First, please: no laughing from real trail riders. I know these trails are ATV trails, and no real trail rider would stoop to notice them. However, Mia is my spooky Arabian mare. After 3 years of riding in an arena, and numerous spooks/bolts there, and a few injuries (she became so worked up over dismounts that the only way to get off was jumping), I put her on the back burner for 6 months while I worked on my own riding skills. Last November, I hired a trainer to work with her. After a few sessions, I was told that Mia might not ever be safe to ride. But then it occurred to the trainer that the horse I was sold as "Perfect for a beginner" might never have been broken at all. That was the turning point for Mia.
Along with her training, I started walking her in the neighborhood. At first, I could not lead her 100 yards down the road without her head coming up, the whites of her eyes showing, and a nervous meltdown.
Mia in training around December 2011:
It took two months of training (4 sessions a week) before the trainer was willing to mount Mia. I got on her the next day. We spent a few more months at 4 sessions/week, then tapered off until her formal training stopped in early May. Meanwhile, I worked on leading her out into the desert. Then riding literally just a few hundred yards into the desert with the other horses. Even 6 weeks ago, it took the other horses walking past a cardboard box to get Mia to walk past it. And until 3 days ago, she had never led the horses into the wash - only followed.
She is a LONG way from being a good trail horse, but today's ride made me hope that she really may someday become one. I hate the phrase "just a trail horse"!
It is taking a LOT of work to get Mia there, and it will take a lot more.
But on today's ride, she led almost all the way. At the top of a raise, she'd scan around her...but keep moving. At times, we pulled far enough away from the others that I had to stop for a few minutes and wait - although I noticed that my lead mare did NOT want to take a fork in the trail until the others caught up with her! It was only a 5 mile trip, since we started late and it was hot, and so we took a shortcut home.
But from the time we entered the desert until we got back in the neighborhood, she seemed to be enjoying herself. She was alert but confident. When there was a coyote on the path, and I told her to push ahead, she did. Right toward the coyote, who then moved. Where the ATV trails had bad gullies, I let her pick her own path - and I think she enjoyed the partnership involved. And when I had to bend over her neck to avoid branches, she didn't care.
For the first time, I'm daring to hope that Mia may someday be able to go out alone with me and enjoy a 3-5 hour ride...not there yet, not close, but I'm beginning to think it may someday
Pictures here. I shrank all the photos down to no more than 800 pixels wide to save bandwidth: Vail BS - Trail Ride 21 June 2012
Oh - and note the Aussie-style saddle, with a horn and Navajo blanket, but English leathers and English safety stirrups. Guess I'm kind of confused!