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Riding bareback is fun and a great way to improve your riding by developing better balance and feel of the horse underneath you. I love riding bareback – it’s fun, and I give a lot of credit to time without the saddle for making me a better rider. Over the past few months I have received a number of questions about riding bareback – how to sit, what the most common mistakes made, and specifically how to ride the canter bareback. This video is my response to those questions.

After watching the video, leave a comment with any other tips that you want to share for riding without the saddle!

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19 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for this bareback video, Callie….you have an excellent seat on Mollie. Bareback is what I am doing more now with my horse because I have a hard time finding a saddle for her… I particularly appreciate the tips on how to hold the upper body .
    Thank you again,
    Catharine

  2. I love riding bareback. Each horse has a unique feel with the combination of their build (spine, withers, muscles, fat, etc) and their movement. I prefer Quarter horses to Arabians but it’s all relative to the particular horse! My pony’s gait is very tense & choppy at the trot but I find that when I ride bareback he seems to relax and we have the most lovely rides together. I think we are able to communicate a bit better. Still, the transition from canter to trot can be tough. Sometimes I almost lose my balance because it’s quite bouncy. How can I help smooth that out?

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Are the transitions just rough when riding bareback or do they need some work under saddle too? For any transition, with or without a saddle, think about staying tall and using your lower abs to help add that “resistance” in the movement of your seat. If you horse is losing and balance and getting strung out make sure first he understands your “slow down” cue, then remember to half halt (remind him to slow down and balance) before you ask for the actual transition. Hope this helps!

  3. Hi Callie
    Was just wondering how you mount a horse that isn’t wearing a saddle…do you have to get a leg-up from another person? I’m very new to riding so please forgive me if answer seems obvious!
    Was also researching how a low centre of gravity helps a rider with balance, which relates to one of your other videos…helps to understand the importance of correct position when on a horse. Thanks.
    Jean

    1. Hi Jean, Great question! I use a mounting block or a fence most of the time and if the horse is tall I will give a little hop and land with my belly on the horse’s back, then swing my leg over from there. If the horse is short enough, you can just swing your leg over and sit on.
      Good observation on keeping our center of gravity low! This is one of the reasons I like to breathe down into my stomach when riding, instead of up into my chest!

  4. My mare is very easy to ride bareback, but my gelding is not. He had an injury as a foal which damaged his right foreleg and shoulder and his stride is very choppy, especially at the trot. When my seat gets sloppy, I always ride bareback to get my position back.

  5. Hi Callie,
    Thanks for the great video! I had a question about riding bareback. When I got on my horse bareback, she immediately bucked me off. I don’t know if she had a bad experience or something, and was wondering if you had any suggestions. Thanks!

    1. Bareback can be a completely different feeling for a horse if they have never been ridden this way before. Take your time getting them used to it just as you would a young horse who has never been ridden. Start by leaning over and rubbing their back at the mounting block. Then lay over their back. Next swing your leg over her rump and just sit there. After this you can ask for just a step or two – or have a friend lead your horse from the ground (this is a great way to start young ones – having the ground person can be very reassuring for them as they know how to be lead, but are not yet solid going forward from a leg cue). Don’t move to the next step of the process until your horse becomes comfortable and relaxed with the stage you are at.
      One other recommendation is to check your horse’s back for soreness – make sure you didn’t accidentally sit on a sore spot that triggered that response. I hope this helps!

  6. Thank you so much for your video. I just started to ride my horse bareback and I love it. We are practicing our trot for now. I am looking forward to canter her. It will be some challenge as my horse is 16,2 hands and she has very strong gait, mostly when she canters. She can give me quite a ride with the saddle on, so we’ll take our time before we do it without the saddle.

    Thank’s again
    Josée

  7. Hi Callie I always wanted to try to ride bareback I looked it up on some other videos before I found your site and almost all of them say that it is bad for the horse because u sit on his spine . i think it would help me with the sitting trott what I really have problems with i bounce up and down like a ping pong ball

    1. I do believe that riding bareback for long periods of time can become uncomfortable for the horse, and some horses will be more uncomfortable depending on their balance too.

  8. Thanks for referring me to this video Callie it was very helpful. My first horse that I used to ride bareback was great because if he felt you losing your balance he would stop. He has become a little arthritic in the last few years so now he is basically a pasture horse. The new horse I acquired seems to be relaxed when I get on him bareback but I found it hard to find my balance on him. He is definitely more alert and aware this way though and seems to be okay with it so I will keep trying.
    Thanks again!

  9. Great tips for me. After work I hate tacking up but will jump on bareback. My horse is like riding a couch with a great western jog. I haven’t cantered bareback in a long time but will make it a future goal! Just need to get rid of the anxiety thinking about it. ☺

  10. thanks for the video Callie! I’ve tried bareback but find sitting on his spine painful for me and he is so slippery, I keep slipping off. How do you manage to stay on? Would a bareback pad help?

    1. Pamela, a bareback pad might help with the discomfort of his spine! As far as slipping, you should make sure that the pants you are wearing aren’t too slick!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

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