“Becky, loosen your reins,” Says my instructor, the impatience beginning to seep through her words. “Little Ginger won’t slow down unless you loosen your reins.”

Those words have become a mantra I often forget to remind myself when I feel the stride getting longer, the steps getting quicker. The horse beneath me tenses, anticipating the characteristic choke-up on the reins. We get to this place often, fighting for control that neither one of us really wants.

“Becky, you have to loosen up-” Her words were cut off as the little palomino pony I sat atop picked up her canter. “Becky-” She tried again, however the pony’s canter quickly became light speed and I no longer heard her instructions.

I sat atop this 12.1 hand pony whose legs worked harder than NASA’s first Space Shuttle launch. She careened around the massive outdoor arena like we were preparing to settle in the gate at a race track. Little Ginger’s rampage must have looked incredibly exciting, because before we knew it we were followed by a much larger, faster, louder horse. Tristan, as his name was, began the chase by galloping powerfully behind Little Ginger. The Great Chase, as we dubbed it later on, culminated by my brother’s horse spooking both Little Ginger and Tristan so effectively the two stopped their rampage.

I was scarred. I think I was six or seven as a participant in the rampage, but no one will ever let me forget my hysteria as I plopped gracelessly off the pony that day. How did no one see we were going light speed? It was terrifying!

To this day, I will not choose a fast horse if I have the option. My instinct says pull! Pull on them reins! Rationally, I know not every horse is going to leap into an explosive, uncontrollable canter. If they do, I am educated enough to properly handle their outburst and correct their behavior. But why choose a mount that will always test that?

A large stride is wonderful. Never will I second guess the horse can make it down a line. A get-up-and-go attitude is really helpful, because I won’t have to push every single step. Adjustability, work ethic, and compatibility are more important to me than a large stride or how fast the horse. But I’ve stopped trying excitedly leap on top of faster horses, thinking I’ll change. Intrinsically, I prefer adjustable and willing horses to fast horses but here’s the good news: that’s OK.

Fast isn’t for everyone. Horses who love to jump aren’t for everyone. Cross country scares some people, slow horses drive some people bonkers. As for me? Riding fast horses won’t ever be for me, but my next perfect four-legged partner is out there willing to go at our own pace.