How to Ride a Horse Without a Saddle: Complete Guide

How to Ride a Horse Bareback

Riding your horse without a saddle is also known as riding bareback. If you’ve never ridden bareback before, you may find it much more challenging then riding your horse with a saddle, as it doesn’t offer the security and comfort that a saddle does. Nonetheless, being able to ride bareback can increase your riding ability tremendously.

So, how do you ride a horse without a saddle? To ride a horse bareback, you simply remove the saddle from their back and get on. You’ll have to rely much more on balance and a strong core to be able to stay on without a saddle. You’ll also have to ride with a developed seat; otherwise, you’ll bounce on the horse’s back uncomfortably. The best way to master riding a horse bareback is to practice!

You’ll become a strong rider with a good seat when you practice riding bareback; although, in the beginning, it may not be so easy. It can take a while to truly feel comfortable and secure when riding without a saddle. In this article, I wanted to share some exercises you can try to help you become a better bareback rider!

What Muscles Do You Use to Ride a Horse Without a Saddle?

When you first ride bareback, you’ll probably be very sore the next day. Riding a horse without a saddle makes you use muscles you’re not used to engaging, but should be used in horseback riding nonetheless.

You’ll find that you’ll probably be the sorest in your thighs. At first, you’ll grip the most with your thighs to try and stay on. They can also get sore from attempting to hold the proper leg position while bareback. In a saddle, we rely mostly on our weight in the stirrups to keep the proper leg position, while with bareback, you’ll consciously have to apply the position.

Secondly, your core or abs can get sore. Your core is what holds your balance; if you have a strong core, then you probably have good balance. When you first start riding bareback, you will tense your core much more as you build the proper balance. After a while, you won’t even notice it!

Overall, riding bareback will help you build the muscles you need to ride better both in and out of the saddle. You’ll find that after you’ve ridden bareback awhile, your riding ability will improve in general.

Tips for Staying On a Horse Without a Saddle

When you first get on your horse without a saddle, you may feel as if you could fall off at any moment. Here are some tips to help you stay on and feel more secure when riding bareback:

Relax; Try Not to Get Stiff

When you first start riding your horse bareback, you may feel yourself losing your balance and stiffen up as the result. This can cause you to jerk on the reins and bounce uncomfortably on your horse’s back.

If you feel yourself start to stiffen up when you’re riding bareback, take time to focus on relaxing. You can communicate better with your horse and have a better center of gravity when you are calm and relaxed.

Put Your Weight In Your Heels

You may have always been taught to keep your weight in your heels simply so your foot doesn’t come out of the stirrup; however, keeping your weight in your heels also gives you a more secure seat and center of balance. It will also keep your lower leg from gripping the horse too tightly if you start to lose your balance.

When you practice putting your weight in your heels even when riding bareback, you can work on properly wrapping your legs around the horse’s barrel. This will help you to improve your riding position overall.

Continue to Ride With the Correct Riding Position

Just because you’re riding your horse without a saddle doesn’t mean that your riding position should be compromised. Your riding position should be the same whether you’re in the saddle or not.

When first starting to ride without a saddle, a rider may pitch forward to feel more secure on a horse. Their legs may also swing forward since there are no confines of the saddle. Riding in an incorrect position can make it more difficult to communicate with your horse effectively.

When riding bareback, you should still sit up straight with your shoulders back and your legs positioned under your hips. Riding in the correct position will make it easier to stay on, as you’re already used to using these particular muscles for riding.

Move Your Seat With the Rhythm of the Horse

Since there’s not anything between you and your horse when riding bareback, it’s much easier to feel when you’re bouncing uncomfortably on your horse’s back. This can cause discomfort for both you and your horse. 

Riding bareback is a great way to learn how to start communicating with your horse through the movement of your seat. One of the first steps to using your seat to communicate with your horse as well as lessening any uncomfortable bouncing on your horse’s back is by moving your seat with the rhythm of the horse’s movements.

Take time to notice how the horse’s movements feel underneath you. You’ll notice that at a walk, the horse’s back and your hips will swing side to side. At a trot, your hips will move up and down with the horse’s back.

Not only will moving your seat with the motion of your horse encourage your horse in their movements, but it will also make for a much more comfortable and smooth ride.

To learn more ways you can improve your seat on your horse, check out our article 10 Tips to Improve Your Seat on a Horse: Easy Beginner’s Guide.

Go at Your Own Speed

If you want to become comfortable riding bareback, the best thing to do is advance at a speed you’re comfortable with. In the beginning, start by walking, circling, and practicing stop and walk transitions. Once you’re comfortable with this move on to a trot, and then a canter. This will help you to develop the balance you need before advancing to the next step.

If you try to rush your abilities at riding bareback, you may leave you and your horse with an unpleasant experience. However, the only way you can get better is by practicing! You can always try something, and if you aren’t comfortable, take a step back and review the basics.

Tips to Help You Become Better at Riding Bareback

Here are some horseback riding tips that should help you to develop balance to be able to ride better without a saddle:

Take the Stirrups Off of Your Saddle

A great introduction to what it may be like to ride your horse bareback is to first take the stirrups off of your saddle during your ride. Sometimes without even knowing it, we start to rely on our stirrups for our balance on a horse. By taking the stirrups away, you’re forced to use your balance and muscles to stay on the horse.

This exercise will also help you to develop the muscles you need to rider bareback. You’ll notice that after this exercise, your inner thighs and your core may be sore the next day.

Practice Riding With Your Hands to Your Side

Like stirrups, sometimes riders can start to rely on the pressure on their reins to help them balance on the horse. This can result in uncomfortable yanking on the horse’s face and incorrect aids being used.

A great exercise you can do to improve your balance and help you to not rely on the reins is to have an experienced horse person lunge your horse while you ride them with your arms out as if you were an airplane. You can do this either with or without a saddle.

This exercise can also help to develop a stronger seat since the rider will have to rely more on balance rather than the reins.

Practice Riding With Your Eyes Closed to Help Develop Balance and Trust

When riding bareback, you will need to develop a seat that goes with the horse’s movements; otherwise, you’ll bounce on the horse’s back and have a greater chance of falling off. One of the best ways to develop your seat is to simply take the time feel and focus on what each of the horse’s gaits feels like when you’re riding.

One way to focus on the movement of your horse is to get someone to lunge your horse while you ride with your eyes closed. Taking away the distraction of sight will make you rely on your sense of feel. You’ll start to feel how your seat can flow with the movements of the horse.

Ride With a Bareback Pad

If you feel insecure on your horse when riding bareback, try riding with a bareback pad. This is a cushioned pad that goes across your horse’s back and straps under their belly as a saddle would. Some of these pads even have stirrups attached.

These bareback pads can offer security for the rider while also removing the other constraints that a saddle has. You’ll still need to build balance and muscle to ride with a bareback pad; however, the pad can help add cushion between you and the horse.

If you’re interested in getting a bareback pad, check out this one on Amazon by clicking here.

When Riding Bareback, Practice Doing Turns and Transitions

When you first get on your horse without a saddle, the best way to help you develop balance and muscle is by just taking the time to walk the horse and do turns and halt to walk transitions. These movements can easily throw off your balance if this is your first time riding bareback.

By practicing these exercises, you’ll develop the balance and security you’ll need to advance to other things. When you move on to the trot, you can practice the same thing within that gait.

Now it’s time to go out there, leave your saddle in your tack room, and try to ride your horse bareback! Have fun and good luck!

It’s no lie that riding your horse without a saddle can help you get in shape; however, do you know how to help your horse get in good shape? Check out our article How Often Should I Ride My Horse? What You Need to Know to learn how to properly condition your horse for the level you want to ride at. Happy Trails!

 

P.S. Save this to your “Horseback Riding” board!



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