Today I left the fork off and on a whim, rode Amber out to the hay field trail. She was excited, but not nervous until we got beside the woods. She spooked at a fallen limb, not too violently...just a side jump. Then we went on at an eager, not terribly nervous pace.
We went all the way to the end without any incident. I was prrouuuud. Then we went in the dressage arena. I let her have a loose rein and she did explore a little, but she was very inconsistent. Then we went out into the open space behind the barn. I think she thought she was done, because she was running wayy out of her shoulder pulling to the barn when I asked for trot out there. Speeding up and ignoring me. I decided to let her canter a few strides and bring her back down because that in the past has been a working strategy for me to reestablish that I do NOT want canter, stopping her in between gaiting.
She started crow hopping towards the barn. Before that escalated into a full out tantrum, I got her stopped and headed her butt for the big arena. I didn't want to take the time to get the fork; because I needed to respond immediately to her behavior. I worked her good and hard for 5 minutes using Bob's "popping" technique. We cantered a little bit, just for me to make her do it after her little fit in canter, but mostly I made her trot a circle. After 5 minutes, she held herself on the bit with BIG steps and nice push from behind for a full circle. I let her be done.
We cooled out by taking a hack around the pastures. There's a strip between the corn field and the two smaller back pastures. She enjoyed it I could tell. I let her have a loose rein and she was just an angel. No dancing or drifting around.
When we turned on the path parallel to the barn, I turned her around and trotted and cantered her a few strides *away* from the barn and she was in control and not getting strong with me at all. I praised her and we headed back. I think her tantrum was simply because of the temptation of the barn being *right* there, and she thought she was done because we usually ride back to the barn when we finish. It's a bit of a walk back so I usually just open the gate from her back and ride up there. I definitely need to establish with her that she is only done when I say she's done, and she needn't take anything as a sign she no longer has to obey.
So some progress in the area of riding out away from the barn alone. Definite progress in that 5 minute work out. Regression really in the fact that she's super wiggly wobbly and running out through her shoulder everywhere and not really responding to my leg and hand. She's responding, but totally separate. Her neck/head is all that responds to my hand, even though I push with my seat and leg. She listens to them totally separate. I think I need to start posting bigger to allow her a longer stride and also to slow her gait. I think I'm pushing too much and too fast with my seat that's making her get quick.
But progress is progress, and I'm very happy that trail rides are a possibility. I won't be going into the woods alone on principal - that's never safe, even on the most deadbroke horse. But in plain sight of the barn - yes!