Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stacy Westfall Watch Out!

Okay, so I'm not threat to Stacy Westfall.  At all.  But I can pretend.

I've whined for a while now about wanting to increase my confidence bareback.  Yes, I can ride for hours bareback.  Up and down hills.  Across running water.  Across the highway.  Off and on trails.  All at a walk.  I'd like to be able to do it at a gait other than a walk.  Okay, I've done a slow trot for very short distances.  And, when I'm really brave, her nice Morgan gait.  But only for very short distances; we're talking a handful of yards before I come to my senses and bring her back down to a walk.

So I've been moaning and groaning about wanting to build my bareback confidence, but without an arena I'm left doing it up on the mountain.  Perhaps you've heard about the Rocky Mountains.  They're mountains.  With Rocks.  Hard Rocks.  Not the most comfortable landing should I need one.

On our ride today, Bill was messing around (as usual) and said, "arms out, eyes closed".  Sure enough, he'd dropped Ranger's lead rope (show-off only rides in a halter and lead rope when we're out bareback) and was riding with his arms in the airplane position and his eyes closed.  Which started me thinking...maybe I should work on my confidence by working on riding with my legs instead of my hands.  I know next to nothing about leg cues - remember, I learned to ride by not falling off.  Lots of hours on different horses.  Lots of wet saddle pads, but not much in the way of formal instruction.

I know that I can usually get Estes to do stuff by thinking about what I want to do, but I've got no idea how to cue her for it.  So, my plan for increasing my confidence changed right there on the spot.  I dropped the reins and rode for a few feet without my reins.  I kept repeating that until I was ready to try to guide her with my legs.

Uphill without reins (Yikes!)

Mom negotiating the turn without reins.

At least my position is correct: ears, shoulders, hips, heels all in alignment.

I chickened out when we got to the switchback headed down and grabbed onto the reins again.  She could have made it without me, but I flat-out chickened out about that steep, slippery hill.  Maybe next time.  Or the time after that.

I've decided that I'll spend a portion of each ride (hopefully a progressively longer portion each time) riding with just my legs.  I did learn that it takes a lot more concentration and that I can't talk at ride at the same time without reins.  Each time I lost my concentration, Estes took advantage and moved in her own direction.

But I'm not sure, even with all the practice in the world, I'll be able to ride like this...


Funder said...

What is this - you and Breathe both post about riding bareback? Are yall trying to shame me into it or something? Cause I'll fall off, I totally will.

Seriously, that's very cool. You and your mom both have wonderful posture!

Anonymous said...

I learned to ride bareback and only rode that way for many years. I'm a lot older now - close to 60 - so I rarely ride bareback anymore. My mare is 16.2, so getting on and off is a challenge, and she seems to really not like it when I ride her bareback, so I don't. But bareback is the best, and no hands is great too if your horse will permit - I do a lot of riding with loose reins and just seat and legs. Looks like you're having fun!

Mrs. Mom said...

Hey Funder- JUST DO IT!! Remember? Shut Up And RIDE?? heheheh Bareback ROCKS... Wait till you gait your mare bareback- you'll wonder what took you so long to try it!

Diva--- way to GOOOOO!!!! You guys look like you're all having a blast out there. The only way to get good at going faster than a walk? Just. Do. It. A couple times each ride, for short times-- just jog. Then lope. I promise promise promise-- you will totally love it.

Can't wait to see pix of you streaking across the meadow later this summer on Estes! BAREBACK!

The Equestrian Vagabond said...

ha - and I just rode Jose bareback yesterday for the first time ever - must be something in the air! It felt very odd to me! a lot of it is because last year over the course of a few months, jose's back just dipped. his back looks like a 35 year old horse's back. he has a good saddle fit, but I couldn't comfortably position myself on him. the trotting was somewhat painful with his sharp withers - eek! and shoot in 3 miles my legs were feeling it! I'll leave you to tackle Stacy Westfall and i'll root for you from the stands!
- The Equestrian Vagabond

Shirley said...

Fear of falling is my biggest inhibitor when it comes to bareback riding. when I was a kid we used to race our horses bareback....where did that girl go?
What a great and inspiring horsewoman Stacy is.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Did you know my last name is Westfall?
I wish I had as secure of a seat as she does...but we seem to only share our love of horses and last name only. sigh.

I do enjoy riding backyard, but have only done it at a walk. Apache is so attuned to my balance that if she senses I'm not balanced, she stops until I get balanced again. I need to trust her more, but she is learning how to be soft and listening with legs after being ridden hard by her previous owner.

I do practice a lot with her on the trails without using the reins, though, and she's getting it. But I've not done it bareback, too. I don't think my confidence level is there yet.

Great pics!


Unknown said...

That is an absolutely amazing ride huh?

I used to be quite good bareback, not anymore but when I was a kid I was too lazy to saddle up half the time so I got really good bareback, could even handle mild bucks.

Kerrin Koetsier said...

It's really awesome that you're developing your riding like this!

One thing I'd say is to find where you're comfortable, and then build on from there. For instance, you mentioned that you're happy to ride bareback at walk... that's GREAT! Now, rather than throwing yourself completely outside of your comfort zone, see whether you can ride 3 strides of trot at bareback.. and then 4, and then 5, and hey presto! You'll find that sitting trot becomes a non-issue...

That video of Stacy Westfall is inspiring! If you're interested, you can find some similar videos of students of the Parelli program here:

Kerrin Koetsier
Parelli Central