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The Bareback Diaries

By Cindy Hale

9-Aug-12

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I don’t know what’s going on in your part of the country, but out here in the dusty foothills of inland southern California it’s hot. Yesterday I did my barn chores in a bare bones tank top and pair of shorts and decided that in order to feel any hotter I’d have to be on fire.

Courtesy of being a horsewoman during the doldrums of summer, I’ve discovered the bottom basement of femininity. It’s having your bra and tank top glued to your torso with sweat, and then also realizing your moist, bare legs have become encrusted with microscopic manure spores. Yup, cleaning a stall in this weather turns me into a human craft project. I’ve been dipped in perspiration glue and then rolled in barnyard glitter.

Why include Wally in this misery? During this triple-digit hot spell I’ve skipped riding him a lot. I turn him out in his paddock from dusk ‘til dawn, then mid-morning I put him in his stall to escape the blast furnace of daytime.

Yet I’m also wary of just letting a horse sit in hot weather. Less exercise often correlates with drinking less water, and we all know where that can end up: colic. Plus Wally is perpetually on the plump side. If he could, I’m sure he’d be sitting on a sofa all day slurping popsicles.

So I came up with this grand idea: Why not ride Wally bareback?

I spent much of my youth riding bareback. In fact, my first riding instructor demanded that all of us students spent many of our summertime lessons riding our horses bareback on the flat and over jumps. In retrospect, I am thankful for those tortuous lessons. We were compelled to hold our position and use our aids properly without relying on stirrups and the contour of a saddle to hold ourselves in place.

I think riding bareback—with some amount of guidance and structure—is an aspect of horsemanship that’s overlooked at many riding schools today. But that’s a topic for another blog.

At any rate, riding Wally bareback is not quite what I had anticipated. Cinching a cushy bareback pad onto Wally’s back, and then climbing aboard, provides an odd sensation. I’m sure it’s due to a combination of his conformation and gaits and my age, but I’d liken the overall experience to sitting astride a marshmallow strapped around a 55-gallon oil drum. My legs are spread across the flat, wide expanse of Wally’s back until my pelvis resembles the wishbone of a Thanksgiving turkey. Add to that the carefully nurtured layer of fat beneath his sleek coat and my legs can scarcely wrap around his ribcage for any sense of security.

Fortunately, Wally’s blessed with a tippy-toe western jog and a slow, rocking chair canter. As a result, my seat stays glued to his plus-sized back even if my legs protrude from his sides like pontoons. From head-on we must look like a catamaran loping down the trail. So trust me, this bareback riding ritual won’t become a habit. Either I’ll roust myself out of bed before dawn so I can stick a proper saddle on Wally’s back or he’ll be trotting on the longe line until the temperature drops. I’m perfectly happy to relegate my bareback riding heyday to fond memories of yesteryear.

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Reader Comments

Anny    Greenville, SC

9/28/2012 1:18:50 PM

We are missing you!!! Hope you are on some wonderful, relaxing vacation somewhere fabulous!

Skylar    Chino Hills, CA

9/21/2012 1:52:48 AM

Hey Cindy! Where are you?? Are you OK? Please let your fans know!

Beth    Mission Viejo, CA

9/14/2012 6:02:28 PM

I sure hope you are OK. No posts from you in over a month ...

Amber    northern, IN

9/13/2012 11:18:30 AM

I was thinking the same this Sedona

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