We started out with some walk and trot work, and the softening was pretty much there in both directions. Then we moved up into canter - all I wanted was several laps of relaxed canter - we were doing big circles - I didn't worried about her head position, or anything else, other than that she sustain the canter in a reasonably relaxed manner. So I thought the new rhythm, breathed out and away we went! She did very well; I just sat there and kept a very light contact to direct her and urged her forward if she wanted to break out of the canter. We only worked to the right today; next session we'll work to the left, and then once we've got a nice relaxed canter we'll work on our softening. We also worked on her being able to relax again after cantering - she got the idea after a bit and wasn't wanting to leap forward into canter at the slightest leg contact. We did a number of canter sets, interspersed with walk and trot work with some halts and backing thrown in. I was really pleased - she didn't race, was able to sustain the canter with a little help, and was able to relax between canter sets. I was delighted with her and told her so.
Then we worked on the balking issue. As I've pointed her towards the trail, she's been wanting to balk and avoid going that way - I think she's tired and ready to be done but the reason doesn't really matter - she clearly isn't frightened - I'd deal a bit differently with a frightened horse. Now when a horse balks, trying to force them forward is often counterproductive - it tends to lock up the forward motion, particularly if you start pushing and forcing and working to get the horse to move forwards. And there's a particular issue with Dawn - she used to be a terrible rearer - which is very definitely not a good thing and dangerous to boot - and one of the easiest ways to get a horse that's prone to rear to rear is to push when the horse is balking and refusing to go forwards. Yesterday when she balked I got off and led her - sometimes that is enough to do the trick. And with some horses (like Maisie) just keeping the horse's head pointed where you want to go, without pushing, is enough to get them moving. It was pretty clear that wasn't going to work with Dawn.
So here's what I did. As we walked towards the trail, she would balk, refuse to go forwards and want to turn back towards the barn, say to the left. Instead of keeping her head towards the trail, I actively redirected her in a small circle to the left, and kept circling, making sure I had no pressure on the outside rein. If she stopped moving, I used a bit of outside leg to keep her moving. This had the advantage of keeping her bent enough that rearing was unlikely, particularly without pressuring her to go forwards, and just directed her energy in the way she had chosen to go already. As we came around the circle and were facing the trail again, I asked her to move forwards. When she balked again, we just circled again in one direction or the other - if she chose a direction, that's the way we went. I didn't put much energy into this - I didn't jerk, or kick or get after her, we just turned in a small circle. The circles were pretty small - it's important to pick a place to do this exercise where there's adequate room to turn in both directions. When we were facing the trail, I would ask her to move forwards with a chirp. If she balked, we circled again. Pretty soon, she walked down the trail, although we had a couple more spots where circling was required. Once "unstuck" she moved out pretty well.
Then the test was to come back towards the barn on our small loop and try again. This time there was a little balking, but less, and pretty soon when she was facing the trail again after a circle, if I chirped, she would think for a second and then step out down the trail - I could feel her considering her options, and deciding that going down the trail was a good choice. It was much better this round - there were a few circles, but that's all and she mostly moved out willingly. I praised her extravagantly and jumped off when we were part way down the trail and led her back to untack. It'll be interesting to see how she does the next time we ride - I expect the balking problem will go away pretty quickly - it may already be gone.