On Sunday I took Stella on a trail ride, I knew she had been trail ridden a few times before, and I wanted to test out all her buttons. For this ride I went with a friend that had a seasoned trail horse to help us through any problems. I also picked a location that had a little bit of everything. I wanted to see how she handled hills both up and down, mud, and water crossings.
First test, tying to the trailer. I really hate horses that spin in circles tied, don't tie, or are a foaming mess in a new location. Stella passed this with flying colors. I can't tell you how many times we've gone trail riding and some moron shows up with their horse banging and kicking on the trailer and rearing and pawing being tied up. 100% of the time they are on a gaited horse and as soon as their ass hits the saddle they are speed racking around, yet they wonder about their horse's bad behavior.
Second test, scary shiny Culvert. Fail. Had to get a lead by it.
Third test, mud. FAIL! We stopped dead at the first dozen mud puddles and refused to cross until our lead horse went first. The next dozen we crossed first by JUMPING them. After that she gave up and accepted mud as a part of her life so PASS!
Fourth test, distance. Stella didn't have any problems getting far away from her buddy, or her buddy leaving her. She was also content to stand on the trial and take a nap. PASS!!
Next up, water! Although Stella lead the entire way (due to our slightly unenthusiastic lead horse) she came to a screaching halt at the first water crossing and actually started to back up. I got her to cross on the butt of our lead horse (who could apparently now be in front just to make sure the water wasn't going to suck her under) and Stella carefully put each hoof exactly where the other horse did, just in case. I had picked this location and trail because there are at least a dozen water crossings and as we crossed each one I upped the ante until she eventually boldly walked through the water while in front and without even a hesitation. The end of the trail was 1/4 mile actually up the creek and she plowed through with enthusiasm. PASS!!
Our biggest challenge had nothing to do with trails, but with actually making it back to the trailer itself via a detour through camp. Every manure bin, fire pit, truck being hitched, dog barking, horse tied to a rail, bridge, oncoming car, wheel barrow, was cause for stopping and staring and waiting for our faithful (and even slower) companion horse to catch up and take one for the team. I now know that those kinds of things are what Stella needs more exposure to, and she's going to get a real eye opening experience at her first horse show in a few weeks.
Overall I was very pleased with Stella. She was cautious and pragmatic but eventually came around to being brave and obedient which means we are on the right track and she is capable of assessing her situation and listening to her rider.