The Bliss of Cantering

It has been years since I cantered a horse. Then a few months ago, one of my Sisters in Crime pulled me aside to tell me she’d just learned to canter. Her face lit up as she spoke, relating how much fun it was.

I remember loping through the pasture on old Jenny who was like riding an over-stuffed sofa. And one of my favorite movie scenes is from DANCES WITH WOLVES when Kevin Costner’s character attempts suicide early on by cantering his horse between the two warring sides. He dropped the reins, closed his eyes, and opened his arms to fate.

Ah, freedom. I can feel that sense of sweet surrender every time I watch that movie.

I’ve been back in the saddle on a fairly regular basis all summer since my friend and neighbor, Sara, issued an open invitation to ride with her whenever I want. So why haven’t I cantered yet?

Fear, basically. I’ve never been one with a personal need for speed. I enjoy watching horse racing, auto racing, just about all kinds of racing. But I’m always rushing around here and there, so when it comes time for leisure, I prefer to slow down.

I’ve always preferred a more sedate pace. Back in my 4H days, I chose Western Pleasure to Barrel Racing and Pole Bending. I still choose a quiet trail ride over cross-country racing.

And yet, putting a horse into a canter (or lope as we Western riders call it) can be the most blissful, freeing sensation a person can experience.

Or not. An unfamiliar horse can react in a number of ways to being asked for a little more speed. Then can take off in an uncontrolled runaway. They can spook out from under you with very little just cause. They can even feel really good and kick up their heels in a little bucking show.

Not caring much for the idea of hitting the ground, I’ve never asked Admiral to canter. I’ve discovered that he knows more than he lets on, but I wasn’t sure about how he would react since he’s been known to spook at invisible horse-eating dragons and/or buck a little from time to time.

Then we went riding yesterday. The weather was perfect. Admiral was behaving like a perfect gentleman. So I decided on a whim to go for it.

He wasn’t quite sure what I was asking for at first, but after a few trotting strides, he shifted into the sweetest hobby-horse canter I’ve experienced in a very long, long time. No spooking, no bucking, no bolting. Just a nice easy lope.

Freedom. Bliss.

And a little bit of exhilaration.

I can’t wait to see my canter-loving Sister in Crime again so we can compare notes.


Joyce said…
Sounds like fun! I've often thought about learning to ride a horse, but never did anything about it. Maybe I should try it one of these days!

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