- In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. Theodore Roosevelt
Ride a Horse Without Saddle, Bridle
Bareback riding is incredibly different from riding with a saddle. It requires the rider to have a greater sense of balance than with a saddle, better muscle strength in the thighs, and more trust in the horse than using a saddle.
You're paid back in spades for the extra effort in being able to actually feel the horse's movements, better horsemanship, more security on the back of the horse, a deeper relationship and understanding with your horse, and better responsiveness from the horse.
The first thing you have to do is just get on the horse bareback. Most people are going to need a leg up, or will need to climb a fence or use a mounting block to get on, because all they've known is a stirrup. Once you're there, just sit still for a little while. Move up as close as you can to the horse's withers. Find your center of balance on the horse -- it's going to be down in your pelvis. Move around until you feel perfectly balanced on the horse.
Relax your legs completely. You aren't holding onto the horse with your legs or your hands -- you're staying on with your balance. Finding your balance bareback is how you find your seat on a horse; once you find that and get used to having it, you'll have excellent seat on any saddle, on any horse.
Relax your hands on the reins. Let go of that clump of mane you're clutching with a death grip. Once you find your seat, then you can start off at a walk. Just a walk. Your seat is going to change, and you'll want to grab the horse with your entire leg. Relax your lower legs, and just gently tense your thighs to help you maintain your balance. Remember to keep your hands relaxed and let go of that mane! Walk and walk and walk and walk.
Once your body has learned how to ride bareback at a walk without tensing up, and you're automatically finding your seat as soon as the horse starts to move, you can proceed to a trot. Here's a surprise -- a trot is easier to sit bareback than in any saddle on the face of the planet! It's just a little more difficult than a walk, but because you can feel the horse moving beneath you, you can anticipate the movements and adjust your seat accordingly.
If you take your time and accept the fact that you're essentially learning to ride all over again, you'll learn the joy of riding bareback. You'll also reap the benefits of being a much better rider than you've ever been, and more responsive to the horse than ever before.