Saturday Evening Diary – a change in bit changed my horse…

Bits, bits and more bits. For my non horsey friends, bits are the part of the bridle that go into the horses mouth which the reins are attached to. There are many different types of bits, Western ones, English ones, training ones. I will admit, my experience with bits has been pretty limited, I’ve always looked for the opinions of others who know more than me when it came to choosing a bit.

What I do know, Alfie doesn’t have the best teeth, and he suffers from TMJ. Yes, even horses can suffer from that (his jaw doesn’t align properly so he can’t actually fully close his mouth – as a result, he gets pain from it that goes to the top of his head (his pole) and down through his neck. But he has a wonderful therapist that comes every 5 weeks and gives him adjustments. Between those adjustments and the massage I do on him we’ve managed to make his pain a lot better.

Alfie’s bit that he had been using for the last year or so is pictured below. Now prior to entering the dressage world, I was only familiar with western bits. I knew nothing about this type of bit except that because it’s rubber it would be comfy for him to be in his mouth.

Alfie’s former bit

When we started using this bit Alfie reacted really well to it. I was relieved that he was relieved that something in his mouth wasn’t going to hurt his sensitive teeth and jaw.

Last weekend when I went to bridle him before our trail ride I noticed that he really didn’t want to open his mouth for the bit. In fact, this was something I noticed a few weeks ago. And then I started to think maybe it was too big for his jaw.

I spoke with our barn manager Regina and barn owner Kari if they thought perhaps this bit was contributing to Alfie’s “opinions” during our lessons. One of the boarders, who’s been in the horse field forever explained that this particular bit is more like a training bit for dressage horses. She didn’t think it was actually helping Alfie since it prevents the horse from being able to move their head easily into the contact. In fact she said it could slow them down, making it challenging for them to want to move forward. Some of the pieces are starting to come together.

She let me borrow one of her bits to try on him. It’s called a rubber D ring snaffle and it’s very similar to what we used before the current one, minus the rubber. Here is a picture of the new bit.

The new bit

You can see, it’s not one bar of rubber across, its jointed. Being jointed like this means when I jiggle say my right rein, he’s gonna feel the movement easier than with the straight bar. So our communication should be better.

Today was the first day with the new bit. I woke up bright and early, I was so excited to try it. I was ready to leave by 8AM but realized that was a tad early lol, so I sat on the couch watching The Golden Girls for an hour…it seemed like the longest hour ever lol. I left for the barn at 9.

I get my boy from the field, and as he’s eating his pre ride brunch, we make the switch of bits….hahahaha, say that five times “switch of bits, switch of bits”🤣🤣

I get Alfie all tacked up and I put his bridle on. He fights me a little with opening his mouth until he realizes this bit is WAY thinner than the other one. A few adjustments are made to the bridle to accommodate the new bit and we are ready to ride.

I line him up at the mounting block, climb the stairs and wait, hold up, HE STANDS!!! He doesn’t move, he didn’t anything, he just stood. I didn’t have to correct anything at all because for the first time in weeks, he stood on the first shot! I get on and off we go into the arena to warm up.

At this point we have an audience. Our barn manager Regina, her wife Jenna and fellow boarder Susie have all come to see if Alfie likes the new bit.

The first thing I notice – a lot of chewing and drooling – good signs. The next thing I notice…our circles are the most fluid they have ever been. It’s then time to trot. For the first time in months, Alfie voluntarily had a forward trot. He was able to bend his head beautifully to take the contact of the bit, something he struggles with at the trot. We trotted today the most we’ve trotted in ages. He felt good.

This also was the first lesson in a long time where he didn’t break out the dramatic head toss until the very end of the lesson when he was tired. We ended our lesson with the company of my trainer Kari walking next to us out on the trail.

