If you'd have told me, when I first got Annapolis 12 years ago, that I would one day be riding him bareback I would have thought you a little "touched". If you'd have told me I'd be cantering bareback and enjoying it, I would have known you were crazy! Annapolis had three speeds - fast, faster and speed of light.
Nowadays, as a venerable gentleman of 21 years of age, he has mellowed, but back then any canter depart was accompanied by a sky high buck and dressage test scores had comments like "excessive play in canter circle".
Unfortunately, this photo doesn't show his canter at it's best. For one thing, I've taken Ms. Barakat's advise and grabbed an handful of mane with my left hand. The reins are in my right hand and he doesn't appreciate the very unelastic contact I have taken. It looks like I'm trying to unravel the reins from his mane in this photo too!
On the plus side, after just a couple of strides, we had settled down and I felt confident enough to let go of the mane. Once he gets going he has the kind of rocking horse canter you can sit all day but coming back to trot has always been a problem for us. I used to dread those canter to sitting trot transitions in dressage tests.
I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that, riding bareback, I was able to stabilize myself with my thighs on the down transition and Annapolis dropped into a nice calm trot and then a walk, with not a single bounce!
I was very excited about this whole exercise. At each gait I was able to get a better feel of Annapolis' stride (especially the canter) and got a whole new understanding of leg aids and how the seat of the rider influences the horse.
This final photograph shows one of the best reasons to use a bareback pad when riding bareback--no, those aren't full seat breeches!
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