Tonight when I arrived to the barn, the barn owner and Metku's owner were getting ready to go for a trail ride. They were both tacking up with saddles and bridles, but told me they would really only walk, since this was Metku's first time off the property so if I wanted to join in-hand, I could. I asked Little Love what she thought and she was ready to go as well. So, we put on the boots quickly and slipped on the halter and off we went.
Because neither Kira nor Metku wanted to leave the yard first, Little Love and I took the lead. Lilo walked in the front confidently, leading the way as if she had always done just that; lead the way. From Metku's owner's request, we decided to stay on the wider roads instead of venturing onto the narrow paths in the forest. This, of course, sounded good to me, since I know how much Little Love is afraid of the forest. We walked down to the first intersection and turned right onto the dirt road. Kira was significantly slower than the other two horses, so we waited for her every now and then.
We were an impressive sight as we walked with three black horses all the way to the end of the road, which is about a mile and a half from the barn. Many of the neighbors were out on walks as well and there were lots of "oohs" and "aahs" when we strode by with our black mare entourage. The sun was setting in a mostly clear sky and the night was so very still; what a perfect evening for a long walk. The barn owner told us about the lake nearby and suggested we explore the road leading to the lake. This route is off limits for cars, but luckily horses can get past the metal gate set up in the middle of the road. We made our way down the field, dove into the forest and hiked up a winding (but not narrow! :-) mossy path until we were near the lake. Then we turned around and came back down the same way we had gone up.
Little Love was amazing. She walked on my side, slowing down if she noticed I was falling behind. She stopped from voice cues only. She waited for her friends politely. The only time she became anxious was when we turned around in the forest and started heading home. At first I thought it was because we were going home and because there were some knats buzzing under her stomach, but once we passed the last tall fir tree and came into the clearing, she immediately calmed down. Obviously it was a bit too many trees for her :-) But despite her anxiety, she never took a trot step nor did I have the feeling of totally losing control. She merely walked fast, at times scrambling over tree roots without exactly looking where she was placing her feet. I had to pull on her face a few times to ask her to stop, as I could not keep up with her (not to mention waiting for Metku and Kira...). But after that part of the walk was over, she was back to her considerate self. Her brave self. Her confident self. Now I know why we had to struggle so many times on trail rides years ago: so that we could both appreciate this life we now have.