I haven't been able to ride for two weeks because we went out of town and then had other life stuff that came up (covering for co-worker, taking car to the shop, doctor appointment, blah blah blah). So I was determined to ride today, dammit (even if it was cold and grey and cold)!
I rode Mac first and we went for a trail ride on the BLM. He was great, very forward and happy and we had a very nice ride.
We have a big burn pile to do and Colin was nice enough to get it started for me so I could ride. I thought that it might not be the best idea to ride the pony in the back while a burn pile is going on so I thought I'd try giving it a go on the BLM trails. My goal was to ride, but if I didn't feel the timing was right, a hand walk with tack on would also have been fine.
I've hand walked her there many times, so I stuck to the trail that she's familiar with. I hand walked her a bit before mounting up, as the usual mount-up log is close to the gate and she can hear Paddy and Mac yelling for her from that spot; I thought it best to go farther down the trail so they wouldn't distract her. We walked about 1/3 mile in and found a stump to use for mounting. I had been walking her with her rope halter on and some trail reins I have, and her regular bridle (sans noseband) was on. I affixed the trail reins such that they'd be reins (vs. using them as a lead rope) and so I'd ride with two sets of reins. After a little fidgeting at the mounting stump, I got on and tried to adjust my reins. I don't know if it was the halter/reins combo or the different saddle pad I had put on her, or just that it was the first time I was on her back on the trails (versus leading her), but Pony was mad. She didn't want to go straight down the trail, and she threw in some head-tosses, backing up, and crow-hops to let me know how she felt about the situation. For a split-second I considered bailing and walking more, but then I thought that would just teach her that she can stomp her little feet and get what she wants and that is not a good thing to teach a smart little pony mare. I quickly ditched my dismounting thoughts, gave her a growl and a "Pony, git!" and off we went and there was no more trouble. Whew.
We walked along the usual trail and the only thing I asked of her was to be straight between my reins and legs and have a soft and consistent contact with the reins, which meant no stargazing (not that that's her thing, but...) and no rooting in the bridle. Just a relaxed head and neck and a forward walk. There was one point where she wanted to trot and so we did. I don't want her to feel like she's confined and can't go anywhere so I want her to trust that I let her go forward and forward is the answer; at the same time, she needs to come back when I ask her to, and she did.
We had a very pleasant walk, with me praising her the whole way. When we turned for the last stretch home, we started to hear the other horses. Wanting to be proactive and not reactive to any sort of fuss she'd put up to get back to the boys sooner, I started circles around trees and sage brush. A circle here, a circle there. Asking her to put her feet where I say so, asking her to bend in the direction of the circle and quietly go back to the trail. We did that for maybe 10 circles or so (not in a row, just a circle, then walk down the trail, then another circle, then more walking, etc.). I didn't want her to get jiggy and then have to have a discussion with her, so we just made it a circling exercise and everything was peachy. We got back to the gate area, did one more circle, had her stand still, and I dismounted.
It was her first big-girl trail ride and it was a success!