Disrespect or inexperience?
I'll get right to the point and try to keep this as short as possible:
My mare is 7 now, and when we bought her she was an AWESOME trail horse. For the last two years, I've rode her sparingly (for a number of different reasons that may take another whole post to explain), so now we come to this year, when I'm actually trying to get her into a good work ethic, and I'm finding a bit of a problem.
Her trail training is really...not all there anymore. On the ground, she is quiet, respectful, and never gives me a problem. When I get on her, however, she's...different. Around home she's not bad, and is quiet and listening, but most of our property is pasture and around here if you don't have a horse that can trail ride...well, have fun riding around the yard day after day. Out on the trail in "unfamiliar" environments, she is a completely different horse.
Even if we stay sort of near home, if we're off the property and on the trail, her head and ears are up and she's: "What's that? This is so EXCITING!" When you make her circle and do shapes and WORK, she'll usually do it, but she won't be listening to you, no matter how hard the work seems to be, and if you really push her she just gets excited and wants to go forwards instead of hunkering down and listening.
When we are actually trail riding, same thing-she goes with her head and ears up, at times will walk fast (she'll slow down if I stay relaxed), and just generally does not even acknowledge that I'm on her back. Out on the trail, if I do make her circle or anything, she just gets so anxious and tries to run through everything.
She is safe to ride and she doesn't have a problem with going forwards (at all-if anything her problem is NOT stopping). She's not spooky, alright to go out alone; doesn't need to be babysat by other horses. She's just an excitable, reactive type of horse that I don't know what to do. I feel like she's being disrespectful, but I don't know how to get her to respect me. Hit her? For what, walking fast and ignoring me? Seems like a good way to just put her into a completely reactive, frightened mode. There isn't enough rough ground around here to take her over and make her concentrate-it's flat fields on all four sides of us, so it's easy for her to just go along and run (or fastwalk) through any work I make her do. It seems like, if she's fast on circles, I should just make her keep doing them until she relaxes, but it usually doesn't work that way and she just gets more excited.
Or, is she just acting like this because she's inexperienced? Each time we go out she gets a TINY bit better, but really not very much and not enough to lead me to conclude that this is the problem.
I just don't know what to think or do. Everyone thinks I'm insane for having a problem with her because she's usually so quiet, but I hate what she's like and I do not know how to get her slow and listening on the trail.