The One Where I Canter Aria

I had a great lesson yesterday!! It only took me 2 hours with traffic to get there, which was really great for afternoon commuting traffic. When I arrived I saw R hobbling around, he just had back surgery done and won’t be riding or training for at least a month. P cut me off before I could go park my car, so I rolled down the window. I knew something was up but I wasn’t sure what, because she always waits until after I’ve parked and changed clothes to exchange pleasantries. Once R was out of ear shot she told me I was going to be helping her breed a mare but not until R went inside because she didn’t want him to know about it and get stressed out.

This is the beginning of their morning ritual to destroy each other.

Hans is a big ass stallion, and the mare was big too. I understand the dangers involved in breeding, so I guess I kind of get why R would get worked up about petite P and I (a whopping 5’3”) tackling this job alone. Not that it was a big deal. Hans is a gentleman and the mare was very quiet. The whole thing was drama free. It did kind of feel like we were a couple of kids hiding behind the football bleachers to smoke a joint after school though. Lol

After that was done we saddled up Aria and I lunged her to get her hormones under control because she’s in full blown Season. With a capital ‘S’. She’s got some incredible stretching at the walk and trot. Once I finesse my cue for the stretch and get her to reliably hold it with contact it’s going to get some nice scores in the show ring. I’m really proud of her because I know the stretch can be tough.

Sharing dinner.

P hopped up and put Aria through her paces. We always start the lesson with P riding because Aria doesn’t always start her lesson off willing and sweet and we want to promote positive experiences. She did really well though. It didn’t take long for Aria to ease into work mode. It’s been really fun to watch her improve over the last month. Obviously when R was riding her she was performing at her top level but knowing that he would be having surgery P took over his workload and the baby horses have had to learn how to respond to a new rider. It took a while for Aria and P to click together but the warmups that I see now versus a month ago are night and day.

I’m hoping next week Aria is at a spot where I can start riding her right away during lessons. I think we’re headed in that direction. We worked really well together yesterday. I was able to keep her on the contact better and we worked in a frame a lot more than we have previously. We worked a lot on our geometry and by worked on I mean we made shapes. None of which I would classify as a circle even though I was trying. Trying and doing. Not the same thing.

Apparently mom tastes better. Eyeball chomp.

Towards the end of the lesson we were getting an oval and it was a consistent oval, which I guess is better than no oval. Then when I least expect it, because when I’m riding well I go into a zen mode where you can give me instruction and I simply do it without thinking about it, P cued me to pick up the canter. I’ve never cantered on Aria before. I started to give the cue with no hesitation and then I guess I realized what she asked me to do because I tensed up and my form unraveled.

I don’t know why. I feel like there’s a disconnect in my brain. My logical side knows I’ll be 100% okay because P knows my abilities and Aria is a good baby horse but my emotional side immediately goes into DEFCON 1. It’s really frustrating. P coached me through 3 more attempts but I couldn’t seem to get it together and Aria was unsure about picking up speed because she could feel how tense I was. Then P said we would canter on the lunge line.

The cutest and most deadly of muzzles.

I feel like those moments when you’re given the option to take the easy route are suicide for self-improvement. I didn’t want to canter on the lunge line. I wanted to get my shit together and canter on my horse. That’s why I’m taking lessons. I told P I wanted one more chance. I know it’s counterproductive to ask a baby horse to do something continuously and not have it go well. I kept that in the forefront of my mind as motivation. I needed to nail this cue and I needed it to go well.

It wasn’t pretty but on the final try I did get a canter and I cantered for 3 horrifying laps. Haha. I say horrifying because it turns out Aria is a wiggleworm. She does not keep a steady pace or hold herself in any way. Keeping her on track is 100% the rider’s job. She would dive in and then straighten out and then dive in and then try to track right when we were going left. Sometimes I would get a solid curve through the corner and sometimes it would be a sudden 90 degree turn. My seat was everywhere. My hands where everywhere. My leg cues were not refined enough or quick enough to support her like P or R. Totally terrifying.