Horses tell us how they are feeling all the time. It’s our job to listen to them. It’s not easy trying to figure out what might be troubling them or bothering them but when you do finally figure it out, it’s pretty close to perfection. I knew Alfie needed to hit the trails last weekend because he was getting ring sour. I knew he would be good today because he was “refreshed.” What I didn’t realize was what a difference changing bits would have on him. As I was putting his saddle away, I whispered “thank you” to him. Thank you Alfie for always taking care of me even when you are uncomfortable. Thank you Alfie for having the patience of me learning. Thank you Alfie for being you. ❤️🐴

True Love
This nose ❤️
The best team, the best partners.

Sunday Evening Diary – time for a change of scenery

So my lesson yesterday had it’s challenges. I normally do not ride Alfie 2 days in a row, but last night I got to thinking. My boy loves to trail ride. And we hadn’t been trail riding in a very long time. We have a nice path that goes around part of the property into a lovely woodsy section of forest. Alfie and I only did one super short ride back there when we first moved to this barn which was a year and a half ago. So I decided that today, I was going to ride him outside.

I spoke with my trainer and barn manager and they both thought it would be something Alfie would enjoy. My barn manager Regina took it one step further and said, how about a trail ride? We have an amazing pony named Tommy who is staying at our barn for the week and he is a trail master. So Regina would ride him and I would ride Alfie. Of course I said yes!

Here’s the deal with me and trail riding. I’ve done it bunches of times. I enjoy it. But it lacks the “safety” of riding in an arena. So I’m never 100% comfortable. But Alfie is. This is his jam.

I get to the barn, get Alfie from his field, he enjoys his brunch and I tell him we are going to go on a trail ride today. Of course he just keeps eating his brunch 🤣🤣.

As I’m getting Alfie tacked up, I find out that Regina’s wife Jenna, their son Allan and their friend Sarah are also going to be coming along. So we’ve got 2 people on horses and 3 pedestrians. How cool is this! I internally breathe a little sigh of relief. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken Alfie out on a trail and yeah, I admit, I’m a little nervous. So having some people walking with us just in case Alfie or I needed them, was a comfort.

I know, you are reading this and wondering what is my deal? I’ve had Alfie for over 4 years, he’s never done anything to put me in harms way, why do I still get nervous or anxious. Trust me, I’ve have this same discussion with myself over and over and over. The bottom line is, I trust Alfie 99.9% of the time. It’s that .1% that gets me. And you know what, that’s ok! He is an animal, and his instincts can kick in at anytime, and it’s that unknown that causes my nerves to get a bit edgy.

After Alfie is all tacked up, it’s time for the mounting block. I line him up, get him situated, adjust his position a bit, ask him to stand, climb the stairs, grab the reins and I get on. Holy cow. He stood. If there hadn’t been a bunch of people standing in the arena looking at me, I would’ve cried happy tears (I finally did once I got home 😊)

We warm up in the arena for several minutes, he’s much more willing today which was a nice change from yesterday. After our warmup we head out.

Regina is a former horse wrangler at a dude ranch so I know if we run into any issues she’s got my back. As we round the corner and head away from the barn she looks back and asks me if I’m ok. I tell her I’m a little nervous, it’s been a long time and she says, it’s all good, and it’s ok to be nervous. Alfie is very excited to be walking outside past the barn, he’s able to keep pace really nicely with the pony Tommy. He’s got some spring in his step.😊

As we enter the trail, I actually stop and look around and the beauty. And then I realize how different I feel to be out on a trail from the previous times I’ve trail ridden. Yes, I’m a little nervous, but it’s a different kind of nervous, it’s more like some butterflies in my tummy than actual fear. And the reason is so simple, I’m a much more confident and skilled rider than I was before. I’ve got this.

