"I don't like this." I said to David. "The trail seems to be degrading and I feel this is over his head".
"Yeah, I see your point." (Good husband, that David).
So, we turned around and headed back after only about a mile and a half. As we approached the steep crumbly narrow downhill, I considered my options. I could ride down, which would be the brave cowgirl way, but he could flounce like he has done before on much less of an incline, and step off the trail. I could lead him down, but he could flounce and run me over because I knew it would be a small crawl down for me in my cowgirl boots. Or, I could ask David to lead him down. Think about it, would you rather walk down a steep narrow trail by yourself.... or with a fifty pound backpack on your back? I figured he was probably best handling his own body without me on top of him or in front of him, so this would be the easiest for him, and the safest for me. I took a deep breath, swallowed my pride, and said to David, "I think I'd like you to lead him down and I'll walk." He agreed.
He is improving getting his body soft to go down the hills, but this was very steep. He did flounce, he tossed his head, he sort of slid his feet around, but he stayed right behind Roy and on the trail (good boy). They waited for me to side step down the hill. Back in the saddle, we walked pleasantly back toward the trail head. One thing about this horse (I believe this is a Major Mac thing), he doesn't hold on to his fear. When something startles him or gets him rattled, as soon as it's over, he's over it. By the end of the trail, he was bravely crossing the bridges in front of Roy, his body calm, his eyes and ears alert.
Since our ride was cut short, we returned to Eagle Creek, just down the road a couple miles, and played in and out of the creeks and waterways some more. I always check the sheep report before heading out, and they reported a band of sheep the next canyon over, but here we found a little sheep wagon, with a stake for the sheherd's horse, but no sheep, no horse, no shepherds. We went over and inspected the wagon and then moved on. We got into some knee deep water and slid down some banks to get in and out of the creek, and that was enough for the day. We had a bigger plan for tomorrow, so we headed home.
He's a fast learner. This is so darn much fun!