So I didn't ride her alone on the trails; I just rode her with Charles and Gracie so Lily could be worked at the trot. Trotting makes it easier to keep her focus on the trail and on me, and having a buddy helped her to not worry quite so much. The rushing home thing was still there, but every time she had a fit about wanting to canter home we would do things to mitigate the rushing: backing up towards home, halting and having to wait every time she wanted to rush, turning around and cantering away from home every time she tried to rush (for whatever reason this one is a great reset button for her when she's being especially argumentative), etc. I was always able to get her to walk home on a loose rein...not a leisurely stroll of a walk, but at least a walk where I didn't have to fight her every step of the way. It just usually tacked on an extra 30 minutes minimum to the planned length of the ride.
|"Whyyyyy are we stopping? We're almost home!!"|
It affected their behavior on the trails together: Lily was quite reluctant to lead for our first couple of rides outside of the new barn, and Gracie was more than happy to assume that role, whereas before, when Lily was herd alpha, Gracie would refuse to lead. I think it's fascinating how herd ranking can affect dynamics elsewhere. We rolled with it in the beginning as Lily got the hang of things in the new environment.
I took Lily outside alone once during this time and I had no "go" button whatsoever. She had lost all confidence in herself and while she trusted me enough to walk forward when requested, she refused to trot. We made it as far as the neighbor's field with the old horse and the mule (I've referred to this one ride a couple of times now; this is the official write-up right now), which is literally the property next door...and Lily refused to budge: she wanted to stop and stare at the mule specifically. Never mind that the mule was at the back of the 5 acre pasture on the other side of the road...those long-ears might kill a horse, you know.
|That's the mule on the right. They were even farther away than when I took this photo.|
|This really is Lily...|
You get the idea.
So I said, "Oh hell no yourself!" and swung her around so that she was still backing up, but away from home. To my surprise she kept up the same lively pace that she had had prior...until she realized what was happening and she said, "FINE. I will stop now." We had a backing up impasse, where every time one of us was facing the direction the other was wanting to go, we would back up away from the direction the other wanted to go. It was a situation where, 2 years prior, my anxiety levels would have skyrocketed but Lily was simply being a stubborn mule herself and I was bent on winning the argument. I stayed relaxed, laughed at her ridiculousness, rewarded every tiny effort on her part with a "Good girl" and a pat on the neck, and continued working her until we FINALLY made it past the neighbor's field...thanks to mini leg yields down the road. I rode her a small ways down the road, trotted 5 steps, and then called it a day and walked back home on a loose rein.
Of course the mule was not an issue on the way back home. -_-
I tried not to stress about this, since this was the first time Lily had been off property by herself since before Fort Valley...which was back in October! Some backsliding was to be expected. I just hoped that we wouldn't be pony-kicking on the trails whenever we were alone for the next few months! Ugh!
A week later the girls were integrated with the main herd of 12 other horses, where both Lily and Gracie were solidly in the upper middle of the rankings. I ventured to take Lily alone outside of the farm again to go do hill sets on the road...and it was a complete non-issue.
The day Charles and I found the way down into the river, Lily led about 50% of the way. While riding on the road past the river, Gracie wanted to go in front and Lily, who had been keeping a nice steady trot, kept slowing down to defer to her.
"No," I told her. "I want you in front, so you stay in front." I gave my boot a light tap with the whip once and Lily hopped to it. I didn't have to repeat the request that ride...or ever again since.
Things got much, much better after that. Not that they had been bad, but I'd been a little nervous about Lily's partial regression. We had worked so hard to get her to the point where she was last year! It was a relief to see The Sane Mare make a full comeback in such a short period of time.
We had a spectacular hill set workout last week where Lily started sort of "Meh." It was enough that I debated cutting the session short if she wasn't feeling peppier by the 5th rep.
|I have failed epically at getting a photo of said hill...but this is the spot at the bottom where we would turn around to canter back up.|
Lily trotted towards the neighbor's hill and the second I unleashed her onto the bottom of it, she lunged up towards the top with such force that she almost popped me out of the saddle! DAMN I'd forgotten she could gallop like that! She came back down to a trot at the top of her own accord, and we power-walked back down the hill. I grabbed the breastplate wither strap for the last two runs!
And then she walked all the way home on a loose rein, like the mare I came to know and love while training for endurance last year.
Oh, and she was in the S-hack. No bit!
|Walking back home. Yup, she was looking at the neighbor's mule, but she had no concerns about walking onto the grass on the left shortly after I took this photo. :)|