I got to ride again this weekend. This time I took Cody out. I was tempted to ride her in her old bridle (double-jointed snaffle) just because I felt like if she was nervous or herd-bound like she was back in early spring when I last rode her, then I'd be able to control her a little better, but I ultimately decided to stop babying her and just ride her in her new bridle with the curb bit. The curb bit has some long shanks which give a lot of leverage when pulling back on the reins, but I don't feel like it gives me better control. It certainly makes her respond quickly if I happen to pull back firmly, but I think it also gets her a little uptight...and my way of dealing with unexpected spooks and misbehavior is to pull her head to the side (direct rein-style), and that can be awkward with a curb bit.
But, I used it. She was a little rusty with it, added to concerned about why we were heading away from home (she's always been like this when ridden alone - you have to keep her mind very busy when going away from home, other-wise you are constantly nit-picking to keep her forward and from looking back toward home). But she wasn't nervous like she was back in early spring when the snow crunching and wind rattling through brown oak leaves still holding tight to dormant branches just set her on edge. But, because she was too busy looking back, it was difficult to get her to respond appropriately to neck-reining - she took some reminders about it, and some firmness. About halfway through our ride, she sort of relaxed about being out alone and we were far enough away from home that she wasn't gawking to see if she could look back home and then she became very responsive. All in all, she was pretty good on our ride, although I'd expect an 8 year old mare whose been ridden since she was 3 and just last summer had 2 months of professional training to be a little better. Normally, I'd give her more slack since she has had quite a bit of time off from riding, but my 7 year old mustang whose had 2 years off from riding was way better than she was on his first time back on the trail! But, they are two very different horses. Chico has always been ready to go out, alone even, and he likes to explore. Cody would rather be home lounging with her buddies. When we ride out with more than one horse (usually I pony one along), my horses are much better. Cody then isn't looking back concerned with leaving the others. The only exception is when I am out with both of my mares who are both a little herd-bound. Then, occasionally, instead of boosting confidence in eachother, sometimes they'll feed off eachother and both be concerned with home and then I don't have such a relaxing ride. That's only happened a couple of times though. Usually they are doubly good riding out together.
The ride I went on this weekend was about an hour an a half long. I went in the morning, but even so, it was pretty hot and humid. I didn't push Cody too hard because of that, we only trotted a couple of times for very short distances. Despite our gentle ride, Cody was still soaked with sweat by the time we got back. Horses just don't dry when they sweat when it is that humid (sometimes I really miss riding in Idaho). She enjoyed being rinsed off with the hose when we got back.
I'm hoping to go out for a ride with my neighbors tomorrow. They have Tennesee walking horses. It should be an interesting ride.