Then I tacked her up and got ready. I checked in with Shar and R, and they were planning to leave soon, so I also texted my mom and sister with my route (a previous ride on Endomondo) and to check on me if I hadn't checked with them in a couple hours. Then I hopped on Arya and we were off.
She went down the driveway no problem. Then she got squirrely a we got toward the end of Shar's property. It wasn't quite as bad as the last time I rode her solo, but she was letting me know she'd rather go back home than ride away from home without Flash. But I got her back on track without TOO much trouble, and we continued down the road. We trotted a bit, walked a bit. Made it past the house with dogs and donkeys without any trouble. Then we came to the stop sign where on the last solo ride, we'd turned left and just circled the block. (But just last night, we turned right and made a much bigger loop.) She did NOT want to turn right. She figured she'd prefer to go HOME, but if she had to go a different direction than home, she'd rather go left.
I circled her and circled her. Let her rest when pointed the way I wanted to go but circled all the way around when she tried to head home. She got brattier and brattier, and was succeeding in making each circle bring her closer to home, so finally I gave up and got off. I led her in the direction I'd been wanting to go, and she didn't even take up slack on the lead line. Ugh. Crazy girl.
So I walked her a ways. I thought about using a ditch (her in the ditch, me up higher) to get back on her, but the best ditches would have meant getting on from the "wrong" side (yes, you should use both sides equally, but I'm not graceful even on the good side, and MUCH worse on the wrong side) or having her pointed toward home, so I kept going. I ended up walking about half a mile, both so we were sufficiently far from home and so I could get back on. I was concerned she wouldn't stand well for mounting, especially if she tried to head home, but luckily she did great. I got her pointed down the trail.
Up till this point, we'd been on dirt roads, but the road ended and the trail began right where I got on. She wasn't too sure about getting on the trail without a buddy, especially since there had been some excavation in the area and there was a big boulder pile, but she did it. Her ears were up and she was on high alert, and she felt really light on her feet, but she did it. So of course I was kind of nervous, too, but I tried to breathe deep and sit deep, and we headed downhill on the trail without incident.
When the trail flattened out, I tried a trot. She was VERY forward (and I was very nervous), but I kept a tight hold of her and we trotted, then walked, then trotted on down the trail. At one point, I figured I should give her a looser rein and see how she did, but she started cantering. Nope, not ready for that, but luckily she was pretty easy to bring back down. In fact, she was pretty easy to bring back to a walk most of the times with just voice and seat (slowing the posting, sitting down and back), but she was definitely wanted to trot faster than I was comfortable with.
At one point, the trail crosses a paved road. You have a decent view of traffic in one direction, but in the other, the view is blocked by trees until you're right at the road, and even then, the road comes down a hill and through a curve, so you can't see the traffic very far in advance. She was getting all squirrely and antsy as we approached the road, and I was really afraid she'd get out of control and prance on across the road regardless of traffic. But luckily she let me slow her and stop her to check, and then hurried across the road like a good girl.
We continued down the trail, paralleling a different road for a bit, and mostly walked that stretch. In fact, we mostly walked even once the trail branched away from the road, and she was definitely on high alert, but was behaving quite well.
Then we spied a horse ahead of us. A lady was parked at a trailhead just ahead of us, tacking up her horse. That's why Arya's ears are so perky in the picture below--you can JUST see the other horse's butt to the left of Arya's right ear, I think. Not sure, but they were straight ahead of us in that photo.
Anyway, so I didn't want to deal with her either trying to go toward or scurry away from the other horse on my own, so we turned around at that point and retraced our steps. There's a different way (more of a scramble straight up the side of a hill) to get up the hill and then take roads the rest of the way home instead of trail, but I missed that trail, plus figured it would be better to retrace our steps for a few reasons--more single-track trail (even if it parallels roads) instead of road, plus we'd already been there done that so she might behave a little better.
Once we were pointed toward home, she definitely sped up. Her walk was quite a bit faster (4 mph according to Endomondo), and she definitely wanted to trot. I worried about her not wanting to come back to a walk, so we had a couple practice runs at a VERY controlled trot, and she did great, so we had a few longer trot sessions, hitting 7-8 miles an hour (not super fast, but considering how nervous I was to let her get much speed, it was pretty good for us).
We got back to the intersection where she'd given me so much trouble, and rather than head for home, I made her take the long way around the block. She barely resisted (she swerved toward home, but willingly went where I directed her). We trotted some more on the way home, but here's a video I took while we were walking:
Here's a photo taken shortly after the video--we turn left at that intersection, then "home" is just a few yards away.
We made it back without incident (that corner is the one she gave me SUCH a hard time on last time, but this time, even though the same horses came up to the fence, she was tired and ready to just go HOME. :-)
I texted everyone to let them know I was home safe, then untacked the pony and let her graze for a bit while I sat down (and not in a saddle--my butt's getting sore!) and posted some pics to Facebook.
She LOVED that, and of course didn't want to leave, but I had another couple treats for her--first I took her to the arena to let her roll: