I have many childhood memories of galloping around without a saddle. It was fun to test my balance, to feel the horse’s warm back and soft hair, and if I’m honest, I was a little lazy and putting a saddle on often just felt like too much work! 

Riding bareback is still a lot of fun, but today I am more aware of when I choose to skip the saddle, and I am very careful about recommending bareback riding, for the safety of the rider, and the comfort of the horse. 

Yes, riding bareback can improve balance, but it can also put excess strain on your hips. 

Yes, riding bareback may help you feel closer to your horse, but sit up there too long and you could be causing him pain. 

In today’s video I’ll explain the pros and cons of riding bareback, to help you decide whether to skip the saddle on your next ride. 

See you in the comments!

Callie

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28 Responses

  1. I love to ride my rock solid Quarter Horse bareback. It has helped my balance although the shoulder/hip/heel alignment issues you mention are there. I use a padded bareback pad so I hope this helps the seat bone problem somewhat. And bareback is definitely the way to go when we go to his favorite place, the pond.

  2. My very favorite memories riding bareback are from age 9-15 years when I rode every where and even swam my horse in a local pond – that was absolute bliss!! Sometimes I would use a bareback pad & would practice riding at all the gaits standing up! Wish I had video of it, it was so much fun. You are right in the back shape and fortunately for me I usually rode on a barrel shaped back of a Quarter horse.

  3. Responding to riding bareback, I don’t do that much anymore due to pressure point concerns, as my horse’s comfort and health are paramount to me. Before I knew about the lack of weight distribution (i.e., in my teen years), I rode bareback all the time, and loved it. My favorite memory is cantering across a field of sunflowers, with the sinking sun turning the world that golden hue, and the wind blowing through my hair and across my bare feet. What a feeling!

  4. I ride a 14.3hh round cob with a short back. She needs a 16 inch saddle. I am long-thighed and need a 17.5 inch saddle. Piglet is MORE than capable of carrying me, so what to do? I use a Total Contact Solutions ‘saddle’. This is a little like a leather roller, but not totally, and you have stirrups. I use a good saddle pad, and you sit mainly on the pad. We have ridden miles, and jumped and done flatwork using the TC – well, we have no other option. And Piglet has suffered not one jot. She goes very freely indeed. Yes, I have to keep myself in good posture, no slouching, but surely you’d do that anyway? And I have to ride fairly short because she is soooo wide and I don’t have rubber bones in my legs! But, I do normally suffer with my back, and the TC has enabled me to ride without any pain or problems. Another bonus – it fits any horse or rider! An important point – the TCS saddle has been exhaustively tested at Sparsholt College for pressure on the horse – and none was found. So, we are a halfway house between bareback and saddle and it works. A proper saddle to fit me AND the horse would be lovely but it isn’t possible – and, if you go to a riding school it is more than likely the saddle which fits the horse you are riding will not fit you – how can it? And that won’t help your riding either. In an ideal world we’d all be able to afford the perfect horse and the perfect saddle – and be perfect riders. But, as it is, I just have to use what I can – and, it works.

  5. My favorite bareback memory is coming home from work on a beautiful, still evening after a week of outrageous windiness. The sun was setting in a glorious array of reds and oranges. I didn’t even take time to put my bareback pad on Sasha. I just got her bridle on and had a fabulous sunset ride on my girl (who also has a nice round comfortable back, perhaps slightly chubby right now LOL).

  6. One of My favouriteMost bareback meteorites is riding my 20 year old mare in the field in the snow ..no work just togetherness. 🥰

  7. I was watching and thinking about pads that are sold as help with bare back riding for rider and horse comfort. Any thoughts.

    1. Hi Lisa, it is sort of the same theory actually it still doesn’t distribute the weight of the rider the same way a saddle with a properly fitting tree does!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  8. Thanks, Callie. Bareback was my preferred way to ride as a teenager. Now, it feels like the horse’s skin is just slippery, and I am sure I will die! I have considered trying it again, however, just at the walk!

