I have actually been frequenting Greta, well, frequently I just really have not had anything extraordinary to discuss on the blog, but I can give an accumulation of our riding so far.
Greta has been doing absolutely lovely under saddle (she's always lovely on the ground) but let me get straight to the thick of it, our one main problem at the moment that I have not found a solution to yet. I don't know how long it's been since Greta was ridden in frame with a knowledgeable dressage rider, but she is quite rusty. She gets the concept, but I really have to rely a lot more on rein aids than seat aids (I'm still grasping the concept of good seat aids anyway) so thus she seems more like I have to hold her on the bit and far from the spectrum of self-carriage. It's hard to get a good glance at us in the mirror, but from the little I've seen she doesn't look as round as she could be. I don't know if it's just because of her bony butt (small world, Greta:) or we are just not getting round yet. Probably a mixture of both!
I will hopefully be getting some pictures/video/whatever tomorrow, finally! I just have not had the guts to drag a member of mi familia to the stable so they could see me trot around for an hour. I admit it myself, it gets kind of old after a while!
Further progress has been made on Greta's Epic Quest of Focus. Major Focus. Details will follow.
So, due to incessant and unusual rain and icky cold weather and muck that has been persisting for nearly a month now and making central Texas look something of a southern version of Seattle, the horses have been in for quite some time! Greta takes it all very well, until I let her trot on the lunge line. Walking? She continues the facade of "I'm the irresistibly passive and calm horse that everyone wants". But I ask her to trot, and she'll do a Standardbred trot for a few seconds then, without even the courtesy of a canter transition that I ask for, proceeds to buck and kick and do some fantastic leaps into the air, followed by a final rear when I bring her in. It's definitely unnerving when you're at the other end. I'm not really scared to be honest, I am really more frustrated. What is this sudden change from a little pent-up buck among a nice cantering to a bronco impersonation?
She's not doing because she's in pain, nor because she wants to hurt me. Greta is just very excited! She will easily come to me once she's stopped and stand there like nothing happened. No sign of excessive excitement.
The first time she did it it was raining outside, so it was expected. We did about five rounds of that behavior (I'd make her walk, and then we'd try it again) before she either A) got the sillyness out of her system, or B) began to listen to me. Dunno. That was Wednesday.
She did it again Thursday (no lessons).
And Friday, she did it during the day with three other riders in the arena. Embarrassing, yes, but she was in my control the entire time. She has yet to deliberately try and pull out of my grasp. It's weird, but good and I'm knocking on wood! She threw her fit once, then the second time one of the riders, friend of my instructor's, asked if she could show me some advice if I wanted. Of course I wanted!
She gave me her share of lunging tips, then I asked if she would like to demonstrate them. She showed me them on her horse, then I tried on Greta. Whoa! It wasn't lunging, exactly, it was "yielding the hindquarters" I believe. It's a fundamental for lunging, and I've seen it done on Chris Reid and Clinton Anderson and multiple other shows on RFDTV, but I only though that was for young, unbroke horses. Here's a good example of what we're doing essentially (music warning).
We graduated to a larger circle at the trot, though smaller than a large lunging circle, for short periods of time so as not to stress her legs, still yeilding the hindquarters and keeping her attention on me! Then I'd motion strongly to her haunches and stop giving the cue to move forward, and she'd halt and face me. She'll lick her lips, which is apparently a sign of understanding.
Another major dealing we will work on, and this will hopefully reflect under saddle, is to keep her attention on me on the ground when I'm handling her or in her direct presence. Not in a scary dominating sort of way, but just saying her name if looks off at the horsey prancing around the pasture when I'm holding her. She does pay attention to me, I just have to give the cue. Essentially: if I let her get way with it on the ground, why shouldn't she get away with it under saddle? This will hopefully help in the long run!
This is my interpretation: because horses are social creatures, and Greta is a mare-ish mare indeed, they need a leader. If no leader is provided, like me letting her get away with getting distracted under saddle and on the ground and with being silly on the lunge line, then Greta will crown herself leader. There's gotta be a leader somewhere, right?
As horrible and dreadful as though issues sound, they could be FAR worse, and when Greta's not acting like a loon on the lunge line, which is relatively short amount of time in total of all the time I spend with her. Most of the time, the girl is amazingly sweet. I think our bond has grown so much since I got her in May last year. She seems to actually enjoy my company now, even if she does pull some of that stuff like I mentioned earlier. I probably overdramatized, but maybe I didn't. It's just my perception I guess.
Even the rider who helped us commented on how much she's seen us progress since our first lesson at the stable. I will admit myself, we are finally having those rides where I think, "God, I wish there were some judges watching us now!"
And of course I always have those moments following a snuggle where I couldn't think of things any other way.
Now, go over and congratulate Andrea on being the poster child of the USEA awards programs. It's only awesome.