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You Can Even Learn Bareback in the Mud!

Updated on December 7, 2018
Ellison Hartley profile image

Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.

A bareback ride in the slop even has something to teach us!
A bareback ride in the slop even has something to teach us! | Source

A Bareback Ride In The Mud

Little did she know that I was taking pictures of her bareback practice ride in the mud the other day! My friend Christina said a while back I could do a photo critique on her, so today's the day.

This was just a casual ride to try out her new bareback pad. The footing was obviously crappy so she hadn't planned on doing much. Of course, the trainer in me watching couldn't keep my mouth shut, so it sort of turned into a mini-lesson in the mud!

Now you will know which photo I'm talking about. Numbers in pink of course because Pink is Zoe's color.
Now you will know which photo I'm talking about. Numbers in pink of course because Pink is Zoe's color. | Source

Photo 1

Photo 1 I really like. Christina seems to be using her leg well, down nice and long and her seat nice and deep. I can tell that she is pushing Zoe forward since she is going in a nice round frame with her back up and her head down.

I like how Christina has a straight line from her elbow to hand to the bit, though the connection would feel softer to Zoe if her elbows were bent a bit more. We don't like straight rigid fishing polearms.

Christina is looking up where she is going and Zoe seems to be focused as well. It could be the moment that I caught the picture, but it doesn't look like Zoe is "tracking up" and using her hind end quite as well as she could. A lot of that was probably also her being tentative in the sloppy footing. Can't blame her for that.

Photo 2

Not quite as pretty a picture as photo one, but not awful. Christina is just slouching a bit. She should have had her hips forward and shoulders up and back a bit more. Her lower leg could be stretched down and around longer since she is bareback and doesn't have any stirrups. Her heels look nicely down though. It would just be better if her heels were down and her leg long and wrapped around Zoe's barrel a bit more.

Her contact with her mouth is good. I like the length of the reins. Note the difference in her elbows in this photo and the first. Her arms and elbows are better in this photo. The reason Zoe isn't marching forward into the bit and getting into a frame is just that Christina doesn't look to have been pushing her at that moment. Her upper body posture looks relaxed and her leg was somewhat relaxed. Overall, if she would have been in work mode with her hips forward and shoulders back. Using her seatbones to push Zoe forward, I bet she would have gone into a nice frame easily.

Photo 3

Looks like Christina needs to bend her elbows again.

It looks as if she is pushing with her seat and really trying to send Zoe forward into the bridle. Look how much she is using her lower leg!

Zoe looks a little flat in this picture, but with the way Christina was working on softening her, I bet she looks really nice a few strides after this photo was taken.

Photo 4

I really like this photo, for a few reasons. You can see that Zoe is bending to the inside and you can see that Christina's outside hand is softening and allowing her to bend. WIthout that elastic outside rein, she could have asked for a left bend all day long and never gotten it.

Her upper body may be tipped slightly forward, again it could be the angle of the photo. I like how it looks like she is being light with her seatbones since Zoe is stretching down and forward so nicely. She needs to practice keeping light seatbones with her hips forward and shoulders up tall to improve her upper body position.

Looks like she could still use a little more bend in her elbows, though the connection must feel okay to the horse because she is stretching down into it.

The only other thing I would say about this photo is that it looks as though Christina is looking down, again could be the angle of the photo, but just throwing that out there just in case.

Photo 5

Love this one. Christina's seat looks nice and light. She has her hips forward and shoulders back.

I like the way it looks as if her arms are softening to Zoe as she softens and gets rounder and into a frame.

I can also tell that she has gotten her into a better trot tempo. She is "tracking up" meaning her hind feet are stepping well up under her body into the hoofprint of her front foot. Which is a great sign, she is using her hind end, her back is up. Zoe's whole body looks nice and soft and connected in the picture. Obviously, Zoe and Christina were speaking the same language at the moment this photo was snapped! Love it!

Photo 6

Not going to be picky on this one. Obviously, they were just taking a moment to wander around and take a break.

Zoe was not on the bit and was not looking in the direction she was going, but that's okay. They were either warming up or taking a break between trot sets so no need to be overly critical.

One thing I will not which is to Christina's credit is that even though Zoe is distracted and looking away to the outside, Christina is still looking where she is going!

Photo 7

I love Christina' hands in this picture, you can see her hands are straight across from each other. They are up and out in front of her body, and it looks as if Zoe is going softly with equal weight in each hand.

Christina has her leg wrapped around nice and long and she is sitting with her hips forward and shoulders back. Which in turn makes her seatbones feel nice and light and inviting for Zoe to stretch her back up into.

From the angle of the photo, it looks like Zoe is trotting nice and forward and her hind end is working. It could be the photo angle, but it looks like they may be leaning to the inside ever so slightly. I'm talking a tiny little bit. If that is the case, Christina would just need to stretch her inside shoulder up and lift her inside hand up a bit to help lift Zoe up and out.

I'd Say It Was a Good Ride!

Considering the slippery footing, the fact that she was bareback, and the fact that she wasn't really planning on doing any work, I think it was a great and productive ride. There is always something to learn when you are riding or watching someone else ride, even if it is bareback in the mud!

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