Hi and thanks for reading this! For reference, I've been riding for two or three years now, taking lessons once every other week (twice a month or so) with a great instructor. Last year, I started volunteering at a therapeutic barn and I was asked three months ago to start exercising some of their horses.
My instructor had me canter probably three times total before the ground got sloppy and frozen. I felt pretty secure on her horses (out of the two that I ride one is a total babysitter and the other is lazy and would like to slow down whether something happened or not ) but I don't think I got a really good feel for the canter because she only let me ask for the canter until I felt the transition and then pull my horse back.
When I starting riding at the other barn, I rode with an adult with plenty of riding experience. She said I could canter the horse I was riding (who was also a babysitter) and I tried it and it was awesome! Sure it was messy and I was probably holding my balance with the reins, but I liked it.
They ended up selling that horse that week and I began riding several other different horses, including an ex-racehorse. I don't know if the more experienced lady I was riding with didn't have a good feel for my riding ability, since it was only the second week I rode there, or what, but she told me I could canter him.
The problem was that he needed more support than I could give him. He doesn't always pick up the correct lead and balance himself due to his time racing. As a beginner, I can't even canter myself, so how was I supposed to help him pick up a balanced canter on the correct lead? I tried several times and got him to successfully canter once. I then decided on one last go and it was a messy disaster. My heels popped up, I practically dropped my reins, lost my seat and almost fell off. After about a half lap around the arena, I managed to turn him sharply and finally grabbed back enough of my reins to stop him.
Maybe it was a blow to my confidence or mental fear started kicking in, but I started sort of subconsciously thinking, "Oh gosh, what if I can't stop a horse I'm riding? What if a horse takes off with me? What if I lose control? What if I fall?"
To make matters worse, I rode a horse that I totally trust and thought no way could I ever lose control/fall off of (he's a 25+ year old horse who was a lesson horse before coming to this barn) and I thought he would be safe to canter. I thought maybe I could hold my seat better with a light/half seat canter (my instructor had been teaching it to me) so I tried that. Old Smokey reverted back to his hunter days and decided that light seat translated into 'jump anything in sight' so he veered off course and tried to take me over a low rail.
After that, I kind of lost all my nerve. I went riding there yesterday and remember thinking as I brought one of the horses in, "I guess I don't HAVE to canter today." When I got on, I said, "Well, my stirrups are kind of long and Jean probably won't want to stand long enough for me to adjust them." I was making up excuses to myself!
So what should I do? Should I just get over it and keep trying to canter until I feel comfortable? Should I find someone to lunge me so I don't have to worry about steering? Should I go back to trotting and try to become more secure at that? I feel some pressure to learn so I can give the horses a more thorough exercise, and I do want to learn how because everyone says it's so much more fun than trotting (and I am a pretty good trotter after two/three years of it ) Any ways I can not psych myself out before I even get on?
What do you guys think? Thanks again!