Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cowboy to the Rescue: "Re-Do" of a Traumatic 6th Grade Bareback Riding Experience




My first time riding a horse bareback, at a run, was in the 6th grade with my wild and crazy horse friend, Julie.   Her parents didn't care if we rode the horses, but they didn't want us to use their saddles.  So, we'd walk over to the stables, clean stalls, play with the horses---in the safety of the arena--feed them dinner, and then walk back home.

One day, she and her younger sister asked if I wanted to ride the horses out on the trail--actually, out in the Las Vegas desert--off trail.

I thought I'd hit the jackpot!  Of course I did!  We put on the bareback pads, the bridles and bits, and off we went.

The ride out from the stable was golden.  The horse I was on was pretty small--it was probably about 13 hands--so not too far from the ground, and just a real sweetie-pie.  We talked and laughed, walked and trotted, pretty idyllic.

But then everything changed.

When we turned for home, Julie and her sister decided they wanted to run the horses back.  If there was any negotiating of that choice, it is a blur, because the next thing I remember, we were in a full-out run back to the barn, and Julie was yelling at me to hold on to my horse's mane.

Of course, I didn't.  I held on to a strap that was on the pad.  Big mistake.  Because when my legs got tired from clinging to my horse's back, and I tried to adjust, but started to slip instead, the pad slipped, too.  The next thing I knew, I was alone and walking back home through the desert, my pony, like a Kentucky Derby hopeful, racing to catch up with her herd mates.

I have another memory of that event--Julie and her sister riding their horses bareback, at a full run, as comfortable as if God had molded them together.  They looked happy and free as they sprinted away into the sunset.  (I was jealous.  I admit.)



Julie didn't come back for me, so I didn't like her much after that.  I didn't like bareback pads either. Or bareback, for that matter.

********

Today.

Last night I started to search Pinterest for bareback riding tips.  I don't get on there a lot, but my Pinterest page is here.

What I found:

1. Some people prefer pads, some people prefer true bareback.  (I prefer true bareback.)

2. It takes strong thighs. (Note to self, work out the thighs.)

3. It's easier to lope than trot. (Whoa! What? Say again. Insert memories of the 6th grade.)

4. Don't balance with your reins. (Already figured that out. Duh.)

5. If you can, go straight from the walk to the lope--skip the trot.  (Note to self, remember that.)

6. Sit back. Sit up straight. Look where you want to go. Sit balanced.  (Like ya do in the saddle.)

So, I started to mull this loping idea and remembered I own a fabulous little loper, a jolly little loping fiend--My Cowboy!


Um, Hi Cowboy. New thing today. You're going to teach me to lope bareback.  Or, maybe I already know how, but ----starts to tell him about her 6th grade experience, because she talks to her horses like that and they seem to understand--this time will be different and you will make me confident again.

Pretty sure Cowboy told me to hop on about then.


And, we were off to the races!  Well, Cowboy's too well trained to get into an all-out run with me, but we were definitely off at a lope!  I was sitting back, gripping with my thighs, moving with his body, and there was nothing that was going to stop us!

Oh. My. Goodness.  I was 12 again.  I was 12 in spirit and experiencing a genuine, died-in-the-wool "DO-OVER!"

It was glorious.

And, that was Day 37.

11 comments:

  1. This made me smile! Good for Cowboy being the horse you needed. I hope that your friend grew up to be a better person.

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    1. When you're that age, who knows what you're thinking. She was probably busy catching my runaway horse and taking care of that whole thing. The experience really shook me up at the time, so I wasn't in a good frame of mind either. And that is why a "Do-Over" felt so good!

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  2. I grew up riding bareback because I rode on a borrowed horse and was too lazy to use a saddle. Plus I wasn't sure I knew how to put on a saddle correctly -- it intimidated me. I had access to ponies when I was a kid, but not the saddles. People are more protective of their saddles than their horses, I guess. I didn't care. I loved riding bareback (never with a pad). Loping was my favorite. I ride in a close contact dressage saddle now -- the closest thing to bareback in a saddle. Your "friend" leaving you behind is unforgivable. Definitely not a friend.

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    1. You're right, people do seem to be more protective of their saddles than their horses! Weird. In some ways, you are much safer without the saddle. I wasn't hurt when I came off that pony, I was more scared and confused. And, I've heard of trainers who won't let their students have saddles until they can sit all 3 gaits bareback, which I think is pretty smart. I feel like I'm working backwards now and learning, by contact, how my horse really feels in his/her body. I'm looking at some close contact trail saddles right now. It's raining today, so I'm realizing why saddles must have been invented.

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    2. The thing I noticed most when I moved from bareback to a saddle was the loss of the direct feel of the horses muscles under me. I felt safer, knowing I would feel everything - the smallest tension. When I first started riding in a saddle, I felt disconnected. I had to learn how to feel for the signals that were still there, just more subtle through the leather of a saddle. It's probably why I'd like to ride Tex bareback; although the thought horrifies Brett.

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    3. Very true. In my last post, I shared my observations of the tension in Leah's back whenever I go to pick up the reins--a ripple goes down her back. I worked to get softer and softer and softer until I didn't feel her react anymore. It was extremely helpful. Each bareback ride, she gets more and more trusting. Maybe with Tex, you could start by just sitting on his back and massaging him, then getting off. Personally, I think it's a good idea for sensitive horses and, actually, all horses and riders.

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  3. Wonderful post! Good for you and Cowboy. It sounds like a terrific day and helps erase your 6th grade memories. Bet you can't wipe the smile off your face.

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  4. I have fond memories of riding bareback in my youth- even an impromptu horse race that I won- and I wish I still had the balance and confidence that I had back then. I think Rosalee will be good for me to lope bareback on- she has a rocking chair lop, not like Beamer's choppy stride. Love your do-over- good boy, Cowboy!

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  5. Aww, love this!! Must have felt like you were riding on the wings of an angel! Glad you got your do-over!!

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  6. Did you grow up in Las Vegas? The day camp I went to as a kid had us ride horses in bareback pads, and they had us ride at all the paces. I remember kids falling off left and right. Nobody ever got hurt. I guess it was because we rode in the California desert where it was sandy.

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  7. I didn't get to start riding until my late 40's, got my first horse at 50 (a 10 yo untrained wild Mustang), and learned the joys of bareback riding 10 yrs. after that. We have started our grandkids out bareback, because it is a great way to enjoy the real horse! Wish I could have read all this stuff when I started.
    Bionic Cowgirl

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Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.