Last Sunday Dandy and I had a great session. Some precise and thorough groundwork, a few cool minutes riding bareback in the arena around other horses (he was *very* good about that), then saddling up, back into the arena for a solid schooling period, and just as I was ready to wrap it up (I had loped him off at good speed and he was comfortably relaxed), two ladies headed out for the trail.
A little voice in my head told me the moment had come, and I enquired about joining them. They said they were taking an half hour walk around the area, and that I was welcome, so out the arena we went.
I’m happy to report Dandy was GREAT about it all. The ride ended up lasting not 30 minutes, but 1h15, and he was brilliant nearly the whole time. We mostly walked, he kept a respectable distance from the other horses and was pretty willing and easy to drive, and the short distance we covered at the trot was rather uneventful. He did get ever so slightly upset at the end, I had to -partially- bend him around a handful of times and he regained his composure every time very easily. Only at the very end of the ride did he unexpectedly snaked his head pretty hard, which I took extremely seriously, as it is a sure sign of concern or being upset for him, so I made sure I was 100% focused on him, and we walked back to the stables with good relaxation. My fellow riders could hardly believe he was 2.5 and on his first group ride, ever. Color me proud, very proud.
Dandy after we came back as the sun was setting, I had to lead him to his pasture in near darkness but he was perfect about that too. Another proof, if needed, that doing things at the horse’s pace, without getting ahead of oneself or pushing them too fast, too hard, is a sure way to build a sane partner.