Bareback Dressage, Safety Tips To Get Started and My Top Bareback Pad Choices

I have many people ask me how they can start to incorporate bareback riding into their dressage work. I wanted to share some of my advice for getting started, including safety tips and also bareback pads to try.

Before You Begin:

How Is Your Balance?
Before you try riding bareback you should be able to comfortably, and confidently, ride in a saddle without reins or stirrups at the walk, trot and canter! Do you have independent balance from the reins? [To learn more, CLICK HERE]. If you ever catch your balance with the reins, it is not a good idea to try riding bareback. [To learn how to improve your riding position, CLICK HERE].

Does your horse have a good "WHOA"?
If you have a horse that is hard to stop, rushes, or is resistant or disobedient, I do not recommend riding bareback. Make sure to refresh your horse's response to your "whoa", on the lunge line or on the ground, before you ride bareback.

Has your horse been ridden bareback before?
Some horses have sensitive backs and may react the first time they are ridden bareback. Do not assume that your horse will behave the same as he does with a saddle. Have an experienced rider test out your horse if this is your first time. You may also want a person on the ground to hold your horse when you mount and to lead him.

Things You Might Need:

  • Full Seat Breeches: I recommend wearing full seat breeches to help you "stick". Horsehair can be slippery so you may feel more secure wearing full seat breeches. I love wearing deerskin breeches because the material breathes with the horse and provides stick without being too tacky. Check out Aanstadt-Das Breeches for an awesome selection of full seat deerskin breeches.
  • Mounting block: Unless you are super flexible and have the ability to leap onto the horse from the ground, then you will need a mounting block. Try a three-step for extra height. You need to have good balance and confidence to mount a horse bareback.
  • A helper. Make sure you have someone with you to hold the horse when you first get on. They could even lead you around at the walk to see how it feels and to help keep the horse relaxed and slow.
  • Enclosed riding area. PLEASE do not attempt riding bareback for the first time in an open field or arena with no walls. The best place to start is in a small indoor arena or a round pen, with all the gates closed.
  • A bareback pad. A good bareback pad helps with padding and "stick". The horse's withers can be uncomfortable unless the horse has a very round barrel. Having a bareback pad can help with horses that have pronounced withers. Usually the material on the underside has some stick to it, like a synthetic rubber. Be careful with the all fleece pads because they may slide around on a well-groomed horse. Do not use a bareback pad that has stirrups! The tree of a saddle distributes the stirrup pressure and without it you will be placing all of your weight into one spot on the horse's back.

Here are some great bareback pads:

ThinLine Bareback Pad:

I currently use the ThinLine bareback pad. It offers padding and has a rubbery material on the underside of the pad and the girth to keep it from sliding. It is simple and elegant. I have been using this pad for my Art on Horseback with Rovandio and in recent performances. There are a few places online that you can purchase this bareback pad. In my opinion, it is a great pad for people to get started with at a decent price. 

 

 

Sheepskin Bareback Pads:
You will find top-of-the-line sheepskin bareback pads online at HorseDream.co.uk. They have a variety of colors and sizes, including this beautiful Iberian style pad. They are in a much higher price range and I have not ridden in one yet but I would love to try one in the future. If anyone else tries them I would love to get your feedback. Just leave a comment below or send me an email at beginthedance@gmail.com.
 

Now What?

Now, get out there and ride! Once you have a good bareback pad and all the other suggested items, it's time to give it a try! Riding bareback will help improve your balance and reveal weaknesses in your riding that can be hidden by the saddle. I love to feel the horse's back muscles and check that I am sitting evenly on my seat bones. The horse's spine will help you feel whether you sit centered or not. Be sure to stay aware of whether your horse is enjoying the bareback experience, or not. You will feel the incredible sensitivity of the horse and the amazing connection you can have without the saddle. Even if you just practice at the walk, try lateral work and transitions. Feel how you can transition your horse from your seat and have the horse follow your weight in turns and circles. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or email me at beginthedance@gmail.com. Be safe and have fun!

Hide your helmet hair, protect yourself from the sun, AND make a statement all at the same time! Let everyone know that you love horses and believe that riding is a dance.

Sandra Beaulieu Performs Demos at the 2014 Equine Affaire

I am so pleased to report that both Douwe and Rovandio did AWESOME in their demos this year! I also had my own booth and was so thankful to have the BEST helpers during the event that not only made everything go smoothly but we had a BLAST, lots of laughs and memories! So here is a daily run through of what we did at the Equine Affaire 2014!

