As soon as we started our second trot set, I could tell she was started to get revved up - she practically leapt into the trot with almost no aid. This isn't just something she does under saddle; I've seen her do it in a herd situation as well. She start out running and playing with the other horses but become more and more excited, and well, wild and a bit silly. While we were trotting, I got the "bird flies up and you spook and scoot" and other maneuvers like attempted small bucks. She wasn't really listening at this point. A quote about the People Pleaser personality (this is pretty well Maisie) from the fun little book Is Your Horse a Rock Star?: Understanding Your Horse's Personality by Dessa Hockley (the book that relates to the web site I linked to several days ago - the book elaborates the ideas and has some good suggestions for working with different personalities - I don't agree with everything in the book but it's pretty good):
Some riders will think that they can lunge or exercise this horse to get him to quiet down. As the speed increases, the internal chatter increases until nothing is making any sense and you can both feel frustrated and upset.When she starts to get excited and work herself up, she starts to worry, and it becomes a vicious cycle. With a horse like this who gets excited, I'd do lots of challenging figures - small circles, serpentines, etc., and lots of lateral work - to engage their brain, give the energy someplace to go and give them work they can feel they are doing well - this is what settles them down. Since Maisie isn't fit yet, I can't do that more strenuous work without risking her stifles or soundness.
So I did an alternative to get her to focus. I dismounted, closed the arena doors and took off her bridle - another advantage of being there by ourselves was the empty arena. I asked her to move away from me - she trotted and sometimes cantered, but didn't really run - until she started to focus on me again and pay attention. Then I let her stop, went up to her and petted her, and turned and walked back to the mounting block - she followed me.
I rebridled and remounted and we started to work again. I spend about 5 minutes doing walk figures to engage her brain again, and then we trotted. She was still too forward, so I did a few minutes of sitting trot on a 20-meter circle to help her focus - I didn't want to do more on a small circle - and then we were able to do 30-meter circles at the posting trot in both directions, and then also with changes of direction. She was still pretty up but as long as I kept the bend with inside leg to outside rein, she was able to maintain her pace and listen pretty well. We trotted for about another 10 minutes until we were reliably getting the pace and listening I wanted, and then we were done and walked out on a loose rein. We were both pretty sweaty by that point, so she got a nice rinse off.
It was tiring, but I think productive. Every time she can successfully listen and feel like she's able to do what I'm asking, we make progress, however small the progress seems.