Shopping for my perfect horse... Is this workable?
I went yesterday and tried a horse (for the second time). The first time was 3 or 4 months ago. She's not being actively marketed, but the owners have more horses than they can ride and would sell her. Last time I rode, she was perfection. She's laid back, probably as bomb-proof as they come (I know that's never completely possible - but I know her history somewhat and believe her to be very solid). Her ground manners are great. She neck reins and goes off of very gentle leg cues. Has a wonderful Whoa and 'back'. Seems very well trained. They said she likes a light hand (great for me as I don't like always yanking on a bit...). They've taken her on many trail rides, from big organized ones to small rigorous ones.
They've been busy and she hasn't been ridden for several months. Yesterday, she still had the great temperament and was easy going, and was very easy to ride... until I took her out away from the barn (and her companions) by myself. She refused at a certain distance to move forward, and did a little tail swishing and a few steps backwards. Nothing was fast, and she showed no inclination to spin or bolt. Did lay the ears back a bit in a stubborn way. Just balking. So, not knowing her well I was hesitant to get assertive (like I said, I'm pretty green... and I have been on a few horses that ramped it up to crow hopping etc when pushed.. and I just don't want to go there). The owners were great, made no excuses, said they understood my hesitation but that she is not inclined to get nasty when pushed harder - they helped me work through it by being slightly more assertive and walking her away and back to the barn a number of times (they would have to hand lead her about 2 steps in the right direction then she would listen to me again). So, after about the 5th time, she started riding great and no longer resisting. I realize horses aren't robots, she didn't know me, and she hadn't been ridden for a while. I was never scared, just a little disappointed as I expected her to be perfect and 'walk on water' again!
Anyway, sorry for the long report, but I'm wondering if this is indicative of serious barn sour issues and is a big red flag, or normal behavior and something that I could fairly easily overcome by systematically working with her in an arena - taking lessons with her - getting occasional tune ups with a trainer - etc. I really want to get it right this time. It's possible we could work out a trial period, but I know from experience that barn sour doesn't necessarily creep up for quite a while, so not sure even a trial could predict that.
I've 'had the word out' for about 6 months that I'm looking (not to mention the months I spent searching for my first horse). Even though I've made a lot of connections in the horse community, all I've been getting are random links to facebook groups and Craigslist ads... not first hand recommendations. This mare is one of the most enjoyable I've ever ridden. That doesn't mean she's perfect for me, though.
I bought my first horse last February, and for various reasons she wasn't the perfect fit - just sold her recently to a more experienced rider and that seems like a great match. I'm an older novice rider, but surrounded by good mentors who are enabling this adventure. I'm not an assertive rider (though am learning...) - I frequently ride a friend's wonderful quarter horse and we get along swimmingly, but she isn't for sale. I'm looking for a horse like that one... I'm spoiled, as I think she's one-in-a-million.