Come tell me something you're thankful for:
Sunday, November 16, 2014
- 1.a three-beat gait of a horse or other quadruped between a trot and a gallop."he kicked his horse into a canter"
- a ride on a horse at the gait of a canter.plural noun: canters"we came back from one of our canters"
verb: canter; 3rd person present: canters; past tense: cantered; past participle: cantered; gerund or present participle: cantering
- 1.(of a horse) move at a canter in a particular direction."they cantered down into the village"
- make (a horse) move at a canter."Katharine cantered Benji in a smaller and smaller circle"
early 18th century (as a verb): short for Canterbury pace or Canterbury gallop, from the supposed easy pace of medieval pilgrims to Canterbury.
What is it about cantering that makes it so appealing to those of us who ride? When I was a little girl taking riding lessons that was all I wanted to do. The days we rode around the lake near the stable and were allowed to canter for long periods of time are some of the best memories I have.
Both my children wanted to canter too. We have photographs of each of them cantering with huge smiles on their faces.
Each week when my daughter rides I get to watch the beginner riders, most of them little girls on big horses, all of them asking "when can I canter?" With their short legs it's sometimes difficult to get the horses to transition from trot to canter but the desire to do so is strong and the girls will try over and over again until they get a few strides, and if they're lucky, a whole circuit of the arena in the magical gait.
For me what's wonderful about cantering is the forward motion, the connection between the horse and rider, and the sense of total freedom that I feel as a result. It's a time when my usually churning mind empties and all there is is joy.
It has been awhile since Keil Bay and I cantered. We took the summer off and have gradually worked our way back into a regular riding routine this fall. I'm careful with him when we've been out of work, and careful with myself. We start out walking, add in trot, add in the suppling dressage exercises including shoulder-in, and when it feels like we're both back in shape, I will ask for the canter.
The past few rides I have been feeling like I have my "legs" back in the saddle.
Yesterday was a chilly day here and the neighbors were out in full force in the woods behind their house, wearing white hats which were popping up at unexpected times. There were a few shrieks and the snapping of branches as they cut brush. Keil Bay was alert but very very good, and we had a lot of really springy trotting and the kind of ride where the 16.2 hand horse felt like he was 18 hands. His lifting his back lifted me as well, and for most of the very forward ride my boots were loose in the stirrups. We reached that point when my seat and legs were plugged in and the stirrups were simply hanging there. When Keil and I reach that point it's a definite sign that we're ready to move on.
Today it was quiet. Not quite as cold but very gray out. Keil was still very alert. The fact that there were no white hats popping around seemed almost scarier than when there were. What if they suddenly appeared? But again, he was very connected and very forward and it occurred to me that riding a forward canter is infinitely easier than riding a clunky one, so in a moment of girlish glee I sat the trot, slipped my outside leg back a couple of inches and off we went. We cantered left and then we cantered right and I had the same wild smile on my face that I did when I was 9. The same joy, the same giddy happiness. There was nothing in my head but undiluted joy.
Riding Keil Bay's huge and elegant canter is like riding around the lake to the power of infinity. As much as I loved it as a girl, I think I love it even more at age 54. WHEEEEEEEE!
And now, just as when I was young, I can't wait for the next ride.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
We're a few days out from the beginning of my favorite month and also the month that inspired the name of our little farm, November Hill.
A decade ago we moved Keil Bay and the Little Man and the Corgis to our new home. It was a dream come true for me. As October passed and we began to learn the whisperings of this piece of land, I waited for the right name to come to me. And then November arrived, and our farm burst into color around us.
The name November Hill popped into my head and stuck there. And so our farm was christened.
Months later I was looking through Keil Bay's papers and discovered that he grew up on a farm in Virginia. That farm's name was November Hill.
We love it as much today as we did the first year. After a hot, buggy summer and a busy and stressful August and September, I'm looking forward to being here, fully present, enjoying and relishing every single day of November Hill's namesake month.
In celebration, I'm offering a couple of freebies from my published books.
From October 30th through November 3rd you will find these two titles free on Amazon:
Don't Miss The Magic - a book of essays on the writing (and creative) process
Search For Fox Hunting Red (Little Shoppe of Colors, 1) - a delightful picture book about two little donkeys who own and operate a shop that sells paints
You can go here for easy "purchase" and download of the ebooks. You are welcome to gift to as many friends as you like during this free period!
Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Thursday, October 02, 2014
In one of my recent rides with Keil Bay I noted that he was counter-bending to the outside of the arena as we went down the long sides. For a few moments I thought, well, he's just looking at stuff. Then I thought, oh, no, it's not that, it's that he's just moving crooked.
A few more moments and I got to the place where I always try to get to, which is this: what am *I* doing with MY body?
Suddenly it was clear. I thought I was straight but I was crooked. I was bringing my outside shoulder forward and inward slightly. It was subtle. Not a visible thing but when I focused in I realized I was holding it that way and the tension was definitely there.
So instead of being looky or crooked, Keil Bay was actually compensating for MY crookedness.
I breathed in deep and softly let it out, allowing my entire outside shoulder to relax as I did so. He instantly straightened and suddenly we were moving along much more fluidly, with a nice big swing.
This is just the most recent example of this notion that seems to pop into our heads as riders - we need to FIX THE HORSE. When really all we need to do is FIX OURSELVES and the horse follows suit.
We've been having very lovely rides. We're still doing mostly walk with a little bit of trot, and I'm aiming to just be, without any kind of training agenda or real goals other than to make my body as straight as I can and watch and notice and feel how Keil Bay responds to that.
He's 25 years old and he has always known more than me about dressage and about harmony and schwung and gorgeous movement. I've made it a point to listen to him and celebrate what he teaches me, but I've also thrown in some exercises and done my share of trying to get him to do things in ways I thought were "right."
Finally, I am giving up that pursuit of moving up the levels or even thinking in terms of levels. I am just looking at my own body and trying to make it as relaxed and as straight and as quiet as possible. When I do that Keil Bay matches me and then he takes me further than I could ever take him even if I rode every day for the rest of my life. In truth, he's been there all the time, if I just get out of his way.
I've been wondering why we humans tend to think we need to fix things outside of ourselves instead of simply focusing on ourselves. I'm not sure. I suspect it's because we've become so caught up in thinking and doing and fixing that we've lost touch with our own body parts. It's nothing short of amazing to focus in and find a tightness you didn't even know was there. And when you breathe it out and let that tension go, wow. The whole world (and the horse you're riding) makes a huge and wonderful shift.
In otther news, we have a third cat sick with cytauxzoonosis. River, our rescue kit-meow who has had chronic health issues all of her young life, is now on the treatment protocol but here at home instead at the vet school. She''s fighting and hanging in there but I would so appreciate any healing thoughts and prayers you might send her way.
I wrote my September column at Talk2TheAnimals about healing circles and the power they have. Go read it here and tell me YOUR story about healing circles!! http://talk2theanimals.net/at-the-vets-office-healing-circles/