How high would you dare to jump without a saddle or bridle?

  • With the cups set at 1.20m, UAE-based rider Holly Coetzee looks perfectly at ease soaring over this triple bar — even without a saddle or bridle.

    The freelance instructor, who rides all her horses bitless and barefoot, recently finished second in the 1.20-1.30m division of the Emirates Longines national showjumping league, but is equally at home out of the saddle — often ditching her tack all together.

    “I regularly hack out in the desert with just a neck rope,” says Holly. “While not all horses will be able to do this, I do think with enough time and patience most horses could be taught to be ridden tackless or bridleless because if you are riding correctly, from your seat and using your body not your hands, your horse should listen for those cues without needing to be told with reins.”

    Holly is based with the two horses she owns — Connor (pictured), an 11-year-old 17hh German warmblood, and Prince, a 16.1hh former racehorse — at Al Ruwayyah Stables in Dubai, where she regularly gives talks, workshops and demonstrations. She also competes in eventing, unaffiliated dressage and hunter trials.

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    She grew up in the UK before moving to the UAE and has trained with Corinne Bracken, Nick Burton and later worked as a coach at the Emirates Equestrian Centre. This summer, she has returned to the UK to do some teaching and run clinics.

    “Before setting my clients off over fences, I ensure that they are riding their horses straight, into a steady contact from their leg and are able to use their body, seat and legs effectively to control their horses,” Holly explains. “Many of my riders are now competing successfully in showjumping, eventing and dressage — for national dressage a snaffle bit is used — and we are now well known on the competition circuit for our extremely competitive bitless and barefoot team!”

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