Thanks for the responses!
Skys - I think you're the kind of "beginner rider" that I'd have no problem riding with.
Everyone (and every horse) starts somewhere, and it sounds like you've found a good group of understanding riders who have kind of taken you "under their wing" to give you a safe and fun way to build up some confidence. There's a lot to learn, and most of it you just have
to learn-by-doing. It can't be picked up by reading a book or watching a video or even practicing in an arena. The confidence comes from succeeding at something you're not sure you could do.
As far as my friend, he will actually turn down offers to go on rides with other people unless the "scary rider" is coming. And, of course, if she comes along she brings the drama with her. Actually, I think he's a bit smitten with her, which sounds cute and romantic and all except that in this case it's just not fun and even the horses end up stressed.
A couple of weeks ago, he was out of town and he allowed a mutual friend to borrow his horse for a trail ride. The mutual friend has ridden that horse many times before and done well with him, but she said the horse is "totally changed" now. . .he's like a rubber band that is stretched thin and feels ready to *snap* at any given moment.
And now I'm getting word that there have been some "incidents" on their trail rides that could have turned into a serious situation if someone had been injured. So, you have the more-experienced rider on a wound-up mental mess of a horse, and an inexperienced rider on a younger horse that knows just enough to know how to intimidate her rider and get away with naughty behavior.
You see where I'm going with this, right?