My riding buddy and I headed out for a mellow evening ride last week. The ponies were sound. We knew we were short on daylight. I knew my saddle was shifting, so every thirty seconds or so I’d look back to see if the crupper was lined up center (answer: only 50% of the time). But that’s usually a pretty good recipe for a short and sweet pony trail ride.
First problem: I could not get comfortable. My knee flared up late last week when I ground-mounted without enough flexibility (oops, rider problem, needs work). This was my first time riding in the Eurolight since it had been re-fitted over the weekend. Hindsight: not a great idea. I finally gave up and dropped my stirrups right about the time we came to a screeching halt because there was a SIGN!
Second, third, tenth problems: Repeated signs in the park. All over the place. Every time we’d think about trotting, we’d come back down to a walk to contemplate the TERRIFYING SIGNS. They were not that terrifying, but they are not normally there. This also made for a super-slow ride because 1. I could not comfortably trot with feet in stirrups and 2. OMG SIGNS. PONIES MUST LOOK.
We turned for home, again looking at every single sign that were so kindly spaced that we could not get a good trot going in between. The humans spooked at the cars that were practicing backing through cones, slalom-style, in the dark. No full moon, but it was close.
On the last little section heading home, there was a group of people visibly on the trail. “Hey guys, two horses coming towards you on the trail!” I don’t normally call out, and even more rarely at night, but I figured this was the group of stoners we’d seen on our way out.
I was wrong.
One person stepped off the trail, crackling the brush a little, but happily chattered on about how much he loved horses and how friendly he was and even introduced himself: all this in maybe fifteen seconds. OK. Another person walked down the trail, same direction we were going, carrying a light and continuing to talk. First I assumed he was talking to a second person that was with him. Then the lack of other voices had me thinking he was talking to someone on the phone. There was definitely something about “girls”, and heck, if I were out in the woods I’d be telling people what was going on around me too.
Not very long into all this I realized he was talking either to himself or to us or a combination of both. “I’m all alone. You want to follow me? Come follow me.”
Ever heard the stereotypical “You wanna fight? Come outside and we’ll fight”? This was that tone of voice. Except that it was in the dark, he had a light and was ahead of us on the trail, and he was definitely alone and at least a little bit crazy.
We paused the ponies in a relative clearing and watched his light ahead of us. It kept moving, and then blinked off. We could not tell if it was off due to going 100% out of sight a ways down the trail and just being a line of sight issue, or if it had been turned off.. and the section ahead of us was lit a little bit strangely. It takes a lot to scare me, but this felt like walking into an ambush.
We turned around and detoured down the highway instead. Bless our tolerant ponies, they did not object at all to turning around two minutes from home to go back out for a twenty-minute detour.