Finding your center of balance and being aware of your weight distribution enables a higher level of communication when riding horses.

I find, riding bareback enables you to achieve greater body awareness. When bareback, every stride can bump you into a different position whereas if you’re riding in a saddle you are seemingly ‘glued’ to the seat!

Today, Kadill and I went on a bareback ride so that I could assess where I was shifting my weight across his back and to give him clearer messages through my leg and seat aids. We worked in walk and trot only with some lateral work (sideways action) in between.

Through the ride I discovered that Kadill is moving from my seat aids alone rather than from the combination of seat and leg aids. For example, with our lateral work, when I shifted my weight from one side to the other through my seat aid Kadill moved under my weight which was what I wanted, however when I put my leg on it either had no effect or confused him completely and he would stop altogether.

In addition, when I asked for Kadill to move forward with my seat he moved on, though when I put my leg on in combination with my seat to ask for forward, I again hit confusion.

I had to ask myself three things:

  1. Am I using my seat aid too strongly?
  2. Am I gripping with my upper leg and confusing my aids?
  3. Am I contradicting my lateral aids by asking Kadill by unknowingly asking Kadill to move one way with my seat and the other way with my legs… blocking his movement altogether?

Riding bareback allowed me to very clearly work out what was causing Kadills confusion. I decided it was a combination of all three of the above questions. So I started again by relaxing all muscles, centering myself and making my movements more fluent so that I reduced any resistance in Kadill.

Once I felt my balance was established I started training. We started working on improving Kadill’s understanding of moving off my leg aids. In the walk, I asked Kadill to stop, then by only using my legs, I asked for forward by gently and gradually increasing my leg pressure until I felt forward movement, then I released all pressure. We again went back to halt and I repeated the same stop and start about 6 times.

To get Kadill to move laterally off my leg we again started in walk. I put light pressure on him from my outside leg (which was my left leg) and gradually increased the pressure until he responded… then I instantly removed my leg pressure from his belly. Again, I repeated this exercise 6 times and then continued to do the same on the inside leg.

We then started working in trot and repeated all the same exercises again, start and stop and lateral work. All to be re-trained next ride so Kadill continues to understand and to establish consistency with my aids!

Being a balanced rider is essential to being a consistent rider… although it is seemingly easier said than done.

If you are confident and trust your horse, try bareback riding for a day and see if it helps establish your balance, just relax, try not to hold on as tight as you can as though your life depends on it, ride and have fun!