12 miles an hour

Canter has always fascinated me.

Of course, when I watched Olympia and Horse of the Year on television as a kid I didn’t know that’s what it was called. All I knew is that it was a very strange movement and I was transfixed. The pattern of leg movement makes the horse look like it’s just rocking around. I always thought it looked a bit stilted and awkward to be honest and used to wonder how they managed to stay upright with their legs going all over the place like that. I’d also noticed that there were moments when they were only on one leg. “Why don’t they fall over?” my little mind would question.

 I will never forget the time I was watching a show-jumping competition with my cousin. “That’s a funny looking gallop” said my cousin as we stared at the beautiful bay making its way around the course. “Umm that’s coz it’s cantering” I said back, astounding both my cousin and myself that I actually knew that.

By the time I was thrown into canter myself, I had ridden a few different horses and was getting more stable in my seat. The elderly horse I was plonked on at the beginning became my firm favourite as he turned out to be a superstar who wouldn’t put a foot wrong. He knew it all, still does in fact, and was the ideal teacher.

I had a lot of private lessons at the beginning of the year. I gained quite a lot, I suppose, by being so crap. The staff couldn’t very well put me in a lesson with the advanced riders who were my weekend duty companions. I’d have just got in the way and caused a commotion. So I had private lessons after everyone else had ridden. Which I thoroughly enjoyed to be honest.

It was during one of these that the yard manager decided it was about time I cantered. So dear old Maguire (that’s the horse) was trotting around happy as you like and suddenly; “So, Megan, how do you feel about a canter?” asks the yard manager. My face must have been a picture.

You see, I was excited at the prospect and desperate to do it. I wanted to achieve that milestone so much. But at the same time, I’d never done it before and the thought of going faster threw doubts into my head. So I agreed to do it. Yeah, I’m a rebel. That told me…oh wait! I already knew the aids, through my religious private studying as well as the work we were doing in class. I’d also been reading masses of books about equitation (riding) for a couple of assignments we were doing at the time, so I had a fair idea of what to expect.

 My concern about getting it wrong was unfounded, however, as I was told Maguire knew the aids too so the minute I even thought about applying them, he’d strike off. Which he did. I don’t think I actually did anything the first time. He just knew. What I do know I did, is grin like an idiot and laugh the whole time. I loved it and I think I made that pretty clear to the yard manager who was chuckling away at me.

I cantered a few times in that lesson, and came away from it feeling thoroughly windswept. After all, we must have been going all of 12 miles an hour.

Crazy shit!

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