Riding again last night, and very good fun it was too. Recently, our instructor seems to have begun to take a much more active interest in us, and we are spending more and more time cantering, to the point where walking and trotting are only being used to rest the horses between times. Whereas we trot as a group, we canter singly or in pairs, so the instructor’s advice, observation and criticism are that much better for being concentrated on fewer riders – and those who are waiting for their turn get a chance to see techniques (good and bad) demonstrated.
The new pace seemed dangerously fast at first, but we are coming on so quickly, to the point where a canters seems hardly more daunting than a trot. When we first started to canter, we were a little nervous of it and didn’t feel at all secure in the saddle, bouncing and rolling with the sort poise and grace you might expect from a sack of potatoes. Now, although we won’t be winning dressage competitions any time soon, we are all pretty stable, making proper use of knees and stirrups. With better confidence and balance, we can use our crops and our knees to spur the horse on, and can hold the reins more “quietly” – we have stopped tugging on them for support (which would at best confuse the horse and at worst, hurt it).
The other difference is that we are all getting much better at controlling the animals for ourselves (when our lessons began, the horses had always to be told what to do by the instructor, who calls them by name and can control them by voice alone). Now, we can turn, start and stop, more or less at will, which is just as well, since our earlier frustration at the apparent obstinacy of the poor beasts tended to be relieved verbally and with some passion, and the animals were learning a most unsuitable vocabulary (unless they are thinking of becoming sailors or rappers, in which case they probably owe us for some very useful lessons!).
Why am I learning to ride? Apart from enjoying the lessons, I have vague intentions that Miss C and I will one day actually apply our riding skills in cowboy or gaucho country. Monument Valley, say, or the pampas, on horseback – now that would be something!