Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bareback Milestone: Getting On

I'm not a fan of bareback riding.  I did it a little as a kid, but after the time I fell off one of my grandma's horses and fell in such a way that I ended up in front of her (how do you fall off in front of a horse?) and got completely trampled, including a hoof on my back and yes, on my head while not wearing a helmet (I'm not even sure helmets had been invented then), I really wasn't so crazy about it.  I'm sure I had a concussion, but back then, especially on a farm in very rural North Dakota, if all of your limbs were still attached and it didn't look like death was imminent, you healed from your injuries at home.  I was in fact fine, and didn't fear getting back on the horse - it wasn't her fault - but I swore off riding in anything but a saddle, except for brief rides while my horse was grazing.  Until I read this post by Liz a couple weeks ago.  Apparently she did a trail ride that included galloping on trails on her 4-year-old horse.  And she didn't fall off.  I guess she even had fun (I will save my comments on her mental state for later).  And I finally decided to tackle this particular demon.

I took advantage of a Black Friday sale at Riding Warehouse and got a Skito Equalizer Bum Buddy Bareback Pad for high-withered horses.  I thought it was interesting that the bareback pads were grouped with the saddles in the shopping categories.  Apparently, Liz is not the only one who thinks that it is perfectly acceptable to ride with a bareback pad out on the trails.  (What that means is that there are more crazy people in the world than I thought...)

Anyway, the saddle pad arrived on Tuesday.  But, because of the yucky rain, I opted not to try it out until last night.  The arena was still a little slushy and I was feeling a little unmotivated, plus I still had one front hoof to trim, so I figured a few minutes with the bareback pad would be a great way to get some work in with Nimo without exerting myself or taking a lot of time.

I had originally thought that there might be some sort of time savings involved with riding bareback, but there really isn't.  You still need to fasten a girth and put on some kind of bridle, so right away the whole process was losing its appeal for me.

Nimo in his new bareback pad

I had planned to ride in the small round pen near the barn for safety and also because it's closer than the big arena, but I'd never used the lights before and I could not figure out how to turn them on (perhaps dark, foggy weather is not the time to learn new things).  While I'm not opposed to riding in the dark, I decided that for my first time on Nimo bareback, I really wanted to see where I was going.

So, we headed over to the arena and turned on the lights there.  It was at that point that I realized the mounting block was not going to be big enough for me to get on.  It's a three step block, so it's plenty tall for getting on using a stirrup.  Not so much for no stirrup.  And that's when I got a Funder-type idea.  There was a jump set up that had a sturdy wooden "brick wall" and I thought I might be able to balance the mounting block on top of the wall and then get on.

Sometimes Nimo just gets exhausted by me...

So, the first time I tried it, the mounting block absolutely got unbalanced and tumbled off the jump, taking me with it.  I was fine, but the irony of falling of the mounting block while trying to get on my horse for a bareback ride was not lost on me.  I reassessed the physics of the situation and rebalanced the mounting block.  (I hate giving up on perfectly good ideas even if they show every sign of being complete failures.)  And...I made it on my horse.  Who by this time was probably questioning my sanity even more than usual.

The first thing I noticed is that my horse is a lot wider bareback than he is under saddle and that's saying something.  I was pretty sure my legs were not going to be happy with me, but I decided that since I'd risked my life to get on, I should at least walk Nimo around the arena for a few minutes.  And that's what I did.

At first, I really didn't like riding with no saddle.  I felt unbalanced and like I couldn't sit straight.  Luckily Nimo put up with my squirming to get comfortable and the longer I rode, the better I felt.  Until I didn't really want to get off.  The Skito pad is nice because it has some foam panels which provide some cushioning for both horse and rider so once I felt like I was sitting straight, I was fairly comfortable and hopefully Nimo was too.  He started out walking a little hesitantly, but once I got settled, so did he and we were able to proceed around the arena without incident.  I didn't do any trotting because Nimo's working trot is not a bareback gait (nor is his canter), but I can see that as his collected trot improves a little, I might be willing to give it a try.

