So. Shar and Dalai, James and Jag, and me and Arya set off on a little ride out from Shar's house. Arya actually did great leaving the property--didn't pull any of her shenanigans that she does when we're alone. The other two horses were both barefoot, so they were walking off the gravel road in the soft dirt whenever possible, but I was just keeping Arya on the gravel (we skipped the pads that protect the soles of her feet this last time, but she still has steel shoes all the way around that keep her up off the gravel, so should be fine). So she gravitated toward the other horses a bit when they got very far from her, but not nearly as much as she gravitates toward home when we're riding solo.
The dogs barked and chased each other more than the horses (and their humans were out in the yard also), but none of the horses (two are new to this route) were bothered. Jag has an old injury, though, that causes him to step really high with a hind leg, like he's trying to work a ligament into place or something, and James was hoping he'd "walk it off," though he never really did. Poor guy doesn't seem to be in pain, but clearly something is wrong with it. Shar's ridden Dalai before, but not for a long time, plus she was in a new-to-her saddle that wasn't the most comfortable, too, so between those two issues, we just stuck to a walk for the whole ride and just went around the block, plus a little spur off on a road for a bit.
Everything was going great until we met another rider (an acquaintance, actually) on the spur road. We were headed away from home, and met the oncoming horse. Arya's ears were up and she got really "excited" (not necessarily in a good way) to see the new horse. I didn't want to do under-saddle introductions, so was trying to keep plenty of space, but also trying not to let her eat, and she did well at first, but eventually got antsy. She kind of plowed into Dalai a bit (she doesn't have the most sensitive steering on a good day, and especially not when she has other things on her mind), so I told everyone that I needed to get her moving, and the group kinda broke up and we all continued on our way. Oops, sorry!
Then things went fine for a bit until we turned around toward home. We were very close to home, and Arya knew it. She started hollering for her buddy/ies back home, and dancing and prancing. After the first minute or so of jigging, I got her back to a sensible walk and we did some serpentines using the "hitchhiker thumb" we learned with Celena. She was actually doing really well with that, and even Shar commented how good she was being. Then something set her off again, and this time she would NOT come back to a walk. She wasn't trotting FAST, but she also wasn't listening to me at all. I tried the one-rein stop, I tried squeezing the other rein, nothing worked--her body stayed pointed toward home no matter what her head and neck were doing, and her feet kept trotting. So when I got her to slow/stop enough for me to feel safe hopping off, I did. I wanted to work her HARD, but didn't want to be on top if she got pissed off enough to buck or spin or whatever. My foot almost got hung up in the stirrup, but luckily I got off safely, and I proceeded to make her work. First we backed up a LOT. Then we halted and just stood still. I made her do a few circles (walking--did NOT need to amp up the energy at all). When we finally went from "working" mode to "okay, let's head home" mode, the working didn't stop completely. I'd halt every few steps to make sure she was paying attention to me, and back her up a step or two if she didn't stop immediately. If she hollered for her buddies at ALL, we immediately stopped and backed up 15 steps or so. Enough so that it hopefully reinforced that not only would she not get to go home right now, she was going to get FARTHER from home, and it wouldn't be much fun to do so (backing up is harder work than turning around and walking that direction would be).
She did eventually turn from kite-pony at the end of my string into a horse that was calmly walking beside me, and the hollering became further and further apart, though she never stopped hollering completely (and she bellowed to announce her arrival as we went in the driveway). So. I actually messaged Celena to ask if we can have a lesson AT Shar's place, so she can help give me some more/better tools for handling issues like this when they come up. I mean, I don't think I handled it BADLY, but I'd sure like to cure her of her barn/buddy sourness, rather than just dealing with each incident as it happens.
Then last night, Shar and I went riding again. Shar tried a couple other saddle/pad combos on Dalai Lama, and ended up riding in my cheap synthetic western saddle with my western saddle pad (it's thick in the front, to help keep the saddle off her withers even though her back is wide and pretty flat). It has a nylon latigo strap, and could only go around through the ring on the cinch once, and could only tie, not buckle, so it wasn't the most secure setup, though I helped tighten it after Shar mounted up. So I told her that if she only felt comfortable walking today, that was fine--a switch from when I'VE been the one limiting our pace. :-) But after a few minutes of walking, she felt comfortable trotting, so we threw in a few trot sessions throughout our ride, though with Dalai being barefoot (though she got shoes on today!) and lots of sections of trail being rocky (short sections, but it breaks up the stretches you can trot on), we didn't trot a whole lot. Just as well, though--it was a nice evening to just be out there with our ponies.
We ended up at the far end of the trails we usually explore from a different trailhead, so that was funny when we recognized them, but we found our way back to the trailer no problem. We heard what sounded like a whole pack of beagles, but may have just been two, howling and baying and making a god-awful ruckus. The horses weren't thrilled. Dalai was in the lead and was irritated but kept her ears forward, but Arya, being in the back, kept her ears and attention pointed backward to where the noise was coming from. I'm glad we didn't trot on that section--Arya might've been in a big hurry to get away from the crazy noise and probably would've tripped even more than she did already. And oh yeah, she tripped quite a few times. Scary for me, but she never went fully down. She stumbled slightly a few times. Once, a hind foot felt like it sank, but I didn't turn around to see if it really did or just felt like it. Another time, she kind of bumbled her way down a little rocky downhill section. Sheesh.
We also saw a bunch of deer. Shar pointed them out, but Arya hadn't seen them yet. When she did, she startled a bit, but she's quite familiar with deer (Shar's neighbor FEEDS them!) so she wasn't worried.
We made it back to the trailer without incident, and without Shar's tack failing, so that's a win. :-) It was a beautiful evening for a ride. Here are some photos:
|Trying to take a selfie that included Shar. Completely missed getting her in the photo.|
|There she is! Even got Noelle!|
|Blurry, but she's there...|
|Shar's better at the selfie thing than I am... (photo by Shar)|
|And she got a pic of me in front, too (photo by Shar)|
|When we got back, I tried to take a photo of Arya, but she kept walking toward me instead of posing... Sigh.|