I did something tonight I haven’t done in years—I got on my little Paint horse Myster and rode him bareback. Well, years isn’t exactly accurate, last week, at Inavale horse trial in Oregon, I rode him bareback along with my friend Meg Finn and her mare Izzy. See, I hadn’t had our normal good showing up there—after several top placings, he had struggled on the ground up there and been eliminated in cross-country. So on Saturday night (we’d gone cross country on Friday) feeling sorry for myself, and after consuming a few adult beverages, I tossed his bridle on and shimmied up on his wide comfy back.
We strolled around Inavale’s beautiful grounds, and I remembered back to my childhood when I rode bareback all the time, and I pondered why I hadn’t done it in so long.
The answer is in parts practical and in part philosophic: practically speaking it’s been a while since I had a horse who was conformationally inclined towards a bareback ride that wouldn’t leave a male singing soprano (most of my TB’s and crosses in recent years have been poster children for the phrase “shark fin wither”). Not so Myster, who is the prototypical barrel with legs. Philosophically, one downfall to riding professionally is that you always feel like you have to be accomplishing something, teaching the horse, fixing an issue, etc. But Myster is mine, so he gives me a little more freedom to ride just for fun—if he has any holes; they’re mine to deal with.
After my lovely stroll in Oregon I got to thinking about bareback riding. In my younger days, on my Young Rider horse PR (a stout 17 hand Appaloosa) I rode bareback all the time. But age and business and pointy withers had left me in saddles only for years.
So today, needing to work Myster, but feeling hot and sticky in my shorts and not relishing dragging breeches over sweaty skin, I decided to just hop on. First we walked up the driveway to the house, then I took him in to the arena and did about 20 minutes of dressage work—walk, trot, and canter.
While I do know for certain I’m not 17 anymore, it was great fun and a good workout. Without tack, your body is what manages your balance and position—no leaning in to knee roles, or pressing in to stirrups. So my abs are a little sore, and my thighs. But it was great fun, and I’m thinking of making it a once a week thing—lord knows I could use the fitness and workout.
The running joke around here is that Myster, an absolutely adorable 15 hand Paint gelding, is the pony I never got to have as a kid. My bareback ride is just one more step in my time reversal process.