Bareback riding is not something that I think I'll ever be truly fond of, but I'm glad I was able to get on and ride around without being anxious (Nimo thankfully saved his spooky behavior for a later date) and I think I will stick with it, at least until I gain more confidence, but I doubt I'll ever be galloping Nimo through the woods.  I'm just going to live vicariously through Liz:)

20 comments:

  1. I didn't know they made bareback pads for high withers! I NEED one but it's going to have to wait.

    The first time I ever came off a horse, I was bareback too. Looking back at the situation now, I believe the 'riding instructor' may have actually been wanting to see a wreck, but whatever. Ruby's withers are what keep me from riding bareback now, though I have no doubts that I will never be galloping through the woods bareback either. I'm waaaay too old (and chicken) for something like that :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Skito pad definitely has a high wither area but it's pricey so I can understand waiting on it. And how awful of a riding instructor to be at fault for something like that!

      Delete
    2. She was, but it was a good experience for me anyway. I was 17 or 18 so, ya know, nearly invincible. She at least got a good laugh out of it :)

      Delete
  2. good for you! I need that bareback pad, my horse's withers make it a bit uncomfortable as I just use a plain old suede type. That pad looks comfy and secure. Bareback sure makes you work hard, and the getting on is tough too! I laugh at the step-on-a-jump, but I use a tall roll-top jump to get on in the arena, or find a great big ditch...or if I get off in the forest, I just walk home...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The pad was definitely comfortable but I'm not sure I'm ready for extra work!:)

      Delete
  3. I've long drooled over the Skito bareback pads...they look so cushy and stick-able. I had to chuckle at the mounting block *on* that jump -- definitely innovative! (And I will never again complain about trying to get on the pony. ;))

    ReplyDelete
  4. I laughed at the intro to this post. Then I got to the photo of the pad and I drooled a little. And then I got to the photo of the mounting block ON THE JUMP and I lost it laughing. And then you fell down and (I'm sorry) I laughed more (because I've been there done that in regards to standing on things I shouldn't and then falling down (wheeled chairs, DON'T DO IT)).

    You'll get there with the bareback. I have faith. I end up using my core SO MUCH MORE bareback trotting. When I finally ride again with a saddle I'm all, OMG THIS IS SO EASY. So maybe, look at it like that? ;-) More training for EVEN BETTER riding with a saddle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I appreciate stirrups more than ever now and I am hoping that bareback riding will help me ride in a saddle better. And thanks for the inspiration!

      Delete
  5. I, too, lost it laughing at the photo of the mounting block. Brilliant!

    Don't sell yourself short: I'd never ridden *any* horse bareback before Fetti, and swore off bareback trails on her for a while. Lots of bareback trails on another Haffy, and more miles/brain to Confetti, and I'm now taking her out on bareback rides with friends on a semi-regular basis. We even CANTERED up a big hill. Big canter. And I thought I would die, and it was AWESOME.

    So. Just give it time! And build a bigger mounting block :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OK (insert dubious look), I'll at least give it a try. If you can do it, maybe I can too:)

      Delete
  6. So. I gave up on bareback riding when I was 16 and had a fall EXACTLY like yours when you were little: I was riding Lucero around at home bareback, we had a disagreement about what direction we were going, he spooked and managed to fall IN FRONT of him and underneath him. I hit gravel pavement with no helmet on and somehow did not bang my head at all, just badly scraped the back of one shoulder and ended up with a giant bruise across my chest: Lucero leaped and scrambled to not step on me but hit me with a hoof. He then stood over me, "Oh my God I killed her!" I was fine. In fact, I think he was more shaken up than I was. He never argued with me about direction again, but I didn't ride him bareback again for a long time after that. Years.

