Dewey has been really well behaved for many new things related to horse shows and expos, so I thought this morning I'd give him something different to think about. I first messed around with fitting his saddle. I swear his back changes nearly every day as he is growing! Good thing I'm a tack junkie and have a saddle and pads for nearly every back shape. (Eventing requires three sets of tack for every horse, one for each phase of competition. Yes, please!) Once Dewey was comfortable we went riding with the dogs out to the back forty.
There must be spring in the air, because walking in the back field was like surfing a tidal wave of grasshoppers. They would rise up in clouds, clicking and flashing in the sun, bumping Dewey's chin, belly, and even MY face and legs! Dewey spent a good chunk of the ride nodding and tossing his head as the little bugs hit him. When we were walking in areas where the grass was shorter the grasshoppers weren't as intense and Dewey quit shaking his head.
We also encountered a herd of antelope. There were at least a dozen of
them, and they were spread out, grazing in the field. As we approached
and got to the top of the little hill they suddenly came into view and
they all lifted their heads at once to inspect us. Dewey noticed them, but didn't
react at all. The dogs were in front of us and they weren't interested
in the antelope. Meanwhile the grasshoppers were still ricocheting off of us and the neighbor's llamas were staring at us. The antelope took off as a group, silently speeding away from us. They didn't go too far though, and then they resumed grazing. This allowed us to approach them again, and the second time they did go under the perimeter fence and ran farther away towards the foothills.
When not concerned about the bugs Dewey had his ears forward, and he gave me a gigantic big walk. My best comparison is to my friends' Morgan mares. We always say that the Morgans were bred to pull the cart when the family goes to town for shopping, and the Morgan hustles so it can get home before the ice cream melts. Dewey's big walk felt like we were for sure doing a Morgan March. Dewey can seriously cover some ground when he is enjoying himself. He asked if he could trot a couple times, but I kept him in the walk because I wanted his first ride out to be calm. We did go and inspect the logs, and Dewey walked over the smaller ones with no problem. The dogs were happy to show him how it was done, and then he just followed.
Dewey was a little clumsy on the uneven terrain, but this is partly why I like to get young horses out of the arena and working in the field as soon as I can. It gives them a chance to really pay attention to their feet instead of just always riding on perfectly manicured sand footing. Dewey had small missteps a couple times over hills or thick clumps of dried grass, mostly when he was hurrying and not paying attention to his feet. I use the voice command "careful" when there is something tricky coming, and Dewey quickly realized that he needed to watch his feet when he heard me say it.
Mostly Dewey thought riding out was way better than riding in a show ring. He was relaxed, forward, interested in everything, and even boldly went in the front when the dogs got off course because they were distracted by a rabbit hole in the neighbor's field. Those rascally rabbits. I am glad for the time I've spent with Dewey in the round pen when I didn't have any other options because of my back surgery, because it really built trust between us. Now we can just go marching out into the wild yonder to face antelope, llamas, distracted dogs, giant logs, and wave after wave of grasshoppers.