Walk, trot, canter. The three basic gaits. Seems simple enough. Just walk, trot, canter, no big deal.
I had gotten to the point where I was very comfortable cantering on the lesson horses and I loved it. My body moving in sync with the horse, the rush of speed, giving the horse her head and letting the reins steer only. When I started riding Miss exclusively I had to take a giant step backwards and really learn how to trot again. Apparently I was right in my assertion that riding the lesson horses was not teaching me how to ride Miss, as it took some time for us to trust each other and learn each other's cues and idiosyncracies. Lately, despite living in a fog of depression I've been feeling like it was time to take a step forward in the arena, so last weekend I asked my trainer if we could put Miss back on the lunge line at the end of my lesson (when she was tired) so I could canter a few steps. As I suspected, she was a little hesitant, as she had not cantered on Miss for several weeks, but I insisted that she was in a good space and I felt confident enough to at least try. Miss was confused, to say the least: why are we putting the lunge line back on? This is weird. Are you SURE you want me to canter? But after a little prompting she took one giant step and we moved into it. She picked up the correct lead, which she does 98% of the time, but more than that, I could tell she was on the right lead. We only went maybe 4 or 5 strides, but she covered more than one circle with that, she has a huge stride and loves to go fast. She slowed to a walk instantly at my whispered command and we praised her lavishly. Then we did it again the other direction and I was more prepared for the transition this time and felt pretty comfortable. Even though all told it was less than 30 seconds, it was a breakthrough. Both me and my trainer were very proud of both of us. I really needed this. Hopefully we'll do it again today at the end of my lesson. After a year and a half of riding her, we reach the mythical triad.
My trainer didn't really let on when I took her what a difficult horse she is to ride, for anyone, never mind a total beginner. That's probably a good thing, my ignorance allowed me to have more confidence than I would have otherwise. I see other people riding their horses and think, wow, that looks a lot easier than riding Miss, but also, a lot less fun. At the canter she is elegant and high-headed and beautiful. I'm just along for the ride.