Thursday: Demo at the Youth Pavilion
I schooled both horses in the morning and was really happy that Rovandio had settled in okay and was eating and drinking a lot. This was his first time to the Equine Affaire and only his second time being away from home overnight. Both horses were energetic when I exercised them. Later in the day, Douwe was the featured horse in the Friesian breed spotlight in the Youth Pavilion. He performed many of his tricks including smile, Spanish walk, rear, and standing on the pedestal. He was wonderful! What a ham! Both horses were in the Breed Pavilion to represent the IALHA Booth (International Andalusian Lusitano Horse Assoc.) and the IFSHA (International Friesian Show Horse Assoc.) Booth. Rovy was very tired and mostly just chilled out in the stall but Douwe was a big HAM and smiled for the passing crowds for over two hours! He loved it! Click on a photo for a slideshow and hover over the image for a description.

Friday: the Andalusian Demo
Today was the big day for Rovandio! We had a four-minute time spot in the Andalusian Breed Demo all to ourselves. Originally we were supposed to perform with my friend Lydia who usually dances with us. I thought that would give Rovy more confidence in front of the audience and be more exciting with the veils and dancer. Unfortunately Lydia found out she couldn't make it only days before we left! So I changed songs and made up a simple routine to the song "Sway" from the movie Shall We Dance. I have always loved that song and it matched the Spanish-themed costume I had for Rovy. I tried really hard to get into the Mallory building in the off-hours to let Rovy look at the arena but the schedule was tight and it didn't work out. But, he went into that unfamiliar ring with the big crowd all by himself and was excellent! I was so happy with him and we had a lot of fun performing. We had so many wonderful comments from people about how we were really dancing together and how awesome it was to see a dressage horse being ridden bitless. We were riding in the Beta Bridle by Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle, who generously helped sponsor me at the Equine Affaire. Click on a photo for a slideshow and hover over the image for a description.

Saturday: the Friesian Demo
Douwe's big day! The Friesian Demo! I decided to use our pedestal as a way to help keep him focused if the audience made him nervous. It worked really well because when we first trotted around the arena he was tense and strong. After I had him step onto the pedestal he seemed to be more focused on me and his tricks rather than on spooking at the audience. He was expressive in his Spanish walk, reared a few times, and then I hopped off so that I could ask for the lay down. I am SO happy with him and how he performed throughout the event. Thank you Elisha Harvey for taking a video clip of the demo for me! Click on a photo below for a slideshow and hover over the image for a description.

Thank you to my sponsors!
Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle
They have supported me ever since I started riding Douwe and Rovandio in their bitless bridles. I have used their Beta bridles and the Padded English Leather bridles on both horses and like them both for different reasons. The Beta is easy to clean and is soft right out of the box. The leather bridle is awesome once the high-quality leather breaks in and has a lovely shine. I sell these bridles on my website in the TRAINING section. Click here to see the bridles.

El Sueno Espanol
Lisa Oberman has made two gorgeous bridle & breastcollar sets for me that I have used in two films that my horse has been in, one called Essential Realism and the other Falcyyr. You can read about these films in the Film & TV category on my blog. She is able to make custom bridles for me so I can keep riding them bitless in films and performances. She posts some gorgeous spanish saddles and tack on her Facebook page, click here to follow her.

Aanstadt-Das Deerskin Breeches
I have worn Sonya's deerskin breeches for many years and she recently made a custom pair for the film I am acting in called Falcyyr. To see photos of those breeches click here. I also wore a black pair of full seat deerskin leather breeches in my demos at the Equine Affaire. You can't really see them in most of the photos because I have big skirts on but the breeches kept me comfortable in the saddle. Click here to check out their website.

Thank you to my friends & family at the Equine Affaire!
Without the help of my friends/grooms Elisha Harvey, Sue French and Hannah French I think I would have gone crazy! There was so much to do with a booth and two horses at the event. Elisha does an excellent job trailering my horses to special events and she is also a dressage trainer and does cowboy mounted shooting at her stable Elysium Sport Ponies. Sue French operates Lincoln Pony Pals, lesson barn in Lincoln, ME and her daughter Hannah is an excellent rider and trainer. Having experienced help is so important! I am also very lucky that my mother Peggy and my mother-in-law Bethanne were able to come for the weekend. They helped sell products in my booth and Bethanne had a great time watching her horse Rovandio be in his first big demo at the Equine Affaire! And a big THANK YOU to Danielle Barrasso for letting me stable Douwe and Rovy in her aisle in the C-Barn. She also organized the Friesian Demo and helps me a lot at the event. Thank you to Brenda Hammer for organizing the IALHA booth and I had a great time chatting with her when Rovy was in the breed pavilion. Overall the event was a huge success and I had a great time!
 

