Does she have other horses? If this horse is independent (like my Creampuff), especially with all these "stranger" horses, he may feel no safety attachment to them and will just want to go to what he knows is safe.
It may also be lack of work. Sometimes our horses will misbehave on the trail, they don't get used in a day or two, and then the behavior just got worse because they learned that if they do such-and-such, they get time off of work!
To me it just sounds like this horse doesn't get exercised enough and that he doesn't know who's "boss." Especially if he's been on this trail only a few times, about once a year. Has your friend tried to be more firm with him?
I know how it feels to be scared. When Creampuff first bolted on me (she spooked at a deer that ran away, which she could just barely see it) and I nearly fell off I was trembling! She may need to get an experienced rider out there a few more times to rope him back in; it'll also give her some time to cool down and sort her head. I'd hate to see him sold because she's afraid of him; it's a story that we all hear too often.
But everyone, even Esther, has a horse they don't "click" with. I have one -- Lightning -- who's a wiry mutt of a horse that just makes me nervous. (And he's a beginner level horse!) Part of my issue with him is when you pull back to stop he lifts his head (trying to take his reign to run more) and then acts like he's going to rear.
But, then again, if your friend and this horse aren't "compatible," it may be better that she get rid of him. Is she an experienced rider herself? Does she have a lot of experience with owning horses or did she just get in over her head?
I wish I could see what's going on for myself. Maybe his tack hurts him, or his feet or his teeth or maybe he's bruised/sore; horses will act out when something is bothering them. I don't blame Esther/the experienced rider for being nervous on this horse after seeing what happened. Maybe a tie-down is in order?
"Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative." (H.G. Wells)
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