Emily was doing something very different to what we normally see… tackless riding… We could not resist contacting Emily as we just had to ask her all about it! In Emily’s own words, she tells us all about her journey to tackless riding.

ABOUT EMILY

I started riding when I was about 4 years old and was lucky enough to have my own horse when I was 13 years old. I spent many years riding and helping out at my local riding school every weekend, like all us horse crazy girls do. I soon became the one that got put on the naughty, quirky horses, and if I’m honest it was this that lit the spark for my love of a challenge!

My mum had horses all through her younger years, and encouraged me to take up riding, so I have her to thank for my passion, among many other things; she gave up a great deal and scarified a lot for me to continue my journey with these wonderful animals so for that; thanks mum!

I have been lucky enough to have some really amazing horses in my life and some not so great, but each and every one taught me something. From my very first horse Fred (a 16.2hh TB) who quickly taught me how hard the ground was, but if you fell down 10 times, to get up 11, to the late Storm (a 17.2hh TB x Cleveland Bay) who taught me how to put one foot in front of the other when I didn’t see a way to carry on. They say you have one horse in your life that defines you, that was him!
I could carry on talking about my past horses all day but let’s bring you up to now and my amazing little loan horse, Minnie!

Minnie is a 20yr old 15hh ISH, who was originally for my younger sister, but soon proved too sensitive for her and was going to go back to her owners. I was in the process of selling on my ex-racer who I had recently re–schooled, with the idea of having a break from horses, as I had slightly fallen out of love with it all. It was a wet windy day; I had just had the last ride on my TB before he left for his new home which confirmed exactly why I needed the time away from horses. My sister wasn’t very well so I begrudgingly said I would hack Minnie for her. I threw on a head collar and went out bareback in the rain; little did I know this was the beginning of a very special partnership.

I spent most of the hack crying my eyes out because I had forgotten what it felt like to have fun and enjoy riding, it was then that I knew this little horse wasn’t going anywhere, I truly believe Minnie and I were meant to be together!

Since then, we have done a bit of everything; but if it involves going fast, jumping and having fun, Minnie and I are very happy.

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WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TRY TACKLESS RIDING?
Tackless riding is something that I played around with when I was younger on my pony Cookie, but looking back that was really only successful because she was a diamond! There is really no other reason!
In Minnie’s case it was slightly different, she may look like the ‘steady type’ but she is the most sensitive horse I have ever sat on, you really have to ride with your mind, this is one of the reasons I think we get on so well because she can absolutely read mine!

She has always been very strong and one day a very special lady said to me “it takes two to pull” How true! That sentence resonated with me for a while until I thought well if there is no bit, neither of us can pull! I’ve always liked a challenge and thought well why not, so while hacking I just took her bridle off…

Since then we hack, school, jump and jump XC at home tackless, its nowhere near perfect but we both love the freedom it gives us.

I work in the Health and Safety sector so risk assessing and hazard perception is something I have to think of everyday, so of course this crossed my mind when it came to tackless riding. I think there is a large difference between taking a risk and being reckless, Minnie is very sensitive to my seat and leg which helped massively as this is how I give most my aids normally meaning the reins were redundant most of the time.. The farm which Minnie lives on is enclosed and I am lucky enough to not have to leave when I hack, this was a huge factor because I knew if I were to fall, Minnie would be able to make her way back to the barn without putting herself or others in danger; although I’m pretty sure she’d just take the opportunity for a quick snack on the hay fields! Tackless is not something I would ever consider when on the roads!

It was a very simple transition from tack to tackless , as like I said previously the basics were already there, I can ride Minnie with my seat and leg alone. I just took the time to back up those aids with a gentle ‘whoa’ on the neck strap; she’s a clever mare and soon picked it up with a lot of positive reinforcement.

I have never had a horse that I feel understands me the way Minnie does; we are just on the same level. Because she is so sensitive and really feeds off her rider, she is truly the type that not everyone can get on with. This was proved when out of curiosity I allowed someone else to ride her tackless, needless to say it didn’t end that well! It’s as simple as she gets me and I get her.

Minnie is naturally an uptight horse that holds a lot of tension, since riding tackless I have noticed such a huge improvement in this. It’s like the mental pressure of wearing tack just melts away, she’s calmer and more relaxed, I think she just sees it as our down time. It has also improved massively her ability to stretch down, her tack etc. all fits correctly but it seems knowing there is nothing in front of her she’s just so much happier to work lower, which has improved her topline.

We are both still learning and have a long way to go before it’s perfect, but we are loving the tackles journey. Recently I was lucky enough to be able to ride tackless at a wonderful XC schooling venue, this put what we had been practicing at home to the test. We kept it simple, but Minnie blew me away, it really was an absolute dream come true.

It’s definitely something I would love to be able to do while competing, but would need a lot more practice before this where to happen. A lot of places will not allow it, which I do understand, but I hope in the future things will change.

Until then, Minnie and I will continue to pursue our dreams and enjoy each day that we have together, she is my very best friend and I trust her with my life, I am so grateful to her owners for allowing me to have her.
Life is short, so why not do things that others wont; why not take the chances, life isn't measured by how many breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away...

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All Photo Credits to Crick Photography

DISCLAIMER: WARNING TACKLESS RIDING IS DANGEROUS. DO NOT TRY THIS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. NHT MAGAZINE DOES NOT ENDORSE THIS ACTIVITY. AT ALL TIMES WHEN RIDING ALWAYS USE FULL TACK EQUIPMENT INCLUDING A WELL FITTED SADDLE AND BRIDLE ALONG WITH APPROPRIATE RIDER CLOTHING AND A PROFESSIONAL FITTED HELMET AND BODY PROTECTORDISCLAIMER: WARNING TACKLESS RIDING IS DANGEROUS. DO NOT TRY THIS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. NHT MAGAZINE DOES NOT ENDORSE THIS ACTIVITY. AT ALL TIMES WHEN RIDING ALWAYS USE FULL TACK EQUIPMENT INCLUDING A WELL FITTED SADDLE AND BRIDLE ALONG WITH APPROPRIATE RIDER CLOTHING AND A PROFESSIONAL FITTED HELMET AND BODY PROTECTOR