Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bearback Riding or Saddless

My instructor Vincent Dempsey from Blackberry Stables, introduced me to a new technique - Bearback Riding or riding without a saddle. This was to teach me both balance and stickability.

Stickabilty - meaning that I am more stuck to my saddle and therefore less likely to fall off. 

The prospect of riding without a saddle was both exciting and scary. You have a bridle and reins and a mane to cling onto but that's it!!

So Vincent popped me up onto Trigger the troublesome little 12.2 hands high pony. Firstly we walked in order for me to gain my balance as it is very much a different sensation riding without a saddle. Walking was fine after a minute however given its slower and gentler nature added to its easibility. Then Vincent asked me to trot Trigger and to just treat it as if I was doing sitting trot (with a saddle). I thought for the first few strides I was going to pop off as Vincent is shouting "Relax into the movement, Relax". Later filling me in that yet again the bodies natural reaction goes against you when trying to ride. If you tense up which tends to happen when one gets nervous and riding without a saddle and stirrups will induce a sense of fear or apprehension. When tense your body goes ridged and therefore bounces around on the horses back instead of flowing with their movement. In other words you and the horse must move fluidly as one and then you wont bounce or bob, you will just gracefully flow in time together.

Well I can tell you I was as graceful as a rag-doll with a two year old as my puppeteer!!! The more I tried to grab with my legs to hold on, the more I would bob and flail however I did manage to stay on board. Trigger was very good to put up with be smacking, bashing, flapping and flopping about while I learned to stay on and get my balance.

Ah the bliss when you would get your balance and relax, you feel in time with your horse and your both fluidly floating along together. Until of course moments later and you lose you balance tense up and grip with your legs and the cycle of bobbing, bounding and bouncing continues until you relax and regain your balance again.

Plenty of practice in trot later and Vincent decides "OK Clodagh I want you to canter". Gripping on the only thing I can, that being my resolve and my nerve, I indicate to Trigger I want to canter. To my surprise as he took off it was MUCH easier to canter bareback than it was to trot. I elated as Trigger and I canter around the arena in harmony. Vincent disturbs my bliss with "Now Clodagh I want you to REALLY RELAX and come back to trot". Me now thinking no problem!!!

The minute Trigger broke into trot I was bobbed that high up that I thought he wouldn't still be under me when I came back down!!! I clung to Triggers mane and gripped with my legs, of course doing everything that you're not suppose to however my body's survival instincts I have learned are very strong and my body doesn't like to override these safety mechanisms. I then realised that one of the hardest moves riding bareback was to come back from canter to trot. In dancing terms the tempo and the steps change very quickly and if you miss your beat you'll flounder. It would be like going from waltz (i.e. canter) to fox trot (by its name gives it away as trot).
Bareback riding on Trigger
Bareback on Trigger
So off I go to practice my bareback riding on Triggs and hope that he puts up with me!!!

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