  9. Riding draft horses on the farm as a child … when they’d get a drink of water from the tank, we’d jump on & sit for hours, b/c once we got off, there was no getting back on until they went for another drink 🙂

  10. I owned an Appy large pony for 23 yrs. He was my first horse. I rode bareback or with a bareback pad through our beautiful park system, pine forests, rivers, etc. I forever cherish the memories of those rides.

  11. Few times I rode bareback on my favourite Marwari school horse – this was one horse who would almost never misbehave – I found it surprisingly very comfortable and really enjoyed it. It made me stretch my legs naturally longer and I was able to even canter quite comfortably and safely. Not sure if I dare do it on a TBD or warmblood horse.

    I always thought that the saddle was extra weight on a horse and so riding bareback would be enjoyable even for the horse – guess I learnt useful things through this video.
    Thanks Callie!

  12. Riding at a riding school I find most saddles uncomfortable. They might fit the horse, but I am taller and with longer thighs than most riders. Riding bareback gets round this problem. As a compromise I now use a Total Contact Solutions ‘saddle’, which is a halfway house between saddle and bareback. All the horses seem to love it, and it certainly helps your balance. I now have a much better appreciation of what it must feel like for the horse to carry a rider, and where is that ‘sweet spot’ for sitting on their backs. Without a doubt, a conventional saddle can have a ‘blocking’ effect upon that horse/rider connection.

  13. I rode bareback around our farm for years and loved the feeling of being close to the horse; I used a pad to make it comfortable. I had to stop as vet figured out the girth on the pad was putting too much pressure on that one point and pulling her spine out of alignment. Chiropractic fixed it but sadly no more bareback riding for me.

  14. I had a “bareback saddle” that was the greatest. It gave some padding for comfort for both of us, but it allowed me to feel my horse and feel free! It was what we love about bareback but it gave a little stability with a little tack feel from the suede. I loved that more than any saddle!

  15. Thank you for the information on bareback riding. I am not in favor of the treeless saddle because I believe it is hard on the horses back if one is riding for long periods of time. It stands to reason bareback would also be thus but I have always thought it was easier on the horse. I learned something today.

    1. Marjorie, saddles with a properly fitting tree are definitely the best way to distribute the weight of the rider!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  16. What a nice balanced video Callie. No pun intended. I appreciated hearing the pros and the cons.

    As a young girl, I rode bareback a lot in the barnyard, around the farm, and out in the fields. Going out to bring the cows in for milking was a favorite activity. Alas, those days are over. While I think about riding bareback and am tempted to ride ride bareback just in the indoor arena, I know it is neither a smart nor a safe choice for me. I have fairly good balance for my age, but know that my balance is not what it was as a young girl. Just the memory of those days makes me smile and I know I am very fortunate to still be riding and learning at my age.

    1. Carol, those are some of the best memories riding as a kid!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  17. Galloping bareback in freshly fallen snow. Feel like you are quietly floating thru the snow…very special.

    1. Not sure there is anything better – except maybe a nice canter on the beach 🙂

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  18. I like remembering riding into the woods on my mare’s bare back, and slipping off to sit quietly on a log for a while while she foraged a bit through the leaves for whatever she might find.

  19. Hi Calling
    Im wondering if 20 mins is enough bareback, would it be 30 mins max in a saddle pad or would an hour be ok, even 2? I have not bought a saddle pad yet as just do about 10 mins sometimes and i have a tiny seatbones cushion i made to tie onto me to make ir more comfortable for her. Am thinkung about getting the Christ Lammfelle high withers pad so am intrested if u could do our 1.5 hr hack in it or if thats too much… I know its just a guestimate but I’d appreciate your opinion
    Willow

    1. Hi Callie, anything longer than a short ride can be very hard on the horse’s back even with a saddle pad. The saddle helps distribute the pressure points of our seat bones so that the weight is more widely distributed.

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  20. As a teen, I had a quarter horse who loved to run right before a thunderstorm. She would jump her corral fence and come stick her head in the window of the house to get me to come ride. I’d grab a halter and lead rope off the front porch, tie the lead into reins and just jump on her back and we’d take off across the pastures and hills. The best times of my life.

    1. Sounds like so much fun Claudia – to be a kid again!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

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