Riding bareback: when natural is not necessarily better.

That bareback beach riding bucket list experience – a tender moment for the rider, yet perhaps differently “tender” for the horse…

In several recent studies researchers have confirmed the benefits of pressure distribution thanks to saddle trees, making them a better option than the localized pressure from some treeless saddles or riding bareback.

With the help of electronic pressure-measuring devices, thermography and gait analysis software, researchers found that riding bareback was associated with higher average and maximal pressure on the horse’s back than riding with a saddle, and the pressure was concentrated beneath the rider’s seat bones.

Peak forces at the trot are twice a rider’s weight, and they increase to 2 ½ or 3 times the rider’s weight at the canter. 

“It might seem more “natural” to ride without a saddle”, says professor and researcher, Dr. Hilary Clayton, “but unless you’re particularly light, fit,  and skilled enough to distribute your own weight evenly across your seat and thigh muscles, your horse is probably better off with a well-fitting saddle between you and him.”

She also mentioned that within a breed, 80-90% of animals will have a similar back shape. From The Horse.com

My takeaway? While occasional bareback riding likely won’t hurt, what helps is an  awareness that horse and human don’t always share the same goals– his “bucket list”  contains different priorities than mine (and his always has grain in it!)

If bareback riding creates a fun memory, increases a rider’s appreciation for the  horse and heightens a rider’s feel of horse movement with which to translate back to the saddle – horses can benefit.

Horse might not share our goals, but the sure do cooperate a whole lot, don’t they?

Riding bareback: when natural is not necessarily better.

A bareback beach riding, “bucket list” experience – a tender moment for the rider, yet perhaps differently “tender” for the horse!

In several recent studies researchers have confirmed the benefits of pressure -distribution thanks to saddle trees, making them a better option than some treeless saddles or riding bareback…For example, peak forces at the trot are twice a rider’s weight, and they increase to 2 ½ or 3 times the rider’s weight at the canter. 

“It might seem more “natural” to ride without a saddle”, says professor and researcher, Dr. Hilary Clayton, “but unless you’re particularly light, fit,  and skilled enough to distribute your own weight evenly across your seat and thigh muscles, your horse is probably better off with a well-fitting saddle between you and him.” 

The Horse.com Dec. 2016

One of the first questions she considered was whether a saddle is truly necessary.  Most riders prefer to use a saddle for the stability and security it provides them on the horse’s back, and as it turns out, horses seem to prefer that their riders use saddles, too.  Without a saddle, the pressure of the rider is distributed over a smaller area, and the focal points of that pressure are over the rider’s seat bones.  (Interestingly, Clayton found similar results when she looked at one brand of treeless saddle, as well).  Clayton found that in general, a saddle which fits the shape of the horse’s back and the shape of the rider’s pelvis will provide stability to the rider’s position, and as a result, the pressure is more evenly distributed.  She also mentioned that within a breed, 80-90% of animals will have a similar back shape.