I still haven't quite figured out how this goes. The power-sharing thing, that is. George hasn't figured it out either.
If I say stop, and George says go, that's not ok. I guess. If I say go, and George says no, that is ok. I'm sure of that. We can just wait. If I say go this way, and George says, let's go that way, that might be fine. If I say go forward, and George says go back, that's ok-but-not-ok - in other words, I'll let him go back, but with an expectation that it's temporary.
It's ok to eat, but mostly that should happen when I decide. Mostly. If George decides to trot, that's fine, but he has to let me control the speed.
On Sunday, I felt like going for a ride. So, as is my new custom, I announced my intention by fetching out a saddle and hanging it on the gate; I then waited to see who would come over. Well, they all came, and I think they were actually hoping that I'd let them out to play in the yard. However, George touched the saddle with his nose, which is the signal for "Take me out and let's tack up!" It is highly likely that George didn't in fact know that this signifies any such thing, but if he'd objected to being tacked up, I'd've put him back in the field. In fact, he was a little angel, and didn't even make a face when I did up the girth.
I got my daughter to stand by his head while I hopped up onto his back with my newfound agility. (Some day I'll tell you about that.) George decided to go down the drive, and I agreed. At the end of the drive, there was a period of discussion, involving me saying, "Let's go," and George demurring. However, I waited, and pretty soon he decided to set off.
Once in motion, he got quite keen and even wanted to trot away from home down the farm lane. There were a lot of things to look at and wonder about, but he stayed with me. We had a couple of bounces and frights on the way back, what with the crazy mares running around the field, and the lawnmower, and such, but nothing too unsettling.
The thing I see with George is that he does not have an expectation that I'm going to be saying much to him, other than in very broad terms - stop/go/left/right. Whereas with Rose already, who is much "greener," I can feel an awareness from her that I might be communicating on a more subtle level - communicating things about her body and movement, input which she might consider taking into account. I rode George with the bitless bridle, and I think he actually prefers the bit. He's never minded putting it on, and the wider straps of the bitless were causing him to want to scratch his head a lot. Perhaps he'd be more in listening mode if he were wearing the bit.
When we returned home, I was able to tell my daughter that George had been very nice. I reflected that there was a time when such a ride might have resulted in my saying that the horse had been annoying or difficult. But each time we had a difference of opinion, neither of us became irritated or fearful or resistant, and so I was able to truthfully say that George had been nice. Which he was.