Wow, two months, no posts! I apologize for my leave of absence. Halo and I have much to report. She's been doing very well in her training. In December I managed to put three "trail rides" on her. I came to the important realization that while we were making progress in the arena, our progress was also being hindered by the arena.
Because Halo is still young and somewhat unbalanced, asking her to carry me around in circles quickly came to a point where it was doing more harm than good. I don't particularly like that it's tougher on her legs, and it is also harder for her to balance herself. It has been an unusually wet winter, so the outdoor has been a mess and we've mostly been restricted to the small indoor round pen. My ah-ha moment came when I got her out in the big arena and asked for a little bit of trot on the long sides of the arena. She was much more balanced and didn't have any of the head tossing that has been a common problem in the indoor. Granted, we've barely trotted at all, so she's still learning how to balance. I think the head tossing may be a side-effect of her trying to balance my weight while bending on a circle. Solution = trotting straight lines to help her balance.
In light of that discovery, I decided to bite the bullet and get her out on some trail rides. There are several other riders that like to hack out around the barn, and most of them take it easy, especially with how muddy it is. Most of the riding is done on the roads, and sometimes we ride out around the fields when it is less wet.
In a way, it was almost a whim that got me out on Halo the first day. I have some old fear issues surrounding trail riding, especially when mud is involved. Not to mention that I still consider Halo barely started under saddle. . . we've trotted maybe a total of six times, and never cantered. So anyway, this first day I got out there when everyone else was tacking up. I tacked Halo up, and decided to just see how I felt when I got on her. I warmed her up a little in the round pen, then got on, and waited for everyone else to get mounted up. Down to the very last second I was battling in my mind about whether or not to go, but finally I decided to fly with it and just give it a shot. The barn would never be far away if something should happen or we needed to turn back.
I'm proud to say that she was wonderful, or at least as wonderful as a very green filly can be. She only spooked a couple of times, and in each case quickly calmed down and settled back into what she was doing. It actually relaxed me to have her spook the first time, because I'd been waiting for her to do something. When she finally did, and I didn't fall off, I felt reassured that I was capable of dealing with whatever she might dish out.
Halo steers quite well with the sidepull now, and I will soon be transitioning her into a loose-ring snaffle bit. I may continue to use the sidepull for trail riding, though, as it is comfortable for her, and also prevents me from accidentally jerking on her mouth in the case of a stumble or spook.
Here is a picture from our very first trail ride: