5 Benefits of Riding Bareback

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

Last week I set a goal of riding bareback for seven days straight. I selected one horse for this learning opportunity and I myself asked the question — “What do I need to do to improve my riding?” As a Horsemanship Coach it is really important that I do what I urge others to do when riding. I tell people that they need to ride bareback to help them improve their skills. Two good friends of mine in Missouri (Thanks Keith and Lynne) always reminds me that I must share with people why something is important. So this was my opportunity to refresh my memory as to why riding bareback is important and share this with all of you.

The horse I selected is young but she is a very good teacher.  So here are the five benefits (lessons) I reminded myself about during my week of bareback riding.

1) Feel the Horse and you know when to apply your aides. When I can feel the horse, especially the footfalls, I know the right time to apply the aide or cue.  For example, if the horse is leaning to the right and I want the horse to go left, I first must ask for the adjustment of the horse so that she becomes straight then I can apply an aide asking for the horse to go left. Often times people make the comment “My horse was behind the aide, or My horse was late in the transition”. Both of these comments are wrong.  The rider did not give the aide at the proper time or the rider did not position the horse for success.  Feeling the horse beneath you helps you know when to ask or what to adjust before you ask.

2) Balance comes from my core. My legs can help me sit on the horse but they are not for balance. My hands…ESPECIALLY MY HANDS…when connected to the reins and thus the bit are NOT for balance.  My hips, stomach, chest, shoulders and head are the key parts that keep me balanced. Riding bareback reminded me of the importance of my core. The sad news is I think there is a need for a few more sit-ups in my future to strengthen my core.

3) Soft hands that I keep in front of me are another key to lightness and balance. If I am riding with my core for balance and I keep my hands down low and in front of me, I achieve lightness and soft hands. Lightness and soft hands are what we all want. Sure we want contact and connection be we really want this to be the lightest and softest. Many times we ride around pulling our hands up to our chest or chins…that is not lightness and in fact…most riders doing this are using their hands to keep them balanced (and this is bad..see point 2 above). If your hands get up past your belly button … you are getting them into a bad position.

4) My lower legs (calf area) are best for giving my leg aides. Often riders, myself included at times, rely on our heel for the aide.  We either push or poke with our heel or spur.  When we do this we sometimes mess up our balance or worse yet…have our toes start to point down.  The first aide that we should give and teach the horse to acknowledge is the calf.  Soft aides from our calf help us stay balanced.  After the calf if we need more, then we can use our heel or spur by rotating at the ankle ever so slightly.

5) I can evaluate the training of my horse. When I ride bareback I find that I get much more in tune with my horse. I find those areas where my training is not complete because I can feel the horse move, ask for my aides at the correct time, keep my hands soft and low, use proper leg aides, and stay balanced….when I am doing all these things then I have to look to my training of the horse if I am not getting the response I want. Remember — if the horse is not responding correctly…it is our fault. So first I have to make sure I am doing everything correctly then I can address if my training is correct or not.

I thank you for the opportunity to share this information with all of you.  As always, I look forward to your comments.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

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2 thoughts on “5 Benefits of Riding Bareback

  1. Even though I went kicking and screaming into the bareback challenge, I have found the key areas to work on with my horse. Realizing that I was using my hands for balance was a huge eye opener! Thank you for giving me and my “finished” mare a new challenge for our journey!

  2. Pingback: Top 8 Blogs from Dun Movin Ranch in 2013 | dunmovinranch

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