    I thought the same thing when I read Liz's post, so your post had me laughing from the start. And I also drooled over Riding Warehouse's selection of bareback pads. The problem is that my main horse bucks if you try to scramble onto her back without stirrups. So I think I'll just live vicariously through Liz and now you. ;)

    The mounting block idea is brilliant, btw. But I couldn't help bursting out laughing at Nimo's expression in that photo!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm pretty sure the horse that ran over me was completely unphased but she was a ND horse and probably thought I was an idiot who deserved being run over for being so stupid as to fall off in the first place:) I think the bareback pad Lytha mentions below can be used with stirrups, so you might try that if you ever feel like living vicariously is too safe:)

      Delete
    2. I laughed at the "you might try that if you ever feel like living vicariously is too safe." There's a soft saddle that is a hybrid between a saddle and bareback pad that looks a LOT like the Barefoot bareback pad but with stirrups. I honestly don't like stirrups on bareback pads because the pad will be more likely to slide sideways if you weight one stirrup more than another. (Granted I had a real cheapie bareback pad with stirrups; they've come a looong way since then!)

      Lytha's bareback pad sounds amazing though. I didn't know Barefoot made a bareback pad. I like the girthing system and they're a little more affordable than the Skito. Maybe for Gracie after we've done the rehab. :D And in case anyone else is reading the comments, here is the US page for the Barefoot bareback pad: http://www.barefootsaddlesusa.com/Barefoot_Ride_On_Bareback_Pad_p/ride-on-pad.htm

      Delete
  7. What a gorgeous bareback pad! I love that the newer designs remove that high-presure strap/girth around the horse, and instead have a real girth and a design that distributes the pressure over the entire pad. And high withers, how nice! But omgosh, 300 bucks!? Here is mine, quite similar to yours: http://barefoot-saddle.com/de/en/Horse/Bareback-Pad/Ride-on-Pad/Barefoot-Ride-on-Pad-Physio.html

    I'm not brave enough lately to ride in it, but I will, cuz I spent too much money to just let it sit around indefinitely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually considered the Barefoot pad, Lytha, but decided to go with the Skito because the Barefoot pad seemed almost like a treeless saddle and I wanted a more "authentic" bareback experience, which is why I almost bought a pad stuffed with horsehair and designed like something that had been used hundreds and hundreds of years ago. But then common sense struck:)

      Delete
  8. Oooh I want that bareback pad! I just forgo the pad when I ride bareback usually so it is a lot quicker than tacking up for me. With a high withered horse that would probably be very uncomfortable though.

    This post had me giggling too! Sorry you fell off the mounting block, but it's better than falling off the horse and it provided all of us with a giggle. :D

    So I'm crazy?? When I was learning to ride we didn't have any saddles so all I did was ride bareback. For Chrome's first ten rides I only rode bareback. Recently I also cantered him bareback in a halter. I've ridden him on the roads bareback, but haven't cantered him out there without a saddle yet. I guess I am crazy... who would have ever guessed?? ;D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, but it's crazy in a good way:)

      Delete
  9. I ADORE riding bareback!!!!!! At first I too bought a fancy pad, but just like you said in the post about having to girth up and put a bridle on taking time....now the pad sits in my tack room unused. The biggest gift dressage lessons gave to me was the ability to ride Farley bareback. She has a really rough trot and at that time a non-existant canter. I'm not sure if it "fixed her" or "fixed me" but after 6 months of regular lessons we just clicked bareback and could do anything bareback that we did in a saddle. I used to school dressage bareback on her a lot - because she would collect and work so much better. It's how I test saddles - will she round her back for me and work as comfortably as we can bareback? I grew up riding bareback because I couldn't afford a saddle - and most of my early mounts were Standardbreds. I didn't really like the whole treeless saddle concept for a lot of reasons, but when I finally went treeless for Farley, the most immediate thing I noticed is how much it felt like bareback to me (at least in the particular treeless saddle I was using). I still appreciate and use my saddle - the solstice and my wintec dressage - afterall the saddle is there as a tool that helps me do something better - but bare back is a way for me to "check" myself. I laughed outloud at your mounting block "funder" style.

    As you can probably tell, I'm finally cathcing up on my blog reading. Really enjoying your posts and wishing/hoping I can ride soon (just got out of a hellish 3 week rotation and there's another huge storm rolling in).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you can ride Farley bareback, there may be hope for me and Nimo:) I remember my Arab being pretty rough at the trot, although quite comfortable at the canter. And I'm in awe of all that you accomplish - I can't even imagine what 3 weeks of rotation would do to me but it wouldn't be good:)

      Delete