Recently a lot of people have been asking me when I'm going to ride Starbuck for the first time and I'm feeling pretty confident that I'll do it in the next few weeks. She's starting to really respect my personal space-- I've achieved a bubble of about 1 foot (I need to expand it but it's a good start) and is much more controllable when leading in new environments. I've also been longeing her in different places to get her to practice focussing on me and my cues even when there are wierd new things around.
One of the most frequent questions I get about the first ride is "What will you do if she starts going and you can't stop her?". Well, according to John Lyons and Elisabeth de Corbigny, the hardest part of a horse's first ride is usually getting them to move their feet, not getting them to stop moving. But I've been reading up and the basic idea is to take advantage of changes of direction using the reins to cause a natural slowing down and keep working on that until it develops into a stop. In other words, instead of just hauling back on the reins which will cause the horse a lot of pain and could cause her to bolt or at the very least stick her head up in the air to avoid the pressure, you keep on riding her with light contact and changing direction using one rein at a time until she stops of her own accord, then you release the reins to let her know she's done the right thing.
Here are some videos from John and Josh Lyons (John's son) which talk more about improving those stops and gaining control over your horse's speed. Enjoy!