Addicted to cantering


After a long break from riding (two months or so due to the school holidays) I was really excited to get back to the centre and “my ponies” in mid-February.  As you can imagine I’d missed riding and hanging around horses like crazy – and I’m not convinced the long break and lack of horsey-time didn’t exacerbate the seriously yueerk pain and unpleasantness I trudged through in November / December / January. 

My main “goals” for this year’s riding are just to continue improving my riding, my seat and position, core strength and general skill set, and also to master cantering.  I’d had a few canters in 2008 but didn’t feel I’d “got” the pace, the rhythm or what the heck my own body was doing.  During those half dozen or so canters I’d been mostly in a wheeeee state of mind; I wanted to get serious and (a) do a lot more cantering and (b) know what I was doing and develop a good seat and control in that pace, work on transitions etc.

I knew it would take a few sessions to get back into form especially given the yueerk over the break, but dammit, get back into form I would!  You can bet I was pretty keen to get back up there on my favourite pony and get going.   

So far so good, right?

. . . . . . . . . .

Well, not quite . . . My first five weeks or so of lessons (again, riding twice a week) were miserable, almost a total disaster and somewhat depressing (which not surprisingly fed the monster existential despair thing I was / am going through).  Things weren’t gelling for me at al, and I wasn’t having a good time or enjoying myself very much, which is the whole bloody point.

There were a few reasons for this, and try as I would I couldn’t blame it on myself; and believe me I’m good at blaming every-little-thing-that-goes-wrong on myself instead of shrugging and going oh tough that’s beyond my control so I won’t take it personally.  (Maybe the “blaming-every-little-thing-that-goes-wrong-on-myself” thing is actually a weird kind of egocentrism for which I should hate myself even more, or a result of a strict Catholic upbringing with attendant guilt and blame complexes, or just having low self esteem issues and not being able to bounce back too well, I don’t know.  But I do it and I know it’s stupid and argh argh argh.)

Issue number one;  my favourite pony had come back from pony holiday camp an utter schizophrenic pathological spooked-out mess.  I don’t know why; personally I suspect something happened to him, as in something yucky and sick and human, because a horse doesn’t go backwards and change character like that for no reason.  The coaches and volunteers have no ideas and at first brushed off his behaviour, but as it’s continued and in fact got worse to the point he’s not rideable they are starting to look into the psychology as well as start doing remedial training and Parelli stuff with him (which he resists and after several weeks now is still not doing the chewing and licking thing as he should).

So I couldn’t ride my best beloved (horse).  Now the tricky thing about this particular centre, from where I stand, is that there are very few horses who are any good for independent challenging riding;  most of the horses are old or dull or totally bombproof and bored, or all of the above, which is great for walking on the lead which is what the majority of riders do, but not for the kind of riding I want to do.  And let’s face it the kind of riding I want to do does NOT require a 17 hh Hanoverian Grand Prix champion, but simply a nice well trained responsive eager but relaxed horse and there just aren’t that many around.  You’d be surprised but looking though the main WA horses-for-sale website there’s this huge gap in the market, everything under 15 hh is either a posh show pony for a measly $20,000 or baby Arabians, none of which are suitable in either budgetary terms or rideability.

Thus for a few lessons I found myself aboard a very sweet and friendly TB cross, but oh glory be was he ever dull and slooow, and I spent the entire lesson/s and all my energy push-push-pushing and even tap-tap-tapping with a crop just to get him going forward a little bit but it just was not going to happen. So.  Bloody.  Frustrating.  I was not having a good time, I was not doing any actual riding or using let alone expanding my skill set, and I was also absolutely physically exhausted getting nowhere.  Not to mention the aforementioned depression and despair over it all.

Argh argh effing argh.

. . . . . . . . . .


. . . and let us all Praise The Lord And Pass The Mustard there is a HOWEVER, my favourite coach* put me up on a relatively new horse who happens to be a 16.1 hh golden chestnut Quarter Horse gelding who also happens to be an ex-campdrafter.  So  like wow is he responsive and well trained and eager AND he has great brakes.

Oh wow did I have fun.  A squeeze from the legs had him going forward;  a twitch of the inside rein and a squeeze from the inside leg had him turning a perfect 10 metre circle, and by the end of that first lesson I was trotting the perfect 20 metre circle just using my legs and seat.  Beautiful;  riding a responsive horse like that was an amazing experience; that and the comments of the coach proved to me that I am an okay rider, given the right kind of horse, and that my skill set is better than I thought.  I asked and got him half-passing, and side-stepping straight across the arena, and shoulder-inning, and even backing up –  wowza.

While I elected not to canter that lesson, as he was new to me and I was having so much fun anyway just “playing” with what we could do, the next lesson was another story.  Oh wow oh wow oh wow . . . Yes I cantered.  And cantered and cantered.  With a nudge from my outside leg behind the girth and a slight lift of the outside rein we were off.  We did laps of the arena, we did 20 metre circles, we slow-cantered and extended-cantered (just the long-side of the arena – omg!  the speed and power), we even did a figure eight with a flying change but that was all him.  And when I asked him to go into canter from the walk, he went.  Wheeeee!

(Again good comments from the coach – and volunteers and onlookers afterward; apparently I looked really good and neat up there, and I have a lovely natural seat and beautiful low steady “floating” hands ***blush***)

I think I can safely say that I “got” the canter; how to ask for it and get it, how to sit to it without going bumpbumpbump, instead this beautiful rocking waltz motion** with my seat glued to the saddle.  Oh boy do I ever love cantering.  Positively addicted to it.  It just feels so good, my neck and shoulders felt really loose and relaxed afterward.

I’ve had a couple more lessons since on this beautiful golden horse and my riding skills and seat are improving and getting more refined each time I ride him.  I’m not doubting my riding abilities any more, and okay I’m not really good yet or anything, and my physical condition/s and lack of my own horse (DAMN) will hold me back but yep, I’m better and even stronger this year than last.  Last week I even mounted and dismounted without having to use the ramp – a first and pretty major achievement if you ask me and so okay mounting wasn’t exactly graceful but I haven’t done it from the ground (er . . . ) for like 25 years.  I’m having so much glorious fun I could SING.

. . . . . . . . . .

*  there are now three main coaches and I adore all of them, but one of them has a tendency to baby me something chronic, as if even a bit of trotting will cause me to shatter into little pieces, etc;  even though I have said outright to her that I’ll be the first person to speak up if I don’t feel up to doing something;  and yes I know it comes from concern and I appreciate that and the support I get from the RDA is amazing but I’m nearly 40 you know?  The other coaches expect and push a bit more, which I like

**  please don’t all go ewwwwww but there is a certain similarity between the motion and “feel” of the canter and the sensation of flight, and making sweet, hot love with one’s gorgeous husband.  Okay okay all non-horsey readers are going ewwwwww but horsey readers know what I mean, right?  Um, right?

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  • jewel  On Saturday 28 March 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Wa hoo!!! So flippen happy for you my dear and have missed you like crazy in blog land!!mmm sounds like you like that canter so did you need a ciggy after the ride!!!

  •  On Thursday 11 September 2014 at 1:05 pm

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