I started riding pretty young so I don’t really remember cantering a horse for the first time.
But I do remember a lesson from one of my peers from when I was a teenager.
He made me lope on a hot little cutting horse that really just wanted to go fast. He kept hollering at me to get my hips underneath me. We loped and loped and loped. I was frustrated because I thought I knew how to ride. I couldn’t figure out what he wanted me to do. I could not find my rhythm. After a few more intense sessions with that same horse it clicked and I started moving with my horse instead of against him. Oh my gosh, I had no idea how cool it was to really be connected with your horse at the canter or a gallop. Not just holding on for dear life and bouncing around.
Well, many…many years later we have the opportunity to teach people horsemanship.
You would be amazed how many people ride for years and don’t canter their horse. Either because of fear or lack of a trained enough horse.
So, there is nothing more exciting for us than seeing someone canter for the first time.
Our client, Donna Eidsness rescued a 6 month old PMU filly about six years ago.
PMU stands for Pregnant Mares Urine. The hormones that are present in PMU mare’s urine is used for a hormone replacement therapy drug for women. There is an overabundance of unwanted foals at these facilities all across the USA and Canada.
Donna has found a renewed passion for horses after her kids have grown. She jumped in head first and fell in love with her big paint named Gracie. She did not have much guidance and was determined to learn how to ride on a green horse.
Donna hadn’t rode much since her youth, but decided she was going to get help for her and Gracie, no matter what it took.
Donna came out to us about a year ago and was a hot mess. But she has dedicated herself and has worked very hard taking lessons once a week almost all year long.
I was able to work with Gracie for about a month and make sure she had some foundation under her.
Gracie has a very kind soul but is very green and strong. We have worked non stop at just building Donna’s confidence at the walk and trot. Teaching her techniques to feel safe if something happens.
Recently she had been talking more about wanting to canter Gracie. I was a little hesitant cause this big paint had only a handful of rides at the canter.
But Donna kept pushing me so just a few weeks ago I said, “Alright cowgirl if your ready, lets do this.”
I got on Gracie first and loped her around just to make sure there were no bobbles. Gracie felt good. So Donna climbed on, and I do mean “climbed,” up onto Gracie’s back as she has to do every time because of Gracie’s height.
I could tell Donna was more nervous than usual, obviously knowing she was going into uncharted territory. So I reminded Donna of her safety options-
Flex the mare from side to side.
Move the hind end and do a few one rein stops.
Keeping her mind busy, so she doesn’t get stuck on the task at hand.
“Ok Donna, start into a trot and get in time with her”. I stood in the middle of the round pen to help drive Gracie, so Donna could worry more about just being a passenger.
“Alright Donna, make sure you’re breathing”.
She was posting nice and was in time.
“Ok Donna, nice and easy, add some pressure, squeeze your legs.”
A little kiss and off they went. Gracie cantered like she had done it a thousand times before.
Donna was a little bit behind and was tight but secure in the saddle.
“That’s it Donna, keep breathing. Move your hips, keep looking up.”
As Gracie moved out and Donna realized she was cantering safely, her face went from somewhat scared to as bright as someone seeing their first rainbow.
For that moment all the weight of the world had been lifted off her shoulders.
I told her to slow down but no go.
She was so swept away with her first real canter experience.
I think in her mind she was somewhere in the hills of Ireland galloping as a gallant warrior princess to save the king.
I have seen a lot of things in my life and not many things are as rewarding as watching someone canter for the first time.
Over the last few weeks, Donna has kept working on cantering, and like me those many years ago, she has worked hard enough to start finding her seat and is ready to start moving out in the arena.
We are so proud of her.
And so proud of the special big Paint PMU horse named Gracie that gave a woman the gift of Cantering a horse for the first time.