The terrain on this trail is basically a dirt road, which is perfect for Alfie with his tendon issues. I can see what we are stepping on and so can he. Our first obstacle was some puddles. Alfie generally doesn’t like to walk through puddles although I’ve gotten good and getting him through them. But today wasn’t about what I can accomplish with him, it’s about him. This ride was for him, so we rode around the puddles. And then we saw it….a hunting shack…🧐

So here is this hunting shack, grey in color, nestled in the bushes. As we approach it, Alfie takes one look at it and immediately gets startled. He didn’t really spook but you could see he was trying to figure out what it was and why it was it in the bushes. He walks away from it giving it a wide berth yet he can’t stop looking at it. So I stop him and turn him slightly so he can see it with both of his eyes. We paused for about 5 seconds and then we walked on. This is the first time I was able to keep Alfie calm, cool and collected with something scary. The last time we encountered something scary, he spinned around and around until he didn’t see it anymore. I stayed on him but felt like I failed him because I needed help getting him past it. This time, he trusted me, and I didn’t let him down. I proved to him I had his back.👍🏻

We get to the end of the trail and turn around to head back. The trail ride was about 25 min, and I can honestly say we both enjoyed it. But again, this wasn’t about me, this was about him. Every Sunday – weather permitting, we are going to ride this trail. ❤️🐴

The start.
Heading out.
Me and Regina
A very happy Alfie
Yes, he’s sticking his tongue out at his Aunty Jenna
Look at my teeth! I think he was trying to eat a bug
I love him so
He’s ready to go!
My world
So proud ❤️

Saturday Diary – continuation…

Despite our challenging lesson yesterday, my trainer captured these pictures.

Standing at the mounting block.
Practicing our stopping.
Working on getting him to be totally square when we stop. Being totally square means that the front and back legs are together. Front legs are great, we are working on getting those back legs to position up.
Proud of him.

Saturday Afternoon Diary – a challenging lesson, a reminder that horses will continue to challenge…always

Looking so handsome.

This picture was taken after our lesson, and after my trainer Kari rode him for a little schooling lesson.

Alfie has always been a challenging horse to ride. Not challenging in a dangerous way, challenging in a stubborn way. I remember when I first got him, I would watch my teacher ride him and he would move so nicely and then I would get on and he would stand. Just stand. Getting him to walk a few steps was so difficult. Why did he not want to walk for me you ask…because he knew he could get away with it because I was just learning and he took full advantage of that.

Throughout our years together, he’s come up with different behaviors to get his way, things he would do that used to scare me and our ride would end. The last year or so, those things don’t scare me anymore but they are still behaviors he uses from time to time. Today, he used them all.

The mounting block…he didn’t stand, so I tapped him on his butt so he would move into position. He stood. As I was climbing up the block, he moved again. Again I tapped him into position and he stood, and I was able to get on.

From the start of our ride, he was more focused on his horsey friends coming into the barn, the birds chirping outside, basically his focus was on everything but me. Sigh…this is how our lesson is going to go.

I know that riding a challenging horse like Alfie as opposed to an autopilot horse is going to make me a better rider. I logically know this. I’m ok with challenge. But today was a reminder of just how challenging he really can be and I couldn’t help the feelings of defeat slowing creeping into my brain and heart.

My trainer said there were a lot of good points of our ride today. But of course, I’m just focused on all the negatives. It’s something I try really hard not to get sucked into, but it really is hard to get out of the negative. We are our toughest critics.

We completed a dressage test at a walk today. It wasn’t perfect by any means, and at one point I just had to stop to catch my breath because I was getting physically tired dealing with Alfie’s tantrums.

After our test, we worked on our stopping and backing up. Alfie is a quarter horse, and he’s got the traditional quarter horse butt, big and strong. Backing up is something Alfie is really good at. Today he wanted no part of it. After several attempts to back up, he takes his head and throws it down to the ground in an attempt to take the reins from me. Seriously Alfie???

I eventually won the battle of the back up, and as our lesson ended my trainer asked if she could ride him to help him understand my requests.

As she lined him up at the mounting block, he moved. I was stunned. For all the times she’s ridden him he’s never moved, not once. So she corrected him by tapping his butt and voila she was able to get on.

I then watched Alfie attempt to give my trainer a hard time like he was giving me. The biggest difference is she corrected his behavior much quicker than me. This is something I’ve gotten better at but still struggle with as far as timing. Here’s the thing about horses, they challenge because they can. They test the boundaries, similar to children.

