part wasn't difficult. She also explains that this deeper seat tends to bring your legs further forward than they would be in a saddle, but that this is normal. Looking at the photo to the right, my position doesn't look too bad. At least I'm not perching on my crotch, which Barakat says is a no-no.

The next challenge was going to be moving. Click here for the adventure into walk-trot.