Now understand, Maisie is hardly ever what you might call bad, except sometimes when we're coming back into work after the winter (some spins and spooks) or if she's sore (small bucks and balking). What I'm getting from her now is just herd-bound anxiety. To make it easier for us to work on this, we ground drove. When I first brought Maisie to our barn, she had never been on trails before, and we ground drove a lot. To make it a bit more interesting, I got her out of the pasture at an earlier time than normal, and we went on a outbound trail which is one we haven't been on this year. I ground drove her in the halter with the fuzzy padded noseband, so she didn't have to worry about the bit and so there was less chance of her ducking under the bit when anxious or getting dinged in the mouth if she had a meltdown. Our goal was to have a reasonably relaxed outing both going out and coming back to the barn. If she started to get anxious, I wanted to do some things to help her get through this, with the goal to be able to ride more calmly next time.
Here she is, ready to set out:
We went around a corner and up a hill - this is the beginning of the part of the trail we haven't ridden on since last year - I had to chirp to encourage her to take the new path:
Now we're come to the top of the hill and are coming down to a little group of trees - she's a little more forward and the ears are up and alert:
At this point, the bugs started to get even worse - lots of mosquitos and deer flies - she'd been sprayed but it didn't do much good:
She was still compliant, halting or slowing when I asked, although fretful because of the flies. When we got to the point where we'd be turning for home, instead of going that way right away, we turned down another path and went a few hundred yards to take a break by the fountain and the stores - we stood there for a while:
Then we turned towards home, and at this point I stopped taking pictures, as I needed both hands all the time. She immediately wanted to go faster - we slowed. She wanted to jig - we did serpentines. When I asked her to halt, she didn't want to, so I turned her one way or the other and got the halt. When we halted, we started moving again when she stood still - no weaving or pawing - I just waited for her to settle and off we went again. There was a bad wooded stretch where I walked at her head, and another swampy area where we were attacked for a moment by a B-52 fly - it landed a couple of times but didn't bite and luckily she didn't have a fit and we escaped by walking quickly in hand until it gave up the hunt.
Once we were past the worst of the insect predators, we went back to ground driving. More halts (with turns to one side if they didn't come right away), and I upped the ante a little by asking for good halts - quickly and straight without too much pressure. If we didn't get that - if I had to turn to get her to halt (I did this instead of upping the pressure since I didn't want to use more), we then backed until we got three good two-beat back steps with softness in her body - then forward again. After a while, I got the halt I wanted with a soft whoa, and little pressure - so no backing to get the softness since I already had it.
As we approached the barn, we kept going past it and made a circle around the community garden. And then we were done - we were both pretty tired at this point - or at least I was! Here she is in the paddock chilling out for a little while - but still looking for her friends!