The mareface was so good both times. We went out with a different rider/horse each time but did the same trail so it was very interesting for me to see the difference it had on Quest. On our first time out, my friend J led the way and Quest had the easy job of following another horse. Mareface did great overall- not even a flinch when some startled deer went bounding through the forest, though she got a little excited at one point while we riding in an open field and J began cantering her horse. I asked for a trot and Quest moved to canter instead and I had to be quite firm with my hands to bring her energy down. She was perfect for the rest of the ride.
The second time out was with A and Smokey. Smokey has had less experience leading on the trail so Quest had to step up to the plate a few times and tackle some obstacles. She was hesitant at first and protested, even popping a small rear but I kept my cool and just kept working with her- backing up, circles, getting her head low/relaxed, giving her rest and releasing pressure the instant she answered my request correctly. There was one sticky area that after repeated efforts to ride past, it became a better choice to dismount and lead. Quest followed me with no issues and I was able locate a convenient rock to remount.
There was a large construction crane parked right by the entrance to a trail head which caused some angst with Smokey and Quest. There was protest and I half-considered getting off again when suddenly Quest decided the crane wasn't a creature ready to eat her and moved right along past at a trot without a second glance. Since forward was the right answer, I let her move along down the trail for a bit, all the while heaping tremendous amounts of praise. Her ears were forward and I could tell she was feeling good. I brought her down to a walk and patted her neck so proud! I intended to end the ride on that note but Smokey had decided that being left behind wasn't too fun and followed us in. Quest calm and quietly proceeded to lead the rest of the ride until it was time to head home.
When we got back, I decided to ride past the gate and trot away from the barn to gauge Quest's energy and reaction. This will be necessary since part of the tentative conditioning route I have mapped out for us for the spring will involve going past the barn at least once. Poor mareface was definitely confused at first but once I insisted that I was dead serious, she moved willingly. I let her move out a bit before stopping and heading back, tons of praise and neck pats.
Despite the hiccups along the way, I'm thrilled with how the ride went. We did about 4 miles total and it was very informative to see how Quest behaves with different riders/horses out on the trail. Quest feeds off of that confidence and when asked to step up to lead she can do it, though hesitantly. Not knowing what prior trail experience she has had, I'll chalk it up to lack of confidence which is something that will improve with more rides and time.
So far so good!