After figuring out why Hidalgo was behaving the way he was it was clear what I had to do. I think a lot of people struggle with worrying about forcing or hurting a horse's feelings but they enjoy a strong leader otherwise they think: "Hey, I mind as well be the leader and you will follow me around. Trust me it will be fun!" As you get dragged in all directions.
You can't really hurt a horse's feelings, well, I may have seen Hidalgo mope a few times when I refused to share candy with him but it made him stronger. They are definitely tougher than us humans. They are big creatures and horses correct each other way more "harshly" than I could.
It takes a bit of balance. Forcing or correcting a horse that is fearful is not the best approach. In Hidalgo's case, he was in more of a stubborn defiant state. He was never the type to spook or be afraid of anything, unlike Frisky who would pretty much follow me around without a rope and was sensitive to any amount of pressure and used to be afraid of her own shadow. Hidalgo knew for sure he was stronger than me if the rope was around his neck and would just drag my tiny 100lbs around. He had been getting away with a lot for so long that I had to get creative as the usual approach was ineffective at this point. I used a rope halter on him that would tighten the more he pulled. The closer he got to me it would loosen. He did not like this at first but even though he was super stubborn he was also super lazy and the halter proved too much work and that following me around was much easier. He no longer tried to drag me with the halter on. If he showed signs of losing focus when I was leading him I would yank or change directions quickly. I learned that quick bursts are was more effective than constant pressure. Constant pressure just encourages a horse to overpower the pressure. Over time he got used to focusing on me and we both could relax. Once I got Hidalgo listening to me on the ground I decided to ride him. I got on him. He was pretty pleasant on flat ground. I decided to go down "the hill" ( again it was more of a road that sloped downwards). I kid you not he tried his old trick of picking up speed without my permission and tried to put his head down!!! This did not scare me as I was prepared to ride it out as my balance was pretty good. I then decided. Ok. I'll give him what he wants. I pulled his head up a bit and urged him to gallop down the road. Hidalgo was like. "Wait no! I don't actually want to run!" He tried to slow down I said nope and urged him to go faster. I then made him go back up the road and back down. We were just going every which way I wanted to go as fast as I could make him. We went back home when I wanted to. I swear as I brushed him when we got home he just had a look of disbelief and then took a long nap. I rode him a lot after that. My end goal was to not have to use a bit at all. Freedom could do it. Frisky definitely could. Would I be able to get to that level with Hidalgo?
I was able to control both of them and I realized eventually they would follow me without me actually holding the lead ropes. I also learned I didn't have physically touch them or have a rope to get them to move around.
They had their moments of testing me but were always short-lived.
Our bond grew very strong. I also started to take longer trail rides on him and explore different areas around our farm. He was not the fastest nor most enthusiastic guy but he was solid. Some new things that Frisky would question and I would have to help guide her through and get used to Hidalgo would not bat an eye at.
He really turned into a great riding horse you could put anyone on. I had my friends learn to ride on him. He knew to ignore the noise that can come with inexperienced riders. Frisky was great for me but she did have a tendency to get weary of people she didn't know or trust I think cause she was so sensitive to any extra or unfamiliar movements/mistakes /signals it bothered her. She was good if you had the basics down and she decided she liked you haha.
I wish my husband met him because Hidalgo was so chill and just a great horse to learn basics on as he was a pretty responsive horse and you knew even if a lightning bolt struck a tree near you he would just be standing there with the same demeanor. He truly was a bomb-proof horse.
I learned from him that putting time and effort really does pay off and that being stubborn can be a good thing. And yes, I rode barefoot a lot hehe.