Great! You aspire to bare back horse riding. Today I'm going to give you some tips on getting started with this wonderful aspect of horsemanship. Riding bare back is not only fun, but its practical as well. Not in the sense that its a great way to take off down the trail, but rather its a great way to improve your overall riding skills. You will really get in tune with your horse, sharpen your cues, and dramatically improve your seat. Imagine how much better you'll be riding with the saddle after mastering riding bare back. When you get really good at it, you can even ride bridleless.
Start in a small, enclosed area, either a round pen or an arena. When riding bare back you certainly don't want to get into a situation where the horse could take off. At least in an enclosed area he can't get very far or get up to very much speed. You should also get started using a riding crop. This is to train your horse on the cues, later it won't be necessary. The first couple of times you'll want to leave a bridle on, that way if you need to you can take control with the reins.
Start off by teaching your horse to flex with no cues from the reins. Do this in two steps. Grab his attention by wiggling your foot. Then put pressure on the opposite side of the nose. In other words, if you want him to turn his head toward your left foot, wiggle your left foot. Then use your riding crop on the right side of the face. Don't smack him with it, instead make circles in the air with it, starting off far from the nose and then gradually getting closer. When he turns toward his left take off the pressure and release your cues. Practice on both sides. At first he may not turn his head around very far, but eventually you'll want him to flex all the way around.
Now ask your horse to go forward. The prime communication method with horses is body language, and this is writ large when we're bare back horse riding. Sit up straight, and look forward to where you want to go. Then kick the sides of the horse. At first your balance may not be so great, so hold on a bit with the mane. As you get more experienced you'll find you're able to walk him out and maintain your balance. As he is walking, let your hips follow the movement of his hips. Don't clamp down attempting to hold on, just sit up there.
To stop the horse, exhale, and lean backwards. When he stops return to the normal sitting position. In the beginning you can reinforce the cue by pulling back a little bit on the mane.
Backing up while riding bare back is simply an extension of stopping. Keep leaning back. The horse will pick up the body language and keep taking steps backwards. When he's gone as many steps back as you'd like, sit normally.
Let's say you want the horse to turn to the left. Once again really focus on body language. Turn your entire body and look and face left. Then put some pressure by circling your crop near the right side of the nose, and begin tapping or kicking his right side with your right foot. When he turns as asked, come off all cues. Practice turning in both directions, first at a stand still, and then while walking the horse.
Moving the hind
To ask your horse to move the hindquarter, turn around and look at it, and then bump with your inside leg.
After you get comfortable with these basic moves, and your horse understands what you're asking, you can take your bare back horse riding to a new level and start incorporating trotting, having your horse spin (start with slow circular movements) and maybe even cantering. You will improve your balance, really get in tune with your communication, and dramatically improve your seat.
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