Tag Archives: beginner rider experience

A Peak Into 11 Weeks of One Rider’s Adventures on Aspire START Programme

I am preparing a short video spanning 12 weeks of one rider’s training on Aspire’s START Programme and I thought I would give you all a little preview 🙂

This rider purchased the 3 months of training which is the time frame of the START Programme if the rider wants to cover all planned lessons and elements of training. Her last lesson of the course will be on the 16th of February after which she will officially progress onto Foundation Programme. I will put a video together some time after her last START training session.

Hope you enjoy the photo snippets 🙂

the road sneaky peak

To Bare or Not to Bare…Bareback Riding in Rider’s Education.

Beginner rider on Aspire Equestrian Start Programme experiencing sitting bareback on a horse for the first time.

Bareback riding is a forbidden part of rider’s education at quite a number of riding schools across the UK. The reason being (given to me when I asked) that riding without a saddle is an unsafe practice and having it on the agenda jeopardises the terms of riding school’s insurance policy. It goes further than this. While working at a BHS Where To Train Centre (to read about what centre qualifies as such see HERE) I was under instructions to limit no-stirrups lessons and if lunging a client I was to make sure they always had either reins or stirrups always available. In other words, if I took stirrups away, I was to make sure the rider had the reins in their hands. If they had no reins in their hands, they were to have both feet in the stirrups.


On one hand I feel I must stand on riding schools side because I know how difficult it can be in current litigious climate to provide any sort of sporting tuition. Perhaps someone more in the know can comment on whether the disappearance of bareback riding is the case of insurance companies increasing their fees for establishments said to offer it or whether there are different reasons altogether. Personally, I don’t know. I do know, however, that some BHS Approved riding schools have no issues with bareback lessons so I am somewhat confused as to why some centres can have an insurance policy happy with the practice while others can’t…

On the other hand, I find bareback riding a must for any rider to experience at least sporadically in their riding education. It is possible to conduct it safely and benefits are huge.

Bareback for riders…

Except from obvious benefits of improved balance thanks to bareback riding, I believe even more important benefit is the connection the rider feels with the horse when riding without a saddle. When my horse developed a small sarcoid behind his elbow, just where the girth goes, I was unable to ride him unless I wanted to ride bareback. I was reluctant to start with as he was quite a sharp, young stallion but when treatment after treatment failed to deal with the issue I gave it a go. Little did I know that I would ride him bareback for entire year before finally removing the sarcoid…

At first I stayed in the arena but when I felt more comfortable and secure with him I started hacking him out too. Slowly at the beginning, then doing usual fitness work with him including jumping. Throughout that time I never appreciated how much more understanding of his movement I gained until I put the saddle back on. It felt like someone has blindfolded me that much feeling was missing. At the same time though, my security in the saddle, confidence and effectiveness improved beyond my imagination.

Movement and touch are important element of communication between horses so for rider to learn to speak the same muscle language means being closer to that elusive harmony we all seek in riding.

Issues like straightness or one-sidedness are easier to explain to a novice rider when they feel it right underneath them without the much more perfect mould of the saddle.

So is the importance of good posture since slouching or crookedness in the rider’s body is not going to help them stay on the round, slippery back of the moving horse.

Check out the below video showing children during a rather unique lesson set up at a riding school in Dubai. I highly dislike how incredibly dull this work must be for the horses involved but I do love the idea behind teaching balance and movement in a safe and agility focused environment.

Shorter lessons of this sort where there is more appreciation for horses’ wellness are something I am very keen to explore.

Bareback for horses…

While I do believe bareback riding is a fabulous addition to almost any rider’s education, I don’t think it’s suitable for every horse. Undermuscled horses with underdeveloped backs are in my opinion not good candidates for bareback riding not because they are rather uncomfortable for the rider but because they will find rider’s weight and bone pressure hard to cope with. Well fitted saddle disperses the weight over larger area and diminishes any localised pressure points.

If your horse has a weak back and you do ride him bareback I would suggest only very short sessions while you wait for his condition to improve.

Another issue that I became aware years ago when witnessing a certain situation is that horses and ponies that are being educated to carry themselves well without a downward flexing spine might find bareback riding a burden…It’s important to monitor your horse’s behaviour and observe whether he/she is able to carry you with relaxed back without the saddle protecting their muscles from pressure points coming from your seat bones. Try to sit on a hard chair and slide your hands under your seat so you know exactly what your horse is feeling over time.

The signs to look out for is the neck carriage and fluidity of movement – an experienced instructor will notice back tension in the horse straight away but many novice riders feel it very quickly too. If tension happens regularly it’s best to practice on a different horse until your horse’s muscles are re-educated and conditioned.

One solution for pressure points could be using a bareback pad like this one but I personally don’t know of any research done on their protecting abilities.

Image source: http://www.onestopequineshop.com/
Bare in Mind…

The “everything is good in moderation” seems a perfect mantra to me when it comes to bareback riding. I believe it can have enormous benefits for developing all round rider skills but must be done safely and in a way that doesn’t harm the horse.

If you have good experiences with bareback riding or if your riding school allows it please leave a comment and share your views and experiences 🙂

To finish off, possibly most famous recent you tube bareback riding/jumping video:

Adult Beginner/Novice Rider – What You Might Want To Know about booting and whipping of horses

Last night I read this conversation on Horse & Hound Forum:

Click on the image to read the replies…

My reply was as follows:

“This is something very close to my heart as an instructor who is trying to fight with the “booting culture” I really hope that you find another riding school where standards are higher and understanding of teaching in place.

I wouldn’t believe everyone who says months of lunge lessons are boring as they most likely did not experience a good, fun, creative and educational seat training programme. If they did, they may have another opinion of lunge lessons!
I very highly recommend them as seat education for beginner riders is the first step to get rid of switched off/resigned horses.

The time spent on the lunge depends on your general learning ambitions. As an example I keep my beginner riders on the lunge for minimum of 3 months. That’s for your average leisure rider.

If your body awareness and alignment are very good (as advised by your instructor) it might be that you need to focus more on how to use this good posture you have in a way that helps the horse rather than demands…

I must add – I think it would be great if you wrote to Horse & Hound magazine with your experiences. The booting culture must go if riding schools are to survive. More and more riders want to have good basics and ride well. Leisure riders shouldn’t have to loan or buy horses to experience high quality education, they deserve to learn at places where horses are not used as kicking boards.

Good luck with your search”


The subject of brutal and abusive riding, yes let’s call things by its name, comes up often and the fact several posters in the above conversation tried to find excuses for abusive teaching methods is a very sad state of affairs.

Before you read on, I should note that certain amount of assertiveness and confidence is required from riders at all levels. Some amount of firmness and decisiveness is always necessary with some horses and less with others. There is a big difference between assertive riding and abusive riding and that difference is called EDUCATION. Both you and the horse must know why and what for pressure is applied and how to work towards decreasing that pressure to achieve results invisibly.

Continue reading Adult Beginner/Novice Rider – What You Might Want To Know about booting and whipping of horses