Today my daughter went for a ride on George.
By the time she was ready, he had been pre-sweetened by me taking him out to graze for about 50 minutes. So he was very placid while she brushed him and put his tack on.
However, when it came time to mount, he was not quite pleased. As I've said, I'm trying to interfere as little as possible with the two of them. When my niece rode him the other day, I swapped the bridle for the halter when he wasn't happy at the prospect of mounting. Whether because of that or because he just got distracted, he was fine after the switch. My daughter doesn't want to ride in the halter, however, so we couldn't try that, and she got up despite some very sour looks from Mr. George.
They set off down the driveway. I watched from a distance and saw her employing a trick I taught her, which I learned from someone online - a trick I probably wouldn't use myself any more. If the horse resists going forward by backing up, you simply turn him in the direction he wants to go, and then ask him to back up. If he wants to go home, he ought to then resist by going forward, but the logic of this seems to escape all horses, and they find themselves backing up in the wrong direction. After a while, they generally throw their hands up and go "Oh well, what the heck, I may as well go forward in the direction she wants."
I saw my daughter turn and back George several times before he agreed to go forward down the drive. I was proud of her that she stayed patient and unruffled the whole time and praised George for backing up when she asked him. She didn't make it punitive - just an exercise. He finally relaxed, lengthened, and set off for the ride.
I think part of the problem is that he doesn't like to lead. Despite his macho nature, he'd much rather have one of the girls go in front of him.
I'm not sure what to make of the sourness at mounting. My daughter is very no-nonsense and doesn't agonize over it - he's fine once she's up, why worry? I'd be interested to give her a leg up when he's bareback, and also see what he does when she mounts into the saddle if he's wearing just a halter. It may not be the tack. He may feel that moment of mounting is a moment when to some extent he relinquishes control. It's also the case that the spot you stand in to mount is a vulnerable spot. He's also, frankly, still as green as grass.
When they returned after half on hour, my daughter said he had been nice. I will feel better if we can figure out what is bugging him about mounting.