I remember the first time Mother and I went on a trail ride.
I had been under saddle a few rides. Actually, it took three or four times just standing with her on me before I was ok with walking. (After my mountain lion experience, we worked with ground driving, and I went for surgery on my face and stayed at Uncle Jeff's for weeks and then came to the barn I live now, and we started the saddle riding thing over again.) She had been trying to teach me things, in the arena, like steering. I didn't see the point of steering, in the arena. Mother started riding me outside the ring, and with things to go around, I figured out what she meant right away.
One day, we started up the trail. I'd been led on it before, and had walked it with Mother on me once or twice up the hill, but we went UP up the hill, down the other side, out of sight of all my friends. I was on high alert. Although Mother was there, she wasn't in front. I was leading the way. And bringing up the rear. Like I said, high alert.
Mother was nice, and always let me remember she was there. She knows when I get nervous, and just remembering that she is there means someone else is looking for predators, too. I've never been eaten or attacked with her around, so I think her judgment is pretty good.
At one point, a horrible swishing and skittering occurred, and something small and sinister scuttled in front of me and crashed to the side. I leapt forward, but Mother reminded me with the reins that she was there and that there was no reason to panic. In retrospect, that squirrel was just afraid and trying to get back to its tree, but at the time... That was the only time I've spooked on the trail. Three little steps. I am a good horse.
We went out a few more times, just me and Mother, and one time with Aunt Margie and Magnum, once with Erin and Sunman, and once with Jeanie and Thippers. I made him cross the scary things first, and followed exactly in his footprints, where it must be safe because he made it through unhurt. I am a very logical horse.
Those were fun times. When my leg bothered me so much I couldn't hide it from Mother, she stopped riding me. The night before I went down south for surgery, she hopped on me, bareback with my halter and one rope; I started up the trail. She let me walk a little bit, but then she sighed, had me stop, and she slid off. She said maybe when I came back from my surgery. But we never do any of that stuff anymore.
Oh, well, I still get brushed and lots of hay and good cookies every night. Cookies are what it's all about!