In Dressage Today, Charles de Knuffy wrote a beautiful article entitled "The Amplification of the Gaits". Really is helping to answer a lot of my problems. Some of my favorite excerpts:
"I couldn't make [my instrutor's] horse trot or canter! I couldn't understand why my riding skills failed me. 'Shouting' my aids to this horse provoked him to act 'deaf' and sullen. I was thinking, My teacher must have the strength of Hercules. But, he just stood there seemingly calm and disinterested and didn't say a word - no instruction, nothing, and it was devastating.
Finally, my teacher said, 'The only way this horse will respond to you is if your aids are feather-light. If you walk and think 'now canter,' he will canter. Your aids have to be whispered, and my horse will answer.
As my aids became coordinated and light, the horse responded as his rider had predicted. He carried me off in a candenced, suspended trot in metronomic perfection....
I use the analogy of a concert pianist's fingers on the keys. They cajole a melody with light and nimble use of the finger with virtuosic variety, touching the keyboard in many places with infinite facility for differentiations. Riding with skill involves a similarly sophisticated development of riding aids to charm horses into those magical displays of their educated gaits. Riding is, indeed, a musical art..."
And it was musical, indeed, when Greta began to get on the bit and amplify her gaits, which was more of a consequence of my seat-and-hand-eureka-moment. I could feel a much more different trot beneath me, something much more acceptable to my bony seat, and my hands felt more in control. The other day I experimented once again with collection and extension. Now, that Greta and I were on better terms with my seat and hands, I could feel a beautiful collected trot gathering and then when I let her go and pushed her into a more extended trot, it felt so smooth. Pardon the cliche, but it felt like I was gliding! So I did that same exercise - collection in the corners and extensions along the fence - for the rest of the way around the arena. She responded every time and to reward her I let her slow down and free-walk for two laps. I was impressed with my smart girl!
On to non-riding topics, we finally have had rain here in central Texas! It felt like we were in God's frying pan for the past two weeks, with highs nearing 110-degrees! Today it rained and the temperature went down to a surprisingly comfortable 95-degrees, though the humidty was fabulous out at the barn. Amazingly, the only horse to stay clean was Greta. It was very ironic, as she is usually the first to roll in the dirt after a bath. I found her munching on some good, green coastal with her new boyfriend, Sneaky. She greeted me with a look and a nudge, and continued eating while I stroked and chattered on. I love having somebody I can ramble on to!