As I watched my trainer riding Alfie, getting responses from him that I struggled with, for several moments those negative feelings towards myself came up, but then I forced them to go away. I was able to see Alfie, his physical confirmation, his muscles, his positioning. He looks beautiful. His body is rounding, in true dressage form. He’s trotting using his butt muscles, he’s bending his head, he’s seeking contact of the bit. And he’s doing all of this because of me. I’m the one who’s transforming him. Me. The one he challenges every chance he can. Me. The one he trusts more than any other human. Me. It was then when I realized despite the struggles, I know I’m doing good.

Our day ended with a bubble bath and lunch, and of course a nap. ❤️🐴

My world.

Sunday Diary – is summer over yet??

Goofy photo from yesterday 🤣🤣🤣

❤️❤️❤️

No riding today, the weather was so incredibly unpleasant. I spent the day feeding Alfie (to his delight) and I gave Martini and Ziggy luxurious bubble baths.

This morning when I got to the barn our fantastic barn manager Regina couldn’t wait to tell me about the continuing saga of “Alfie hates Velcro.” He doesn’t actually hate it but sometimes he is more bothered by the sound of it than other times. Today wasn’t a good day for Velcro lol. As she’s telling me what happened, I was able to laugh at my sensitive goof ball once I found out no one was injured when he flew back in his stall to get away from the evil Velcro on his bell boot. I looked up at the sky and told her it’s the change in air pressure which gets him a little wonky. She agreed and would remember that the next time the weather drastically changes Velcro isn’t going to be his friend lol.

The point of my Velcro story is to really shed light on how sensitive horses truly are. They have tiny brains but their emotions are strong. They may not understand what we tell them but they understand tone of your voice. They get scared and look to humans to reassure them that everything is ok. Some horses are way more sensitive than others, some people don’t have the patience to deal with those special ones.

Based on Alfie’s anxiety issues, people weren’t nice to him for the majority of his life and those mental scars show. I am so grateful that he is surrounded by so much love and patience now. My hope is that one day, he may be able to let go of some of those scars. ❤️🐴

Saturday Afternoon Diary…bugs, heat, crankiness, a luxurious bubble bath and new shoes!

Talk about a full day for Alfie. I arrived at the barn and gathered up all of Alfie’s winter blankets for the cleaning service. I then broke up a brick of hydro hay and made his lunch. As I’m walking up to his field to get him, the sun is blazing and here comes the heat. As I get to the top of the hill, Alfie hears me shuffling along. I wave and he runs to the gate to meet me. He bends his head so I can give him a kiss on his nose and we head down to the barn.

It’s summer and flies are normal for this time of year. But because it’s been so hot the flies have gone crazy and there seems to be a lot more than usual. Alfie and fly spray…it’s a no go. Not sure exactly what frightens him about the spray but you can’t spray him. Alfie’s skin is super sensitive so our guess is that he had a bad reaction to it at some point and is now afraid of it if it’s coming out of a spray bottle. Roll on fly spray he is ok with but that really only works for small areas not his entire body. So what do you do to help protect your horse from the flies when you can’t spray it on him – you spray it on a sponge and wipe him down with it. It’s not nearly as effective but it’s a start.

I wipe down Alfie and get him all tacked up for our lesson. We head towards the mounting block, he’s lined up nicely, I climb 2 steps and sure enough, he swings his ass away. So I climb down the block and I do the exercise I learned last weekend. I take my dressage whip and tap him on his side so he moves his butt over. I tap him a second time and now he is lined up at the block. I back him up a few steps and then climb back up the block. I grab the reins and I’m about to get on when he picks up his head and I can just tell he’s about to take a step. So I tell him in the nicest of firm voices “ugh ugh don’t do it.” And he changed his mind about moving and I was able to get on. Score a point for Judy. 😊

We start our warmup and realize that Alfie seems a bit stuck, he’s not injured or lame but he just doesn’t seem to want to move. I mention to my trainer that his hoofs are a tad too long and that’s the reason. Hoofs are like finger nails, they grow and need to be trimmed. Since Alfie has shoes on his front feet, when the hoof gets long the shoe feels tight. Have no fear Alfie, the farrier is coming today to take care of your feet. But since he’s uncomfortable, we do all of our lesson work at a walk.

