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Does Bareback Riding Hurt Your Horse?

Saddle or no saddle - what's the verdict?

September 26, 2019

Riding bareback is a fun way to ride in a hurry or when you don’t want to saddle up. Many riders jump on and go! However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. This type of riding can cause potential harm to your horse’s back. Check out these findings from Dr. Hilary Clayton!

Dr. Clayton worked in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. In her 2012 study, seven horses were ridden with and without a saddle. Pressure-sensitive mats were used to determine force and pressure areas.

It was determined that when riding bareback certain areas on the horse’s back showed high levels of pressure. Ultimately, they can cause pain and tissue damage to the muscle fibers because of their intensity. It was especially noticeable when the seat bones came down on the horse’s back. In the saddled horses, the pressure and force was spread over a wider area, thus reducing the impact and harm.

Do you have to stop riding bareback?

Dr. Clayton isn’t saying to completely abandon the idea of bareback riding, just do it with caution. The occasional saddle-less ride isn’t likely to cause pain or damage. You may want to be careful if you’re a heavier rider, plan to ride for an extended time frame, or many days in a row. The biggest take-away would be to monitor your horse for soreness in their back area.

It’s important to note that this was a small study. It didn’t factor in breed, conformation, or the rider’s skill set. Furthermore, bareback pads were not used.

If you do decide to ride bareback, consider this: 3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Riding Bareback.

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