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Learning to Canter

A lot of little girls I have known have had a common dream. The dream of meeting a horse, touching it and being able to connect with it in ways nobody else can. To feel that you can hear the horse speak and that he can understand you. I’ve had that dream, felt the magic and been bitten hard by the horse bug. 

Even when I can no longer touch them, I still dream of them. And the weight of the memories are sometimes too much. It is a reason why so many of my paintings are of horses. I try painting other things but most of the time am drawn back to try and feel them while I paint, trace the dips and curves of a friends face with my hands and ink.

'First Touch'

Watercolor on Arches 300lbs

10" x 8"

CAD $120/-

I've had many horsey friends but a few are difficult to talk about or even paint. They are the ones that changed my life.

Gascon was someone who I felt understood me. The first to reach out, put his head on my shoulder and connect. A kind riding horse through and through with a well hidden rebellious streak running through him too. He was incredibly light to ride and had an indescribable smell. Horse, leather and something magical. I miss that smell..

I was still learning to ride when we had him. I couldn't sit my canters very well. My father (Thathie) supervised my riding ALL THE TIME! Partly because he was the only horse we had back then (other than a couple of ponies) my turn riding him was a maximum of five rounds around the enclosed track which was a paltry sum.

I wanted more. I wanted to feel the surge of speed and the power of Gascon under me. I could barely sit the trot but wanted to canter!

I must have been around 15 when my parents went abroad for a month. I had a chat with Anton, the groom who was looking after horses and asked if he could teach me to canter. 

Anton had been  a jockey at the Nuwara Eliya race course with aspirations of getting back, and I think just caring for the horses was boring him.

He agreed. I don't think it even occurred to him that it may not be allowed. I was riding almost everyday anyways. 

So every morning 5am the alarm would go off. While my brother and sister slept I slipped my boot into the stirrups and formed the reins into a ring like the jockeys do. I learnt to balance on my heels and keep my hands steady. I felt the cold morning air surge through my lungs with every stride of my horse. I felt pure joy. I have never felt so alive! 

Then my parents came home... 

Early morning, coffee in hand Thathie went to the stables. I shadowed close behind flashing warning eyes at my sister and Anton. The latter didn't seem to notice as he saddled Gascon. Rippling with toned muscle and energy he looked beautiful this morning. I inhaled the fresh morning air and watched ruefully as my father mounted and took him for a ride.

Panting and sweating bullets after a few rounds he brought the horse back to Anton and asked what he had been doing with him. Gascon was frothing at the bit and foaming to get on with it. A beautiful smile bloomed on Antons face and, the snitch who swore who wouldn't tell a thing, proudly said, “But Pramee baba doesn't have  a problem, she rides him everyday!'

I was ratted out in a heartbeat in hopes of convincing my father that Gascon would make a fabulous racing horse!

My mum had plenty to say to me when she found out. I had never seen her so mad when she banned me from riding (a little redundant at that stage I thought).

Thathie smiled and that was enough. It led to a lifetime of riding his horse while my parents were not around with the aim of riding them better than him. (Not that he would ever admit it ;-) )

Ahhh the joy :-D

How did you learn the canter?

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