If you're not comfortable enough to relax while riding bareback, but still want to experience the dynamic feel of riding sans saddle, consider trying a treeless saddle. Unlike a regular saddle, a treeless saddle is flexible enough to move with the horse so, theoretically, there should be no pressure points. I have seen, however, some treeless saddles that create pressure points, so finding one that fits your horse correctly is just as important as with conventional saddles.
If you have thick thighs and your horse is wide, you will have the same balance issues in a treeless saddle that you would have riding bareback. With your feet in the stirrups and your pelvis rotated backward, you could be very easily left behind the motion should your horse suddenly take off. This problem has been improved in some newer treeless saddle designs, which have firm, foam seats that lift you up above the horse's back. This allows your legs to hang at a more comfortable angle so that you can maintain a balanced position in the saddle.
Dr. Joyce Harman combines her traditional veterinary medical background with a variety of holistic treatment methods. A Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist and Certified Veterinary Chiropractor, she also incorporates homeopathy into her practice, Harmany Equine Clinic, based in Flint Hill, Va. Dr. Harman was the first veterinarian to acquire a computerized saddle-fitting device, which gives a color scan of the pressure points under as saddle while the horse is being ridden. President of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association in 1998 and 1999, she is the current president of the Veterinary Botanical Medical Association. She is the author of The Horse's Pain-Free Back and Saddle-Fit Book.
To read about the biomechanics of bareback riding, see the December 2008 issue of Practical Horseman. To purchase books by Dr. Harman, visit www.EquineNetworkStore.com.