Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One Year, in paraphrased words....

May 19 was Greta and I's one year anniversary (we're practically married haha). And good Lord, we have come so far! I didn't really know how to blog about it, but after some events last night I can safely say we have come at least 180-degrees on the full circle of things....

Greta came to me a bit on the skinny side, no muscle mass from being out of work for several months, and as high-strung and anxious as a gazelle with a lion in the grass. I knew dressage basics, but being that all my riding life I have ridden placid lessons geldings and only worked with a few high-strung mares on the ground. I knew how to get a horse to go, but not really how to slow down beyond pulling at the reins like a newbie. I knew basic dressage, but not necessarily how to apply it. I had had no need to learn half-halts, or have a consistent outside rein, or to keep my weight in my heels, because no matter what I did, the horse I was on already knew what he was doing! And I won big awards because of Slugger, not really because of me....

I did, however, had experience handling a hot mare on the ground. Of course, Greta was really no where near as hot as Claudia, but you would think that because I had experience with being calm on the ground that it would apply to the saddle, right?


I got cocky. Greta is good at dressage, so I figured that I didn't have to do much work just like before. I figured so, so wrong. I practically forgot everything Claudia had taught me about patience and calm, because I thought, "Well, Greta isn't Claudia, so I don't need to remember what I learned." And who suffered? We both did. I got frustrated and upset, and poor Greta got it, too.

So as you can imagine, this story doesn't look like it'll have a happy ending after all. My family and I all thought that up until several months ago. Greta and I would progress, but I still had the "I can win anything" mentality from the Slugger days. I just got grotesquely cocky. And surely, nothing good will come out of this.

Wrong again.

After the failure of our first show, what had been nagging at me ever since I got my beloved girl hit me like a bullet in the back. Greta could get anxious, and I wasn't helping her any. As wonderful as Greta is at dressage, that doesn't mean she's a push-button horse. I had to work harder. I had to be fairer. I had to love Greta enough to let her have her days and look at the bright side of everything. I had to change. And change I did.

This year with Greta has changed me for the better.

When I got Greta, we hadn't really developed that bond yet, but it was still apparent from early on that despite our friction under saddle, we were quite compatible personality wise. It was apparent when I first met her for our test ride. Everyone that was there, even her owner at the time, remarked about how good we were together. I still can't find words for "it", our "bond" as I might stereotypically put it, because if I do then it ends up sounding like I'm contradicting myself. But it was just so apparent in things like her to stop grazing and look at me, acknowledge me in a way. Soon, that turned to her occasionally coming up to the fence to greet me. Even after some frustrating rides, she'd still put her head into me and try to use me as a scratching post, or just let me pet her. Lately, she'll doze on my shoulder. And as heavy as her head is, I cannot describe how wonderful that feeling is.

A few months ago, I caught her sneaking in a nap in her stall. She was lying down, head up, just dozing on-and-off. Usually when she sees me, she'll get up. But I still wanted her to sleep. I got down and did some sort of duck-crouch-walk and opened the stall door, and slowly continued that odd, strenuous walk into her stall. She acknowledged me, and she let me sit down before her and just pet her. Soon, she laid all the way down and put her head in my lap. All I can say is that it was magical, and I was on the verge of tears.

Now, I'll be talking to a friend while Greta is in the wash stall, and soon I'll find she has positioned her head on my shoulder, lower lip drooping in her usual way, and her eyes at half-mast.

She'll pin her ears at the other mares once I'm in the pasture, the same mares she was "best buddies with" before I came in. I am HER girl. And she is mine.

The events of the Wolfgang clinic confirmed the my "change" had been working extremely well. Parents, instructor, and Wolfgang himself were impressed. Recently, due to the final exams of my junior year (REJOICE), I have been unable to make a few lessons, though I am still at the barn frequently. I asked one of the girls in my lessons if I had missed anything spectacular.

"Well, V. let's us switch horses at the end to get a feel for something different that our own horses may not have."

"She hasn't done that with Greta in the lesson. I think I know why."

"V. says that only YOU can ride that horse. Even when she gets on, Greta can give her a run for her money."

Wow, what world are we in, "The Black Stallion" or something? Only I can ride her? But you must understand, this makes me feel very good.

I can canter her about in the pastures without having to worry about her taking off. She'll easily walk into trailers. My riding has improved greatly. And last night, the most recent achievement of all:

I rode Greta in the outdoor arena SUCCESSFULLY. No spooking, no excess anxiety: she was overall quite focused. Still a bit iffy, but about near as good as she does in the covered arena.

Greta will always be anxious in new places, but I'm learning to cope with it. She has changed me, both riding and as a person. She is fit with a nice topline going, and I groom her like she'll be going to a big show the next day. Every day. Just for fun. She certainly enjoys it, and it certainly impresses the vet and farrier and other boarders whenever they see her. But one of the things I learned from Greta is to not necessarily always care about what other people think. What matters is what's going on between me and her, as cheezy as that sounds.

This year has been great.

And it will only get better <3

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