It Is Time To Canter – My Weekly Riding Lesson
I honestly did not think this would happen tonight, but it did, I cantered! I know that may not be a big deal to some, but for me that is a major accomplishment. And there is a reason for that.
You see, way back in July, I think it was July, I fell off of Ethan. No, Ethan bucked me off. For whatever reason he spooked, or he was just feeling frisky, or maybe it was a combination of factors but whatever the reason, I came off.
And even though I got back on, and walked around a bit my confidence was shattered.
And I kept replaying in my head what went wrong, and also what could have happened went through my head. Remember when I told you I have a very active imagination? Well, that vivid imagination went into over drive of thinking about what could have happened. Thankfully I had set up my video camera, and the camera caught the entire event. When I watched it (over and over) it didn’t look that bad. This actually helped me. I made a video about it too…
And the point of this long worded intro is to set the stage of where my fear has come from and why it has taken me so long to get to the point of where I am now in my riding lessons. In fact, I think it was this event that helped get me to the point where I wanted to get professional help with my riding.
Riding Isn’t Always About Going Faster
The most valuable thing I have learned in my lessons so far is renewed confidence. With the help of an incredible trainer my confidence is improving each and every week. I think my riding is too. And my trainer is gifted enough to know it isn’t all about going faster and faster. Sometimes in order to improve confidence, you have to go slow. And then one day, you will go faster but only when you are ready.
I was able to ride Murphy for my lesson tonight. Murphy is a Quarter horse that has a heart as big as he is. At one time, he was going to have a career in the show arena, but because of a fused vertebrae in his neck, he wasn’t able to do this. So Murphy is a permanent resident at the barn I ride at. Every few weeks I get the opportunity to ride him.
And I also brought my own saddle for my lesson tonight, which probably helped increase my confidence. I have my favorite Millbrook stirrup leathers on it, and it is a synthetic saddle that I can stick too pretty well. If you have the opportunity to bring your own saddle to your lesson, I would encourage you to do it.
It helps to have a saddle that you are used to riding in. I really like this saddle, it is the Bicton all purpose saddle by Collegiate and well worth the $300.00 I paid for it.
Baby Steps To Cantering
We started as we always do with two point around the arena and posting trot. I did ride my horse Frisby twice this week at home, and worked on posting trot, so I was much better with being on the correct diagonal almost my entire lesson.
We did a lot of work over trot poles and my trainer even set up a course of 6 ‘jumps’ for me to go over. We worked on this until I got pretty good at it, and she was happy with my position, and how I was turning and preparing for the jumps. But once I was going through my little mini course, my posting diagonals went out the window, definitely something I need to work on.
We were getting to the end of the lesson, and I felt good about it. I think this was the best I had done up to this point in any of my lessons. My balance is a lot better, and my hands are much more solid. I feel pretty ok with how I am riding at this point. And then my trainer laid out the big bombshell. She said, “I think it’s time.” And I looked at her with a puzzled look, and said “Time for what?” She smiled, and said “I think it’s time to try a canter.”
She explained what she wanted me to do, and how to ask for the canter. I wasn’t sure about what gait to start to ask, and she explained he will walk, and then you ask for the canter. Not from a trot, but from the walk. I had never done that before. She told me to give a firm squeeze with my outside leg, and he will canter.
I was thinking, ok, I can do this. So we got to the short end of the arena and my job was to canter down the long side. I did what she said to do and Murphy being the pro that he is obeyed immediately and leaped into a canter. Ok, it probably wasn’t a leap, but it felt like it the first time. We only did one long side, and then she asked if I felt comfortable enough to do it again, and I said yes! I wanted too, I mean, I had already done it once and nothing bad happened, so we did it again.
Cantering like this was awesome. Having my trainer there to guide me, and tell me to sit up tall, allow the reins to move, release with my elbow, sit up tall (again) and breathe was very helpful. I know because of her, and Murphy, this was a success for me. The downward transition was not so good, but I will work on that in time.
At this point we both felt this was a good stopping point for our lesson, and that was it. After 3 months of lessons, I finally cantered. And the best part…I wasn’t afraid. It has been over 6 months since I cantered on a horse and I feel my confidence level growing leaps and bounds over what it ever has been before.
Focus On The Good
Even if every lesson isn’t perfect, there is always something I have done well, and I remember that. I come home and write it down, mostly in these blog posts. But these little successes add up to improved skill and confidence that help me to become a better rider. And with each new lesson and learning something new, I have yet more positives to write down. I feel that with each lesson I am also learning something new. And when I have a question, I ask. Again, something positive to write down.
If you are taking lessons, or even if you are just video taping your own rides, I encourage you to take 10 or 15 minutes when you are done and write down what went well, and what you want to work on. Then set a plan for yourself to improve. And if you have a question, remember to ask or at least do a little research to get your answer. Make a goal for yourself and work toward it. Just remember to make it a realistic goal. I have to remind myself to be realistic with my goals, I like to dream big. The more we practice, the better we will become and then the big goals we have set will be achievable. Then one day maybe we can reach those pie in the sky goals one ride at a time.