I've had a very difficult time getting soft vertical flexion with Journey. We use the Little S-Hack. Backing up is equally awkward. Our last session under saddle I spent most of the time on turns, whoa, and backing. She is starting to pick up a better whoa using seat and a lift of the rein. She is resentful of the back up and will sometimes toss her head rather than just give to the pressure of the nose-band and take the step back. What is interesting is that from the ground with a rope halter I can just touch the rope and get the full step back, so she is sensitive to pressure, but something about the S-Hack is not communicating as well as the rope halter. I've done very little riding with a bit in the past, always preferring the freedom of a side pull or S-Hack for eating, drinking, and getting on and off. Journey was ridden with a bit in the past, and I'm trying to recall our test-ride when we used one and she was doing a lot of fussing and "teeth gnashing" with it to the point of distraction. I'd describe her reining as "rough plow horse" at present. She requires a really exaggerated direct rein to get her going where you want her. She does understand leg in front of the girth and will move away from that pressure, but is oblivious to leg pressure to step sideways (such as a side-pass) rather than just a turn. I'm trying to break down her faults and work at those a little piece at a time even if it means going back to the ground.
Other interesting observations:
Journey cannot walk over 6 inch elevated ground poles without a lot of hoof clanging. Yet she can trot over them cleanly, and can canter over them cleanly. These are six elevated landscaping timbers set about 3 1/2 feet apart.
She is resentful of my role as Alpha Mare. Journey is an Alpha Mare. More so than Phebes ever thought of being. I have to re-establish my leadership each time we work. She is easy enough to convince, but her ears tell me she is still thinking rebellion at times.
This all sounds like a bunch of complaining, but really it isn't. Taking Journey's training back to the ground has opened my eyes to these many faults that would certainly create issues out on the trail, resulting in not only a cranky headstrong horse, but likely soreness as we struggle for balance. I've much to accomplish this fall and winter to develop a tractable, balanced, and moving forward and backward horse. It would have been a shame to just try and fight it out on the LD trail again.
Even though we haven't been getting miles under saddle the work we are doing seems to be good for her. I'm noticing her hollow top line is beginning to fill in (yay!), and she is getting definition in muscle that she did not have before. She is much more attentive of me on the whole, and has quit trying to rub on me when I take the bridle off (that one is a major coup) which drove me to distraction (and majorly ticked me off). When I am on her radar now her ears are working back and forth and her focus is on me more than it is off me. Prior to the ground work she was focused on where the other horses were and getting back to them. Progress is being made, it is just incremental, slow, and steady. ~ E.G.