The Canter

Think, for a moment, how the various gaits feel.

The walk: relaxed harmony, beat by individual beat.

The trot: forward marching, working in unison.

The canter: hints of flight coupled with the security of a rolling beat.

And the gallop: soaring, strength beneath you.

It's almost assumed, as an experienced equestrian and as a horse owner, that all four gaits, all four experiences, should be available to you on demand. If you can ride it, ride it you will.

But, somewhere along the way, the canter started to scare me. Not every canter. Just my own horse's. The launch from walk or trot into a canter stride, where only a millisecond's notice is given that things are going to be okay or that things are about to go wrong. In the situation where things go wrong, instinct takes over. My back gets taller, my butt gets deeper, my legs wrap further around his sides and my hands raise to bring the bucking mess back up and under control. The primary goal is to stay on; the secondary goal is to push forward and get the damn canter.

When things go well, though, we both immediately relax. His back comes up through the stride and it feels as though we are rocking. It isn't necessarily pretty and he certainly isn't strong, but we are both exhilarated and proud and madly in love with each other and our partnership.

Tonight, I fell in love again with Archie's canter.

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