During our lesson several of the other horses are being brought into the barn. Alfie decides he must start neighing for them which is cute and all except not when you are trying to have a lesson. When a horse neighs their entire body shakes which feels down right strange when you are on them. To help combat that we have to keep Alfie’s mind busy, so we work on our dressage exercises and after a few minutes he forgets about his friends.

Here’s the kicker at doing exercises at a walk – it’s hard. It makes the horse work all of their muscles which is hard work. After about 10 min of working on our dressage test, Alfie starts with his dramatic head toss complete with flying spit. At one point he got a big glob of spit over his head which landed right in front of me. 🤮 I congratulated him for completely grossing me out, but to his disappointment the ride continued. This is where his crankiness came in. He didn’t want to work today. He had several more head tossing spit flying moments but we kept on riding anyway. A year ago outbursts like this would’ve scared me enough to end the ride but not anymore.👍🏻

Post ride bliss.

We end our lesson, and head right into a relaxing bubble bath. Alfie is getting so much more comfortable with bath time, my heart just explodes with joy. It took many years to get him comfortable with water and his willingness to trust despite having a scare with water at some point in his life is proof that showing love and kindness and patience can heal.

After his bath, it’s time for lunch and a nap before the farrier comes to give Alfie some new shoes.

Hi mom ❤️
He’s so good looking for a 26 yr old horse.

Alfie has had some bad experiences in his life with farriers. Most farriers are men and Alfie is more fearful of men than women. So getting shoes and a hoof trim isn’t easy for him. His farrier now is truly an amazing man. He’s taken the time to chat with the vet about Alfie’s specific issues with his feet and tendons so he was able to create truly custom shoes and pads which have made Alfie very comfortable. He also takes his time with him, and has earned his trust. The process takes anywhere from an hour to 2 hours depending on whether the same shoes can be used again or if a new set need to be made. This is my second time seeing Alfie getting shoes and he did very well. He wasn’t nervous, he was calm, except for the flies, but overall he handled it like a rockstar.

It truly is amazing how much love I have for Alfie, and how much love he has for me. There were a bunch of tender moments we shared together today. I’m so blessed to be his human.❤️🐴

Tuesday Evening Diary: I’m finally NOT throwing away the contact!

Today’s lesson was with Martini. This horse has an actual fan club. Everyone that rides him falls in love with him, and for good reason. He’s a school master.

Martini

For many years riding Alfie, I would throw away the contact. The contact is one of the ways you communicate with your horse. The reins are attached to the bit which is the piece that is in the horses mouth which is attached to the bridle which is what is on the head of the horse. You communicate with your seat as well as with your hands.

Throwing away the contact – picture a person sitting on a horse holding the reins in their hands. Then picture them moving their hands and arms forward towards the horses head, so the reins get loopy and loose. This is throwing away contact. By doing this, you’ve just broken your direct phone line to your horse. This is what I’ve been doing. Not all the time but it’s one of the hardest things for me to retrain myself not to do.

When you ride you need contact with your horse, but at the same time, you need to be able to give some of that contact up, not throw it away completely. By giving up some of the contact it allows the horse to move their head and get into a more proper form. When you give up the contact totally , they are no longer getting any signal from you so they stop moving, whether it’s a walk or a trot or a canter they stop. Today while we were trotting I was able to give up a little of that contact and guess what…Martini kept trotting!! It was a true lightbulb moment! All the little pieces finally came together for me.

Looking back at how much I didn’t know or understand, I remember thinking to myself, I’m never gonna get this riding thing. I’m not fit enough, skinny enough, rich enough to afford the top of the line tack and clothes. So many negatives. So many “excuses” that were floating in my head all the time. But to see myself now, a person who started riding at the age of 40, I’ve overcome so many fears. I’ve taken the time to learn at my own pace. And even though my lightbulb moments might seem small and insignificant to others, to me, these are huge accomplishments that need to be celebrated. If you find your audience, family and friends don’t care for your little accomplishments, it’s time to clean out your closet and surround yourself with people who will cheer you on always and who will care about EVERYTHING you accomplish, even if it’s small. ❤️🐴

Martini and I before our ride ❤️

Sunday afternoon diary…🌞🌞

It was too hot to ride today – so I spent the day feeding my Alfie hydration hay and hanging out with my barn family. A perfect Sunday indeed.

