Here at Blue Skies of Mapleview LLC, one of the differences from other barns is that all students; both women and children begin by learning to ride the horses without tack.
We have adopted this method, which is actually much older than teaching with tack, as it helps the new rider quickly achieve a balanced natural seat. Sitting directly on the back of these beautiful animals and learning some stretches to relax the rider and the horse become part of the daily riding routine. Fears melt away, respect grows and the connection between the horse and rider is deepened.
Rather than clutching onto the saddle as though one's life depends upon it, the rider learns to follow the natural movement of the horse without impeding it and to jump off onto their own feet at the side of the horse and to remount easily. Without the saddle to block the connection between horse and rider, the new rider can quickly ride with "feel" and can usually even distinguish diagonals at this early stage.
The new rider uses a mounting block to hop lightly onto the horse's back. Holding a horse's mane to help with balance issues does not cause them pain but rather even releases endorphins for the horse.
To begin, the horses is lead at the walk while the rider does some exercises designed to improve their posture and deepen their seat. Soon, the rider can even close their eyes and truly experience the trust they place in this horse. With the rider's consent, and with a smooth horse, a trot can even be achieved. The rider always knows that if balance is lost, they have the tools to quickly jump off to the horse's side.
When the rider is able to sit tall and lightly with a balanced seat and both legs draped over the horse's side easily without clutching or squeezing the horse, then the rider "earns" their saddle.