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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Slipping and Sliding

I am a big supporter of riding bareback to improve balance and teach a rider to move with the horse. It is also easier for a small adult or child to manage because they don’t have to lug a heavy saddle. However, it is not really good to ride without any padding for your horse’s back. Hence, the development of various bareback pads. Some of them look very comfortable and squishy. Some have stirrups, some don’t. Some have breastcollars while others don’t. Which one is best?

The most common type seen are simple pads with a surcingle attached. They may or may not have an attachment for a breastcollar. It is always wise to use one to prevent the pad from slipping or rolling with you.

Notice in the picture above, that the breastcollar is very snug around the horse’s shoulders. This part is important, if it is not snug the pad will be more prone to slippage. Also look for one that has a non-slip underside for added security.

The next most common type is similar in appearance to the one above, but has attached stirrups. This type can be extremely dangerous. Because of the lack of a rigid tree, there is nothing to prevent the pad from slipping to one side if too much weight is placed in one stirrup.

Even with a snug breastcollar, the stirrups on this type offer no real stability and can, in fact, create a false sense of security. They offer no real advantages that I have seen, it isn’t like they allow you to mount from the ground any easier. If you have one of these types, my suggestion would be to just remove the stirrups for safety’s sake, also consider adding a breastcollar if there is not one already.

The last type is, in my opinion, the best of both worlds. You have the stability of a saddle, but the freedom and ease of tacking up of a bareback pad. I use one of these and love it. I have ridden out several violent spooks, bolts, rears and other young horse drama in it without any trouble. I have also ridden at a full gallop and jumped with it. It is my favorite trail riding “saddle” as well. I love to ride bareback and this allows me to do so and still be able to climb up onto even the tallest horse without having to find a convenient step-up.

This is a Natural Ride by Colorado Saddlery ( I am not trying to advertise for them in particular, I just don't know of any other company making something like this). It consists of basically, the front part of a saddle tree with attached girth and stirrups. It allows you to use the stirrups just as if you were using a saddle. You still get the benefit of a saddle, without the extra weight. It allows you to feel the horse as well. You can detach the stirrups if you wish to improve your balance and not worry that the pad will slip off the side. There is also a convenient handle if you need it. I just LOVE these things. If you like to ride bareback, try one. You can get them at

Hope this helped some folks know what to look for in a bareback pad. Be safe out there!


  1. Nice, I guess if you want to spend your money. If I don't want to get dirty, I just stick a Rambo pad under my lunging surcingle and get on with it...

  2. My personal favorite are the bareback pads with wool felt backs and suede tops. Lots of staying power all the way around on those. I've owned two in 20+ years — they wear like iron.

    A note about the Natural Ride... a great concept but for a wide/very wide horse, you can run into soreness issues. A fellow boarder had one and it actually made her horse sore because the "arch" wasn't wide enough and dug in. Something to keep in mind for those with chubby horses and ponies.

    Love the blog.

  3. Thanks for sharing. The look of the last one is very interesting! I ride without, but my students love the purple fleece one i have.

  4. I love that bright blue on the first pad & breast collar, but I am a blue freak. That last one looks real interesting. Is it truly stable on the horse?

  5. The Natural Ride is extremely stable. I have an older one, and used it on my chunky little arabs all the time. I never go anywhere without stashing it behind my truck seat. Never know when you might meet up with a horse that needs riding....and I haven't met one yet it didn't fit. I am also using it to teach my granddaughter to ride.

    I also have a Little Joe bareback pad/bareback saddle:

    Mine has the longer billets and I use it with a dressage girth. The suede seat is really non-slip. Yes, I have mounted from the ground with it. AND, it comes in a wide variety of colors.

  6. Actually, it is more stable than most saddles I have ridden! I can climb on and off and it does not turn or slip. I rode out quite a rodeo on it a couple of weekends ago and went bashing through the woods, up and down through creeks and it was fine, even when the girth was loose (SOMEONE held their breath).

  7. I am a vet tech and have never heard that it isnt good for a horse to be ridden bareback with no padding... In face in alot of horses we suggest the riders ride bareback.. Horses have more than adequate muscling over their back to support a rider with no injury..Yeah, If your 500 lbs and wanna ride bareback by all means pad that poor horses back but anyone under 250lbs can ride bareback. Over if you have a well trained horse that will round the back and support the rider..

  8. I am also a vet tech and can tell you from experience, that riding without any padding, allowing your tailbone to come into more direct contact with the horse's spinal processes, can cause problems. Horses will develop a "callus" on the bone, resulting in a bump. Wether or not this is painful to the horse seems to vary from case to case.

  9. I have one of those ones with the stirrups. I bought it off of eBay. Promptly removed the stirrups. Still don’t like the pad. It’s not really made as well as it looks in the pictures. The “girth” that is ace with was a piece of crap. And while it wasn’t cheap, it was cheaper than one of those Parelli ones, which actually look nice and balanced. But, the Parelli one might have been used more if I had bought it, too. I am NOT a Parelli fan, but that pad was the one thing that I considered buying. Just too expensive.

    ANY bad rider will sore a horse, bareback, with pad or in a saddle. If you are a balanced and correct rider, your weight is distributed such that you won’t sore your horse with your seat bones.

  10. I'd worry that the Natural Ride would put a large amount of pressure on a relatively small area when mounting, or if the rider's weight came directly down in one stirrup or the other.

    I really don't like bareback pads. I had one slip on the horse that I was riding, and decided that it was safer for both of us to ride without one. I don't ride bareback for more than like 20 or 30 minutes and only maybe once or twice a month though. You're mileage may vary.

  11. I actually prefer bareback. I have saddles, I just don't want to use them! Maybe I'm wierd.

  12. i thought the whole concept about bareback was no stirrups? having a horse with withers a mile high i understand the cushon part, but if you want stirrups, wear a saddle.

  13. I actually have the first one. I got it after it was recommended to me by a friend who has it in, yes, leopard print. Mine is in purple flames. Don't kill me for that- purple was my lease horse's color (he's a palomino) and it looked great on him. Plus that pad was discontinued due to money issues with that company, and that color was the only one the site had left. Plus the pad is REALLY comfortable. But I only did purple accessories (halter, lead, saddle pads), not purple tack. All the tack I used was a sensible havana brown. I did use a purple camo saddle pad on him, but he looked really cute in it. However, a whole blanket of it would have looked really stupid!

  14. Beautiful horse riding accessories, i also have two Ranch Work Saddle which i bought second hand.