Endurance Riding

Jan 29 2013

Night Ride

Published by under Endurance Riding

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I knew it was going to be cold. I chose my riding apparel carefully – an undershirt, a long sleeve shirt, the warm fuzzy zip-up hoody my mom gave me, my favorite riding vest over that, and then a coat on top of it all. I wore long underwear under my jeans and stuck toe warmers in my boots. Then I wrapped a strip of fleece fabric, leftover from a robe I had made my husband as a gift years earlier, around my head to cover my ears. I grabbed two carrots, a handful of dog treats for Caine, kissed the boys goodnight, and was out the door. I didn’t waste any time throwing my bareback pad on Asali. At the last minute, I decided to pony Forest, thinking that bringing another horse along would calm Asali’s nerves in the dark. 

It was black on the road. I had hoped for some light from the almost-full moon, but I couldn’t spot it in the sky. The trash cans lining the street at our neighbors’ houses looked different in the darkness and spooked both the horses. 

We crossed the street and I switched on my headlamp momentarily in order to see the trailhead. We headed down the hill and disappeared into the forest. I kept waiting for my eyes to adjust, hoping I would be able to see past Asali’s ears. When a Christmas tree brushed my face with its needles, I realized my nerves were keeping me too warm under all the layers of my clothes. 

The narrow trail we were on finally veered to the right and widened, leading us to the body of water below. I could hear cars in the distance, humming as they crossed the bridge, their headlights flooding the sky. The puddles in our path slowed us down, startling me with their silver, glass-like stillness, but we continued to follow the trail downwards, knowing it would wrap itself around the water.

I suddenly felt a frost rise up against my legs. The wind was catching speed off the tiny ripples in the water, causing the air to suddenly turn cold. It chilled me, whispering in my ears, but my feet stayed warm in my boots. I caught a glimpse of the world above and was amazed at the stars in the sky. Every now and then I would see a light from a house in the distance. It would caste an eerie glow on the water and I could see our reflection outlining shapes on the hills to our right. I wondered what the families in those houses were doing. I imagined them wrapped up, in pajamas, tucking themselves into bed in their big, warm, inviting homes. 

Just then, Asali sped up, causing Forest to trot next to us. I realized I was much more aware of my surroundings at night. I could hear every beat of the horses’ hooves, the breath leaving their nostrils, and the “tink tink” of the dog tag on Caine’s collar. I suddenly felt very vulnerable, but very much alive. I took a cold, deep breath in, closed my eyes, and pushed my horse forward. 

When we got to the creek, I allowed the horses to drink. Caine was swimming and I could see steam rise up off his back in the cool night. We spent only a few moments and then continued on. I knew it was going to be tricky finding the trail that would lead us back home, and when a tree thrusted my headlamp to the ground, I panicked, searching frantically for it in the dark. I found it and remounted Asali using a log.

When the horses spotted the trail that led up a steep hill, they began cantering and I knew they knew their way home. We cut off to the left, taking a short cut through the woods. Asali jumped a fallen tree, and when we reached the top, we were greeted by the moon that had been hiding on the other side of the sky. That moon lit our trail home, guiding us every step of the way, flooding the trail with welcoming shadows.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Night Ride”

  1. Linda Straub Boisaon 31 Jan 2013 at 2:30 pm

    You should really write a book Grasshopper. You are gifted with the pen.

  2. Ann Byrnson 31 Jan 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Fabulous story! I could feel your nervous anticipation brought on by the darkness!
    Love, Mom

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