"A man's got to know his limitations."
— Clint Eastwood as "Dirty Harry" Callahan in "Magnum Force" (1973)
A woman, too.
I don't canter yet. Oh, I've taken a few strides here and there. Quaker was the first. We were playing, doing a fast trot in the pasture at Iron Ridge with Nita and Keeley. Quaker picked up speed for a few wonderful seconds until I barely hinted that he bring it back down, which he did immediately. I've also taken a few steps on Poco, and probably on Jaz, too.
Why I haven't kicked it up into 3rd gear is no secret: fear. I'm not talking about a deep, dark fear. Not at all. I am certain that I will do it at some point, but I haven't felt comfortable enough yet. The few times I thought I felt comfortable enough and actually asked Jaz or Heather's mare Ash for the canter, model lesson horses that they are, both refused. I trust them both.
For the longest time, whenever I trotted, I felt completely out of control. And I was. I could stay on, and we didn't crash into stuff mostly because the horses know you're supposed to turn when you get to the corner of the arena, and to avoid other riders. But if it came down to actually steering, navigating among obstacles, I felt like I was at the mercy of the horse. Now, if we're talking about Jaz, that's not a terrible thing, again, because he's a caretaker; he wouldn't take anyone into harm's way. However, when you pick up speed on a horse like, say, Poco, you can't count on him to look out for you or anyone else. In the right frame of mind, he'd plow into another horse or even into a fence in a New York minute.
I've been able to afford a couple lessons in the last few months. When Heather asked what I wanted to accomplish, I said I wanted to work on communicating with my horse with my legs and seat while learning to keep my hands quiet. In order for Jaz to pick up speed when I ask, I must feel completely comfortable and confident, or he won't do it. In order for that to happen, I need to be able to communicate with him without having to think about it — including what direction I want us to go — so I can concentrate on other important things, like maintaining proper balance and learning the new gait.
We're not there yet, but we're getting closer.