Being upfront- this is long.
I'm hoping to give my mare more experience riding out of the arena. She isn't a trail horse, and about 2 years ago (while I was leasing her) another rider tried riding her out on trails once a week, but I'm told that even in a group, she was very hesitant to ride out, and often the rider had to dismount and lead her from the ground as my horse would plant her feet and refuse to go forward.
In the past few months, to cool out after our rides, I've started taking my mare on a little loop outside of the arena- it probably takes 5-10 minutes, we exit the indoor, ride up a little hill around the outdoor arena, about 50 feet down the driveway, around a little pond, along the fenceline of our small pasture, and then park at the door to the barn. At first, she refused going out the door (feet planted), snorted and huffed and bugged her eyes out the entire walk. Of course, this made me nervous and only after I happened to look down and see my white knuckle death grip on the reins did I re-evaluate my contribution to the situation. After I had this realization, I relaxed myself, she started to look longingly at the door, and we even would go on little trots around the property when they're weren't a lot of cars in the driveway.
This all got me feeling a little bold and confident, so last week, I decided to get a little more ambitious. We have a 5ish acre field that is empty once the horses are brought in for the evening feeding. I know other people have ridden out there in the past, so I thought I would go for it. As we were finishing our typical loop (described above), instead of turning right to head back to the barn, I turned left and headed out into the field. Immediately, Isabel tensed up (head shot up, ears pricked, etc.). I was trying as hard as I could to stay calm, knowing how my reaction affects her.
As best I can remember, this is what happened next: we walk about 10 paces along the fence line. I could feel her getting ready to do...something. I was expecting a straight out bolt (and mentally processing how to bail off
). Instead of a bolt, she threw her head violently to the left, while spinning her front shoulders to the right, snaking around so now we're facing 180 degrees in the opposite direction. The only thing I could think to do is circle her in the direction she spun, so we do two or three circles. Then I picked a spot in the distance, and tried to ride towards that. She repeats the shoulder throwing spin move. I repeat circles, then try to ride straight. After a couple of minutes of this, I realize we've essentially gone laterally across the field, but not forward much. I finally get her going forward again and ride to the end of the field. It's a completely open space, so there wasn't really anything I could focus her attention to circle her around, etc. So I was attempting to do big figure 8s and serpentines, but she was basically pulling on the bit with all her might to get pointed back in the direction of the barn. Eventually, I feel like I'm out of things to try, so we do walk back to the barn. I make her halt a few times on the way back, and before we ride out the gate of the pasture, so it's not like she just galloped home. But still, it felt like she ultimately "won" that battle. This all probably happened in the span of 10 minutes, though it felt like eternity up there!!
Here's what I think is making this hard:
1. Riding away from the barn alone at dinner time
2. I'm not confident and was really on her mouth trying to stop her from spinning back toward the barn (reverting back to white knuckle death grip)
3. Being in such a wide open space?
So my question for all of you is, do I attempt this ride again? If so, what do I do differently when she starts in on this spin move?