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Bareback Balance

Riding bareback can be a great exercise to help with kids’ balance.
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Children can lack core strength in the saddle, strength that’s useful for everything from powering out of turns to staying with a horse crossing a creek or going up a steep embankment.

Riding bareback can add strength and balance to a young rider, but ensuring the youth can avoid balancing on the bridle is a critical skill before removing the saddle.  

Riding bareback can add strength and balance to a young rider, but ensuring the youth can avoid balancing on the bridle is a critical skill before removing the saddle.  

First Thing’s First

Before I let a student ride bareback, I want them to ride in the saddle first without stirrups so they learn to have a good balance and be safe. Some kids think they can just get on bareback, but they don’t realize how important balance is. It’s an old pastime that so many of us did with our ponies without thinking much of it, but it’s ultimately something that needs to be done with caution and correctly to get the most out of it.

Bridle Basics

You have to teach your kid to ride without hanging on your horse’s face before you put them on bareback. Kids, left to their own devices, can think balancing off the reins is the right thing to do. But it’s so dangerous, and it’s incorrect. If they learn to ride in the saddle first, then ride on a loose rein and to balance off their seat, that’s the starting point to riding bareback.

No Clinging, Please

Just like it’s a bad idea to cling onto the horse’s mouth, it’s a bad idea to cling onto the horse’s body with your legs, too. When riding bareback, kids can get in trouble if they’re squeezing too hard with their legs and not balancing off their seat—especially if they have spurs on.

Balance Trick

When I have a kid that’s a bad bouncer, and they’re riding bareback or in the saddle, I ask them to snap their fingers with every bounce, and that gets them in rhythm with the horse. If they even take their hand and wave it up and down, that helps them feel the up and down beat. They can forget about what’s going on below them if they’re trying to snap their fingers or wave their arm. That can help them get confidence and find their balance.

Body Position

If you took a person and stood them on the ground, turned their toes out at a 45-degree angle, bent their knees, then picked them up and put them on the horse, that’s the position they should be in while riding. If you get to leaning back and have your feet too far forward, you’re going to swing like a pendulum off if he stops hard. If you sit too far back on your pockets, you’re throwing your posture out of line and you won’t be able to go in the same rhythm as the horse. Bareback or in the saddle, you should still be in a vertical, balanced position. I like my students to ride bareback with their toes to the outside so they can wrap their legs around the horse.

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