I rode my pony bareback yesterday.
What would be your first clue?
It’s been several years since I’ve been brave enough to hop on her bareback. The whole “lack of withers, round barrel, flat back, low head carriage” thing makes riding Mimi bareback a rather interesting proposition. There is nothing there to hold you in place. No handy leg channel, no airbag withers or neck, no secure back dip. And she has nothing by way of long, grab-able mane.
And despite all of that, I’ve only come off of her bareback once. That could also be due in large part to the fact I have avoided much bareback riding in the last eight or nine years.
I grew up riding her bareback. It was pretty common practice to pull saddles after our lessons and hop on a ride for another 15-20 minutes bareback. This worked well because most of us rode in cut-off shorts in the summer, and the ponies’ backs were already sticky and sweaty from the saddles. It was pretty easy to have Velcro-butt under those circumstances.
I even did some jumping bareback. (What can I say? I was young and stupid, riding with several other young, stupid, teenage girls and we spent a great deal of time coming up with outrageous challenges to one-up each other.)
I was also lighter weight back then, and there was less of “me” to balance and sort out, which made the “cling like a limpet” thing a lot easier.
There was also incentive to practice bareback frequently and stay good at it, because one of the classes at every show was bareback equitation. I was good at equitation, so that alone gave me incentive to do everything in my power to retain that status. (Full Western suede chaps at the shows made for easier sticking on the pony as well.)
When I stopped showing and started distance riding, I stopped riding bareback. There is no way I’m taking Mimi out on trail bareback. I don’t have that much faith in my Velcro-butt, and really hate to fall off. So I stick with a saddle for on trail.
But yesterday, I knew I wanted to ride. But I’d had a busy several days doing all the cooking for one of my mother’s in-home memory art events, and Sunday was my decompression and relaxation day. But neither did I want to make the trek down to the barn simply to drop off her bags of supplements. So that meant riding. But I just didn’t want to deal with thorough grooming, saddling, and all the proper schooling that a full session entails.
So I grabbed my helmet and her bridle, scraped a shedding curry over her (more white fluff removal), slithered on from the fence, and we started wandering around the arena.
Oh yeah, did I mention the wind was blowing at about 25-20mph during all of this? We had multiple dust devils go racing through the arena, tarps flapping around on neighboring properties, all the fun stuff that happens with high wind. And it didn’t faze the pony a bit. She’s a rock star. :)
Walking felt good, so I got brave and bumped it up to a jog. She did wonderfully well, actually giving me a proper Western jog that was more than a shuffle but still rideable. Good girl. Then I got really brave and attempted a canter. We actually made a full circle around the arena, but she wasn’t thrilled with me. Her canter is not smooth anymore, and she really doesn’t do slow Western lope these days. In a saddle, I can ride it out and stay pretty quiet. Bareback, it throws me around and I can’t help the inevitable bouncing.
Apparently my recent weight loss means less padding on my rear end, and she’s less than appreciative of my seat bones in her back. It’s the only thing I can think of that’s different, since she’s more than happy to canter with a saddle between my bum and her back.
I think a good bareback pad might have gotten added to my wish list. But until that happens, we’ll just stick with a walk and jog on the occasions I lose my marbles and decide bareback riding really is still fun.