Oops. I kinda fell off the blogging wagon.
Mostly because I've been so darn busy, which is mostly because of the horses. But in a good way.
So I'll attempt to catch you up.
In this episode of Gray Flannel Horses, I tell you about how Heather has put on her big girl panties and has been riding her horse sans saddle.
I used to ride bareback all the time. You know, when I was young, fit, skinny, and had a horse that spooked once every couple of years (mostly at cows). If I could do it in a saddle, I could probably do it bareback (well, maybe the jumps were smaller).
Then I didn't ride for a few years, got older, fatter, and less fit. My balance on a horse (and on the ground at times) is not what it was when I was younger.
Between 2009 and this summer, I've hopped on Phantom bareback a grand total of four times. And it felt awful.
Looking back now, I think that Phantom, aka Miss Sensitive, was always trying to adjust her balance to stay with my balance, which made keeping my balance much more difficult. She was kind enough to do a tiny little walk, and the slowest jog she's ever done, but anything more than that was too much movement for her and she didn't like it. I do recall cantering once on her, during which I almost slid off over her left shoulder about three times over 2/3's of a 20m circle.
So riding bareback on her just wasn't fun.
I hadn't attempted bareback on Cisco prior to this year for a variety of reasons, including my short legs and his very wide barrel, his level of spookiness, and, well, my age (much closer to 50 than 40 these days).
One of things I always liked about hopping on bareback was the speed in which I could get ready - a quick brush, pop on my helmet and a bridle, and pretty well good to go. And lately, I've been looking for a way to sometimes have a quick toodle ride.
There's also been a big change in Cisco this year. He's become quite reliable. And for the most part, quite chill.
So, a few weeks ago, I bit the bullet and slid a leg over without a stirrup to place it in.
And he was super!
He quickly figured it out and wasn't phased by me sliding around on his back. I'll totally admit that I held onto mane for most of the ride, including at a walk, but we did some trot before calling it a day.
Since that ride went so well, I decided to try it again on Mother's Day when I was in a bit of a rush to something done with the horses before family dinner. This time, it was super windy out, and Cisco was in the arena by himself. What could go wrong?
Potted fake plants in the doorway could blow over. That's what could go wrong.
I mean, he gave me fair warning while I set up the Pivo that he was going to be a bit on edge. Staring into the scary end while doing that loud blowing snort (you know the one) does not bode well for a quiet ride. But he kept his shit together other than when he was almost killed by the fake plants and we were able to do some trot (most definitely holding mane) - but only in the safe end of the arena. I did have a dinner to attend, and my brother is quite a good cook.
On our next bareback attempt, the goal was to rely a little less on the mane for my balance. Cisco is helping me in my task by rubbing his mane out like he does every summer due to trying to eat the grass on the other side of the fence (it is greener, after all). There isn't much left in the grab mane zone to grab.
On the fourth ride, we cantered. On purpose even!
As I suspected, getting the canter was the hard part. He wasn't quite confident that I was really asking for it. But once we got it he cantered quietly and gave me a soft downward transition back to walk.
My balance is definitely starting to feel better. I can let go of the mane and stay in the middle of my horse, but I need to relax and allow my body to follow the movement more. I'm pretty tense in my back and not sitting on my seat bones enough. There are also some moments when I realize that I'm sitting a bit more to the left than I should be and am at risk of sliding off his left shoulder. Thankfully, Cisco has been very kind to me and hasn't taken that second step that does me in.
I'm excited to continue this over the summer months. Sometimes, in the heat, you just want a quick ride, and it's just so easy to convince myself to actually do it when I don't have to go through all the effort of tacking up.