Falcyyr Movie: Filming with Douwe & Rovandio

So for our second day of filming (with the horses) we worked on the teaching scene. The director, Ahura Z. Diliiza, brought his filming crew to Isaac Royal Farm for the day. I bathed the horses first thing in the morning and then we had makeup/hair from 10:30-1:30 and filming from 2:00-6:00. It was a cold, windy day but the horses behaved very well and everything went smoothly. In the scene my character, Artemis, is instructing the main characters how to ride a horse. Douwe and Rovandio were very well behaved as the riders mounted and dismounted many times in the paddock area and out in the field. Sinari (who plays Brunhilda in the film, the leader of the Falcyyr) was able to ride Douwe by herself in the field and get some shots of her walking and trotting. With my help she was able to do some Spanish walk and even rear! She has had the most riding experience of the group and fulfilled her dream of riding a Friesian! The hardest part was the keep her from giggling when the camera was rolling! I was a little nervous when Sinari rode Douwe by herself in the field but Douwe had his game face on and stayed focused. He did an excellent job of posing for the camera and Ahura commented that he was a camera hog! We are filming a few more times with the horses and will hopefully get all the footage needed before the fall foliage is gone. To see more photos please visit the PHOTO GALLERY. A big thank you goes out to Lisa Oberman of El Sueno Espanol for designing and creating the beautiful bridle and breastcollar that Douwe is wearing. She designed it to match my costume and I think it looks amazing! I am also wearing custom deerskin breeches made by Aanstadt-Das Breeches that were made for the film. Click here to check out their Etsy listing for these specific movie breeches.

Check out more information about Falcyyr on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/falcyyr?ref=br_tf
Visit El Sueno Espanol on Facebook to see more of her gorgeous tack!
https://www.facebook.com/pages/El-Sue%C3%B1o-Espa%C3%B1ol/148004241927777
Visit Aanstadt-Das on Facebook to see more of their custom breeches!
https://www.facebook.com/aanstadtdasbreeches

Teaching Sinari how to ask for Spanish Walk...Douwe decided that he would like to do that instead of trot!

Teaching Sinari how to ask for Spanish Walk...Douwe decided that he would like to do that instead of trot!

Sinari had fun riding Douwe's rear while I asked from the ground. Douwe doesn't go up too high so it isn't as intimidating to ride.

Sinari had fun riding Douwe's rear while I asked from the ground. Douwe doesn't go up too high so it isn't as intimidating to ride.

Getting Douwe warmed up and used to his new bridle and breastcollar made by El Sueno Espanol.

Getting Douwe warmed up and used to his new bridle and breastcollar made by El Sueno Espanol.

Checking Sinari's stirrups. Isn't Douwe so cute!

Checking Sinari's stirrups. Isn't Douwe so cute!

Rovandio teaching his actress!!!

Rovandio teaching his actress!!!

First Day Filiming with Horses for FALCYYR

We finally had our first day of filming at Isaac Royal Farm for the independent film Falcyyr. This was the first time that the director, Ahura Z. Diliiza, his wife Sinari, and the other actors have visited with the horses. The first scene that he wanted to work on was having my character, Artemis, introduce the Falcyyr to the herd of horses. The weather was up and down all day and ended up being SOOOO cold and windy when we headed out to the pasture. Our teeth were chattering and our hands were freezing but the show must go on! :) We had a hard time getting the herd to come to us at first, even though they usually gallop over to anyone that calls them. It was one of those crazy weather days and the horses were a bit spooky and hyper. And it didn't help that we suddenly appeared at the top of the hill in funny costumes! But the horses had a lot of fun galloping around us and showing off for the camera. Eventually, they came right up over the hill and approached us perfectly, lining up so that there was one horse per person. The sun came through the clouds and created a magical setting. It couldn't have been planned more perfectly! The horses obviously knew what would look the best on camera! :) We will be filming scenes with Douwe and Rovandio in the coming weeks and hopefully finish filming before it gets too cold!! My costume isn't meant for freezing temperatures!

Make sure to like Falcyyr on Facebook to see more photos & updates:
https://www.facebook.com/falcyyr

Thank you to Aanstadt-Das for donating my gorgeous breeches for this film. Please visit their website to view their amazing selection of custom deerskin breeches.
http://www.aanstadtdasbreeches.com/

My character, Artemis, introduces the Falcyyr to the herd of horses. This is Shen, a Lipizzan/TB gelding taking the role as the herd leader.

My character, Artemis, introduces the Falcyyr to the herd of horses. This is Shen, a Lipizzan/TB gelding taking the role as the herd leader.

My character calling the horses to us. We were in the beautiful fields of Isaac Royal Farm where I keep my horse Douwe. The views are spectacular!

My character calling the horses to us. We were in the beautiful fields of Isaac Royal Farm where I keep my horse Douwe. The views are spectacular!

The weather was touch and go but the sunrays that came through the clouds were gorgeous!

The weather was touch and go but the sunrays that came through the clouds were gorgeous!

Filming us at the top of the field overlooking the herd of horses below. The clouds were so beautiful!

Filming us at the top of the field overlooking the herd of horses below. The clouds were so beautiful!

In the beginning the director, Ahura Diliiza, had us run to the top of the hill before we called over the horses.

In the beginning the director, Ahura Diliiza, had us run to the top of the hill before we called over the horses.