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.

Tuesday Evening Diary…why is it so hot???

Ok…I know it’s summer…but 3PM and it’s STILL 87, crazy high humidity to the point that as soon as you leave your air conditioned car and step outside your riding breeches become one with your skin. I wouldn’t feel the need to complain except this kind of heat has been with us since the beginning of JUNE…ok, little soapbox rant over lol.

Today is my lesson day with Martini. To give all my new readers a little background on Martini. He’s over 17 hands – way bigger than Alfie who is about 15.1 hands tall. He’s a warm blood draft mix who is a gentle giant. I started taking lessons with him about a year ago.

Let me back up a bit…I’m a former western pleasure rider who switched disciplines to dressage. It was a decision that I have no regrets about at all. It’s benefiting Alfie in so many physical ways. Martini is a well trained dressage horse. So what I learn with him I am teaching my Alfie.

I groom Martini and spray him with fly spray, oh the flies are so bad this year because of the heat and humidity. I get him all tacked up and off we go. The issue I was having with him at the mounting block wasn’t an issue today. Once I got on, he stayed standing, he didn’t try to walk into the arena until I was ready. Woohoo!! We go through our warmup and my confidence is really good today. We work on trotting over poles which again I had some issues with. So here’s the thing, sometimes when I don’t think I’m nervous, it turns out I am. I kept losing my right stirrup. No my foot didn’t come out but it wasn’t in the position it needed to be. So my wonderful trainer Kari says, don’t worry about it, let’s work on the half seat position.

For those that don’t know what a half seat is, it’s basically where you come up out of the saddle and hold a squat. Yes it’s as challenging as it sounds lol. When I first learned to do it, I could only hold it for a matter of seconds. Now I can hold it for an entire revolution around the arena. The benefit of this exercise, well one of the benefits is it helps your body feel secure in the saddle because your weight shifts to your heels. After we did that, we went back to trotting over the poles and I didn’t lose my stirrup. My confidence that took a brief disappearing act had returned.

We work on our pole work some more and my trainer sets up this small jump. Now if this were Alfie, because of his short size, he would’ve had to jump it. But Martini is so tall he wouldn’t waste a jump on something so short, he was just gonna trot over it. I pick up my trot nicely, we head to the slightly elevated poles, and we walk over it. I try again, good depart with the trot, momentum, here comes the slightly elevated poles…and we walk over them. I tell my trainer it’s me, not him. I’m too nervous and a little afraid he might try to jump it. As always, my trainer listens to me and says, no problem, we will try it again when you are ready. Although my confidence disappeared briefly, I didn’t let it ruin the rest of my ride. There’s no rush in this sport. I will get there when I’m ready.

We end our lesson with some cantering in both directions which is really becoming a favorite gait for me. Now if I can only remember to steer when we get going lol.

After our lesson, I bring Martini into the wash stall to give him a quick rinse, I put him in his stall and it’s dinner time. A wonderful way to end my Tuesday. ❤️🐴

Martini – he’s ready for dinner

I love you Aunty Judy, I must give you a kiss

A Little Background

My equestrian career began as a child. I was around 8 or 9 when I started taking lessons. I loved it. I was only taking lessons for about a year when my parents encouraged me to try something else as a hobby. There had been an accident at a neighboring stable and the young rider took a nasty fall and was left paralyzed. My parents didn’t tell me this but they were scared I could suffer a similar fate, so bye bye horses, and hello clarinet.

Fast forward about 33 years. I stumbled upon a Groupon for a discounted trail ride. So I signed up myself and my husband…my extremely allergic husband (didn’t realize his allergy was going to be a severe one) for this trail ride. Despite my husband breaking out into hives and needing 2 doses of Benadryl, we both enjoyed it. And that was it, I was hooked. I started taking lessons at a stable that was much closer to me than where we had the trail ride and 4 months into lessons, I bought my Alfie.

My Alfie. We really didn’t know much about him except he came from a farm in Virginia. We weren’t even sure exactly how old he was. All we knew was he was a trained ranch horse that was very safe, and very cute.

What I would find out over these last 4 years based on vets and an equine dentist, Alfie is most likely in his mid 20’s. How does one figure out the age of a horse, by their teeth. And Alfie, well, he has old man teeth. They are all accounted for, but totally smooth which makes eating hay a challenge for him.

Because of his age and some physical issues with his legs and feet, our weekly lessons are just done at a walk and trot. I ride my trainer’s horse Martini who is younger and doesn’t have the physical challenges Alfie has to do the more advanced stuff. So this blog will feature entries about both Alfie and Martini.