V loves standing on the rope or picking it up & pulling on C.

I was smiling, more than likely from embarrassment, after we stopped. Aria’s choice. Probably because her baby brain couldn’t deal with my flailing anymore. I felt really silly and really proud at the same time. My heartrate was way up but at least I accomplished this one tiny, but huge to me, task. Then we changed directions and I asked for the canter again. It was a lot nicer this time around. I knew what to expect. My emotional side didn’t think I was going to totally die and we ended the lesson on that note.

I may never feel comfortable at the canter but I’m always going to push myself to live in that uncomfortable space anyway. I do hope one day I have enough good experiences at the canter that the bad ones are diluted into near non-existence. I couldn’t have hoped for a better ride to ruminate over before I take a week off to recover from LASIK surgery. It will be the last time I push my glasses up my nose so I can see where I’m going and maybe not worrying about visibility will improve my confidence. That or I could develop mutant powers. I’d take either.

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21 thoughts on “The One Where I Canter Aria

  1. Girl, I feel you on the cantering anxiety, so I know what kind of victory that was! SO awesome! Last year was so amazing for me because I was finally to the point where I could trust Copper and canter (in an open field because I don’t have an arena) and even the one time I came off (lolz…) I knew where the issue was, got back on and cantered again. It takes BABY steps. And breathing. And watching someone else canter your horse without dying sometimes. It shouldn’t be a “thing” but canter anxiety totally is and I will have it again this year when I ride because Copper has had the winter off and who knows what I should expect because horses…right? 😉 I am lucky in that when he’s behaving, Copper has the most enjoyable canter I’ve ever experienced, so the reward for my risk is appropriate. haha

    I’m totally jelly over your lasik surgery! One day I’ll have it done, but it’ll be a bit.

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    • Thank you! I wasn’t actively thinking about breathing which may have been a problem. I was just trying to get that upward transition at first AND steer. When I finally did get it I had no seat and needed to address that…it was kind of overwhelming! Lol. Your comment is exactly how I feel in general. Any time I come off an extended period of not riding I get nervous to get back in the saddle. At this point I’ve seen Aria worked so much and I have zero issues with walking and trotting. I’ve just got to tackle this beast that is the canter anxiety. 🙂
      I will definitely let everyone know how lasik goes. I’m really excited because glasses SUCK while riding. I’m a little anxious about the procedure though because it’s my eyes and I keep going to some really dark places when I think of worse case scenarios. Haha…I’m terrible.
      Canter and lasik anxiety!

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      • Omg that’s me!!!
        And Aria doesn’t steer herself like an older, more experienced horse would so she just wiggles along until I make the choice or the fence makes the choice. My multitasking skills are very lacking. A lot of my cues aren’t even second nature yet. I still pick up my rein to move her away from knee eating poles instead of using leg.
        Ugh. One more thing to remember! Lol

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      • Hahaha I think we likely have a lot of similarities. Luckily Copper gets lazy and most of my fences are uphill from where we ride in the pasture so I have to really work to run into one by pushing him with my seat at this point.

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  2. Aw that’s awesome tho, and good for you for making it happen! I know EXACTLY how it feels to be offered the easier option and determine that, NO. We will do this thing! Sounds like it got better as you went too!! And I mean, yea we want to be sensitive to baby horse and training and whatnot, but it isn’t the worst thing in the world for Aria to learn that sometimes mistakes happen and sometimes amateurs will ride like non-professionals. All the best horses can take a joke now and then. Ahh so exciting tho!!

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    • Oh yeah. Aria better learn how to take a joke if she’s going to roll with me.
      The easy way is for chumps! Jk jk. Sometimes the easy way is okay but I try to trust that my trainer knows my skill level better than I do.
      Cantering did get better but we also started with my bad side 🙂

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