I make a mess with my hydration hay but it tastes so good 😉
Wearing his jazzy fly boots to protect his legs from the flies, courtesy of his Aunt Heidi.

Saturday evening diary – so much goodness where do I start…

Another super hot and humid day in NY. I’m not a fan of winter at all but this heat and humidity can really just break for a bit. The humans would love it and the horses would love it.

I get Alfie from his field and he’s super happy because the heat was bad by 10:15AM and he couldn’t wait to come in to be in front of his fan.

He dives into his hydro hay with such gusto and I swear he was smiling. While he’s eating I start to brush him. I get all his itchy spots and I tell him he’s gonna get a nice bubble bath when we are done with our lesson.

He finishes his brunch and into the grooming stall we go. I get him dressed in his saddle – no bareback today – and we approach the dreaded mounting block.

Alfie wouldn’t stand today. I attempted twice on my own and then asked for help from my trainer Kari. She gets him lined up and I get on.

Our lesson is divided into 3 parts, warmup, work, cool down. Part of our warmup includes working on our circles. For those that think riding a horse in a circle is easy, you are very mistaken lol. It’s hard. It’s also hard when the horse is stiff and has discomfort from being stiff and just can’t bend well. That was Alfie’s issue. When we made the switch from western to dressage, I discovered that he was unbalanced in the turns and had a lot of discomfort bending his head to the right.

To help fix his discomfort Alfie gets treated about every 6 weeks by a sports massage therapist – an amazing woman who works out the kinks for him. Since he’s been under her care his muscle issues have gotten better.

We’ve been taking dressage lessons for 1 year and 4 months. When we first started trying to get Alfie to bend into a circle was extremely difficult. Today, his circles were damn near perfect in both directions.

When you are learning to ride a horse, your balance as a rider isn’t good. You are nervous, your legs don’t know what to do and you suddenly become aware of muscles you didn’t know existed. Because it’s not easy to ride a horse…let me rephrase that…it’s not easy to ride a horse that isn’t “push button” or an “auto pilot” horse. Those horses are the ones at dude ranches and in the Caribbean Islands, they just go regardless of the riding ability of their rider. Alfie isn’t push button. Alfie has made me work for every ride we’ve ever taken. There is no leisure ride with Alfie. And learning an entirely new discipline for both of us has been a struggle. But today, after the amazing circles, it was time to trot. And that’s where I was left speechless, and full of joy.

When a horse trots, the power must come from their back end…you know, their booty, their butt. Getting Alfie to understand that, getting him to understand contact of the bit and the reins hasn’t come easy. It wasn’t just him learning it was also me learning how to communicate all of this to him. We’ve worked and worked and worked on getting him to put the pieces together, when we trot, the power needs to come from behind, not just the front legs pulling the back end.

We set up for our first trot on the long side of the arena (the straight side) and holy cow…he used his butt. It was only a few strides of trot, but I immediately felt the difference. I sat there and looked at my trainer. She’s smiling and I ask her, did he do what I think he did?? Holy cow!

We try again…and again for a few strides he picks up the trot using his butt, this time he rounds his frame a bit…he’s in an actual dressage position! We do this a few more times and change direction and again all the power is coming from his back end. As he gets more fit he will be able to trot for longer but today, he did it. It took 16 months of weekly lessons, but he did it, and I helped him do it.

Sweaty booty! He worked his muscles well today!

