A few weeks ago, I cantered my young horse for the very first time. It felt like such an accomplishment, such a milestone. Why is that?
I believe it is because once you rock with your horse and feel its rhythm and power beneath you, you are becoming one with him and the flow of life. After all, if you have been apprehensive and fearful while learning to ride, and if you are still stiff as a board in the saddle, the canter just doesn’t work. The canter requires you to relax your body and swing with the rhythm of the horse. You need to be able to let go of the fear and learn to trust, just as you do with most things in life.
But something else made my first canter on my gelding feel so extraordinary: the discovery that his canter was so smooth. Only one other person, a trainer, had ridden this horse before me. Some experienced horse people can probably tell from just looking at the horse while he is running whether or not his gaits will be smooth. But in general you may have a hard time knowing until you actually ride him. Realizing that your horse’s canter is smooth tells you that you will have years of fun rides in your future. The only way I could find out though was by trying it out. Nobody else could really do it for me, or the experience would have only been second-hand. And there is another level of anxiety that comes with the first canter. Is he going to buck while changing gaits as he does sometimes when first turned out and running in the field?
I am happy to report that my gelding did not buck and that his canter was as smooth as a rocking country song. Once he figured out that my commands didn’t mean running faster and faster in the trot but to fall into the canter, he just moved along. I loved the sound of the te-thumb, te-thumb, te-thumb the hoofs made on the ground, the speed and the ease of his movement. Even more so, I could feel my fears and anxieties melt away; I could be at ease and go with the flow. And that is why horses are wonderful teachers of life. We often don't want to face change because we are afraid that we will stumble and fall. We have no idea if it is going to be a smooth ride, but the only way we can find out is by letting go of the fear. Sure, there can be accidents and the ride is not always smooth, but we will never experience life to the fullest if we cannot let go of all the things that tend to hold us back.