The barn was really busy tonight, horses in all of the turn out areas, 5 or 6 horses in the arena, and a lot of commotion. Marley is fine on the ground with all that is going on most of the time, but under saddle he can be a little silly around the other horses. I've mentioned it before, but for some reason he doesn't want to go anywhere near them.
It was the same thing today, except he was much more apprehensive than usual. He started whinnying and flipping his head and was very nervous. I contemplated getting off of him and lunging him, but I decided that I needed to stick with my decision to get on in the first place. I rode it out basically, continuously asking Marley to keep moving forward when he wanted to stop and start hollering. I just asked him do simple tasks that he already knows and just kept treating him as I wanted him to behave, not how he was behaving. I don't like to pet Marley and talk to him too much when he is so worked up, not because I don't want to calm him down, but because I would be inadvertently reinforcing that type of reaction.
When only one horse remained in the arena with us, Marley completely chilled out. I trotted him out, letting him stretch his nose to the ground and ride on the buckle. When the other horse left, I took off his saddle and bridle and rode him bareback with the halter (in the rain) which I think he really liked. It completely refocused his attention on me, as I have never gotten on his back without a saddle, and I was glad to end our not-so-awesome day with that.
So, if anyone has any advice or tips on getting Marley to relax around other horses (and seriously by relax I mean go within 15 feet of them) it would be much appreciated. On the ground he doesn't seem to have the same hangups, and he is wary of the other horses, but he isn't horrible. He really gets a lot of confidence from me going first. So far, anywhere I walk he gladly follows, but that dynamic is totally different when I'm on his back. He has been really comfortable and relaxed so far in his under saddle training, but this problem seems to be progressing despite my efforts so it's time to try something new.