We decided to end the lesson on that note because you always want to end on a positive. We go for our cool down ride and I get off. But I’m not done just yet…I walk him back to the mounting block to see if he will stand…and he doesn’t. I ask my trainer for help. At this point we’ve tried so many different things and nothing seems to stick with him. So she tells me to leave Alfie exactly in the weird position he’s standing. She has me pick up my dressage whip and tells me to tap him on his butt to get him to move over to the block. For those that know me, you all know my issues with tapping my horse. I know I’m not going to hurt him, logically my brain knows this but the emotional aspect of this is where my issue lays. But it’s been 4 years, and dang it Alfie you have to respect me enough to let me get on. So I tap him. He ignores it. I tap him again slightly harder, and look at that, he moved over. I slightly raise my arm and he moves over some more. Mind you, I only tapped him with it twice. This is good, he’s responding simply to my gesture, I’m not actually touching him. I climb up the stairs of the block and he just stands. Perfectly still. I get on. He doesn’t move until I ask him to walk into the arena. I pat him on the neck and tell him good boy and I get off. We have tried everything at the mounting block but 2 small taps got his attention.

After our ride 😊

Horses are like children. They have their days where they are perfect, respectful, attentive and listening. Other days they may be perfect in one area but challenging you in another area, because they can. For all these years, Alfie knows if his swings his butt away from the mounting block I can’t get on. He knows that I get off the block and walk him again to the block only to have him swing out his butt again. We’ve played this game before over and over. But today I made the decision to not play the game anymore.

We ended our day with that bubble bath I promised him and a nap in front of his fan. ❤️🐴

All clean after his bubble bath.

Saturday afternoon diary…It’s so hot let’s try a bareback lesson!

Riding bareback. It’s something I’ve done so little of throughout the 4 years Alfie and I have been together. For those that don’t know what bareback riding is, it’s where you ride the horse without a saddle. You can either ride with a bareback pad or without one, I prefer the pad.

Riding bareback has a lot of benefits. It forces you to use your seat for balance. There’s no stirrups so your body has to compensate for that. You can feel the actual movement of the horse which gives you a better understanding of how your horse moves.

The last time I rode bareback was about a year ago and it didn’t go very well. Alfie tends to get bored when we ride bareback so the last time we did he tried to lay down…like a camel lol. I remember how it felt the last time I was bareback, my seat wasn’t good, my leg strength wasn’t good, I was like a sack of potatoes, with very little core strength. My best riding buddy Heidi has always encouraged me to ride bareback more, but I never felt truly comfortable or secure until today.

I get Alfie out of his field, and as we are walking to the barn I tell him he’s in for a treat, no saddle today in this heat! He seems more excited about his lunch lol. He eats his hydro hay and I bring him into the grooming stall. I then drag out my barely used bareback pad. As I put it on him, the look he gives me is one of confusion. I know Alfie, it’s been a long time lol.

I get to the mounting block and because I’m going bareback I ask my trainer to just hold him for me. I get on him and we join my friend Heidi and her horse Cayman (Alfie’s buddy) in the arena.

If you didn’t know, horses are heard animals, meaning they like to hang out in groups. Cayman is Alfie’s field mate so he is naturally gravitating towards him, but that’s not the way we are going lol. The first thing that I notice is despite not having a saddle, I felt like I was sitting in one. I am perfectly balanced. I am holding myself up. I am secure. I am not scared. My trainer Kari tells me my seat is beautiful. Everything about my body position is perfect. Holy crap. Like really wow!!

We start our lesson and again because of the heat, everything is at a walk today. We work on our circles, our shoulder in, our haunches out, we even did our figure 8s and some leg yielding. And I did it all without having to use my dressage whip (stick of influence or SOI as I like to refer to it as. ) At one point Heidi and Cayman left the arena and Alfie wasn’t happy. He brought out his stop and back up move which not so long ago used to scare me, but not anymore. I was able to steer him and push him forward with my seat. We also had amazing haults today.

It was so extremely beneficial to ride bareback today. Not only was it more pleasant for Alfie in this crazy heat, but I proved to myself just how good of a rider I have become. We ended our day with a second lunch of hydro hay and a nap. I am no longer afraid of riding bareback. ❤️🐴

Me and Alfie
Alfie with his bareback pad on.