There’s a monster in the woods, she said.
Left leg, right rein. No there is not. Glance left, pause, stare left. No, there definitely is not.
There’s something in the woods and it does not belong.
Sidepass, sidepass, no spinning, there is nothing there and you’re making it up again. Not even a shopping cart like last year. No deer, no leaves moving, just get over it and go already. Right rein, left rein, leg leg leg, gentle tap, more rein-ohcrap “HELLO! CAN YOU SAY SOMETHING SO MY HORSE KNOWS YOU’RE THERE?”
The rustling stopped. The figure – barely visible, forty feet into the trees – paused for a few moments, then started crackling off again in the opposite direction. One solitary male human. Probably homeless. May or may not be intoxicated or dangerous, but given the total lack of response, not a good person to run into.
Kick, cluck, kick. Onwards pony, this is not a good place to stick around right now. Reluctantly forwards, sucking back every few steps, full of tension and anxiety with a reminder that the last Real Work was five days ago: too long.
I relaxed a bit when we crossed the road into the park. She did not. Cold. Chilly. Oddly empty, as the time change has sent all the tourists home, and oddly quiet. We trotted a mile out, full of anxious energy and spooks and tension, and I hopped off and walk/jogged the mile home with her. Too much anxiety, too much energy, all she wanted to do was run. To her credit, she found most of her brain by the time I got back on and we crossed the road to head back towards home.
Stealthy pony-steps in the fading light, all senses alert. No verbal communication needed. Watch the ears, trust her senses, get us home safe and silently.
A distinctive ‘clink’ as we walked quietly in the twilight. Barefoot hoof against glass bottle. It’s that time of year again: no more solitary evening rides.