When I drive home from school, I have a lot of time to contemplate what my next move with Sage is going to be. Today, I was home early and the weather was still holding, so I decided it was now or never: We were going for a walk up the road.
Although this may not seem like a big deal, it's actually quite big for several reasons:
1. She'd be going out alone; she could either spook or get scared by something and freeze up, with no confident domestic horse to show her teh way
2. There are cars on the road (on occasion)
3. The neighbor's dog attacks the fence pretty much all the way down the driveway
4. The land becomes quite open as you crest our hill, and if she got away she wouldn't be contained by any fences
Although I trust her, for the most part, to respond to me on the lead, when you spend an hour in the car thinking about all the ways that a walk with a young wild horse can pan out...well, you get the picture. But you don't know until you try, and I guess she can't have confidence if I don't, so out we went. I asked my dad to tag along just in case something were to happen.
Of course Sage is used to being out in the wild, and isn't necessarily afraid of all that much, but it's different when you're talking about her escape routes being limited by the fact that she has to behave. Still, and I say this a lot, I shouldn't have been very worried about it. She walked all the way down the driveway with the dog snarling and barking at the fence, she passed two cars (who were both quite kind enough to slow down), she saw squirrels and quail and crinkling fall leaves. She didn't flinch at any of it, just plodded along as though she's been a pack horse her entire life.
She did get a little obstinate when I asked her to walk up this hill on the side of the road that leads to a grassy verge next to a vineyard. I was up above her and encouraging her to walk up, and she thought she'd rather turn around and leave. Twice, she flung her head back and tried to squirm away. This is why you walk with an extra long lead rope; although she tried, she couldn't pull me back with her and quickly settled on coming up to meet me. That was probably more the 2 year old horse talking than her actually being scared.
We walked about half a mile up the road and turned around and came back. I saddled her up and worked on jerking the saddle around a bit, did all of the basic work over again (back, head down, neck reining, haunch turns, etc), and put my foot and weight in the stirrups again. The next thing to do was to get her moving (lunging).
As you know, she has trouble with the idea of moving forward on her own. Instead of trying to confuse things by having her move forward and in a circle, I broke it into simpler steps, the first part being just move forward (I don't care where!). So I took her halter off, turned her out with the other horses in the arena, and cued them all forward. A few times, Sage stood stubbornly still, and it took some flapping and yelling on my part, but she soon picked up on the idea and was freely moving around the arena with the saddle on.
I put her halter back on and took her saddle off, stopping there so she'd have some time to play with the other horses. Although sometimes it's frustrating that it takes a lot of effort to move her forward, I'm glad she's kind of a "plug." I think I'll find that when something interests her, she'll perk up a little more (saw that out on the trail today), but for the most part, she should be calm and steady!
Here's a few pictures of the girls out in the pasture the other day: