Friday, June 27, 2008

Bareback

I have been having some trouble with Steen's saddle - mainly as his shape changed with his new lifestyle of working out a lot and unlimited access to fresh grass, it stopped fitting him correctly. I have been reading and researching and think I've found a way to fix the problem, which required the purchase of a new pad. The pad, of course, could not be found locally, so I had to order it off the internet and wait.

So, the last couple weeks have not been as Steen heavy as the earlier ones. I have still been going out consistently and doing ground-work and grooming and hanging out, but not riding. Yesterday, however, I just couldn't wait any longer. We got another couple of severe storms, so it was too wet to work outside. I decided to take advantage of the reduced number of variables in my environment and ride bareback indoors.

I have not been riding Steen bareback because I have felt that he needs a really balanced rider and really consistent handling to get him back up to speed on his training. Yesterday, however, I rationalized that as long as I didn't lope, I was certain to be able to ride in the way he needs.

I was right. And it was lovely. I do love riding bareback. I often feel like a more solid and comfortable rider without all that space and material in between me and the horse. I still believe loping on Steen bareback will definitely not work for a while - he is so inconsistent in speed, balance, trajectory, responsiveness, and leads at that gait I would end up yanking his mouth and falling off a good deal. Needless to say, a rider doing these things is not an effective teacher. However, his trot has gotten much steadier in the last two months and one of the lovelier things about Steen in general is that his trot is smooth even when it is fast.

So yesterday, we trotted. We trotted all over the indoor arena for about 45 minutes, working mainly on controlling his speed, turning away from leg pressure (instead of speeding up) and getting him to relax. Today I am fantastically sore. I can never get over how much more physically demanding it is to stay on a horse using only your upper leg than to be able to brace against the back of the seat and the stirrups with your whole lower-body. This is another reason I often prefer to ride bareback - it seems more fair. At least when the horse is working hard, I am too.

Yesterday afternoon, my new pads arrived, so hopefully I can work out his saddle fit issues now. Still, I think I'm going to start throwing in a consistent bareback ride here and there because in truth, it is my favorite way to ride.

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