How to Teach a Horse to Ride Tackless

Whether you're bored of plain old saddles and bridles and want to try something new, or want to improve your riding and connection with your horse, it's time to try tackless riding! The easiest way to ride tackless uses a halter with a lead rope tied to each side; alternatively, you can go even farther and learn to ride with just a lead rope around your horse's neck.


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    Refresh your horse on stopping, so he'll stop right after you ask him to. Start either bareback or with a saddle. This may take a few sessions to master.
    • Lean back, putting your legs forward and saying "woah". Squeeze/tighten the reins if needed. Praise your horse as soon as he stops. (The easiest way to do this is to release all physical pressure and then verbally praise your horse will scratching along his neck and withers.) Repeat this throughout your ride until your horse stops before you pull on the reins.
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    Teach your horse to neck rein. The idea is to teach the horse that when you set the rope against the left side of his neck, he turns his head away from the pressure (to the right), and vice-versa. Lean inwards into each turn (while turning left, balance more of the left of your body). Teaching your horse to respond to leg pressures can also be beneficial.
    • Practice first with a bridle (and saddle, if you want). While pushing the right rein on the horse's neck, pull on the left rein, so your horse's head turns to the left. Keep doing this until your horse responds to the pressure on his neck without any help from the bit. Practice until your horse has got it on both sides equally.
    • You can also ride a horse tackless by direct reining, but neck reining is easier if you have the time to teach it.
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    Ride without the saddle. Keep things slow for a couple rides so you and your horse can get a feel for it. Walk the horse and practice stops and circling in both directions. Ask your horse for an easy trot if you feel up to it.
    • If your horse's back is rather slick, feel free to use a bareback pad during the first few rides. This'll offer you a bit more grip.
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    Ride without the bridle, and instead with a halter and lead rope. If you want, you can keep the saddle on for the first few times so it's easier to stay on. You'll want a lengthy rope for this; one that's both tie-able and doesn't have any metal latches. The halter and rope should be situated correctly before mounting:
    • Tie the lead rope to the halter. With the rope over the horse's neck, take one end and put it under (going towards the front) the side buckle, and then through it. Tie a half knot with the end, but before tightening it put the end through the knot once more. To tighten this properly, pull on both the tail and the long length so it's nice and snug. Do the same thing with the other side, making sure you have about the right length of reins.
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    Ride the horse with just a lead rope! While sitting on the horse's back, put a rope around your horse's neck. Remove the halter (if you can't manage it yourself, then get someone to do it for you). Hold the rope like a pair of reins or in one hand. The further up the neck the rope is, the more control you have (though many horses like to stretch their heads right down while riding tackless).


  • If you or your horse is really unhappy with tackless, don't keep trying until you're both frustrated. Leave it for another day, or don't do it at all. There's plenty of fun to be had riding with or without tack.
  • Try riding tackless first in an enclosed space, especially if your horse is flighty.
  • Make sure you're comfortable with a saddle and bareback before you try tackless. That way you'll have some idea of what you're doing!
  • If it's all going well, don't push your luck. Tackless is amazing fun, but just remember if your horse does tank off, you can't force him/her to stop - you've only got a leadrope!
  • Before you try trotting or cantering, make sure your horse turns and stops happily in walk. If they don't, keep practicing with the bridle until they've got it. Don't worry if your horse isn't totally perfect first try, work up slowly and don't run before you can walk.


  • Horses can be unpredictable. Always be careful and wear a hard hat.

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Categories: Horse Training | Horses