"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Friday, October 17, 2014

Night Riding

On Tuesday of this past week, I got out of work at 6:00 pm (I work 6:00 am to 6:00 pm on Tuesdays) and decided to go to the barn because it was supposed to rain for the rest of the week. I wanted to ride but I really didn't feel like riding alone in one of the paddocks. On my way to the barn, I texted Kathy; "Are you at home?"
Kathy: "Yes."
Me: "Want to go for a quick ride?"
Kathy: "Sure!"
Me: "Ok! I'll be there in 20."

It had not rained all day but it was definitely overcast, which meant it was pretty dark by the time I pulled up at the barn around 6:30 pm.

Kathy had Queenie in the barn and was getting her ready. I fetched Gracie from the field and had her ready to go in 10 minutes flat.

I originally really wanted to go riding in the park, despite the darkness, but Kathy wasn't comfortable with the idea precisely because it was so dark: we wouldn't be able to see a thing in the woods. I acquiesced and later realized how right she was.

We decided to just ride around in the front field of the property, which is somewhere between 3 and 4 acres.

Kathy decided to mount up using the fence as a mounting block and it took two attempts before Queenie would hold still long enough for her to get on. Gracie was better for me, but the second I asked her to move forward I had some shenanigans: she did a couple of half-rears and spins in protest while we were still by the gate. I brought her to a halt and made her stand. "Gracie. I just want you to walk. We are just relaxing and having fun." I tried again and Gracie walked forward, ears pricked.

Much better!

We basically walked around and around the field for the next 45 minutes, following the fence line and enjoying riding in absolute darkness.

It actually wasn't quite this dark, but this is all the phone could pick up: the headlights from cars driving down the street in front of Kathy's farm. I honestly would have preferred if there had been no cars: we were momentarily blinded each time they drove by with their lights.

This gives you an idea of the amount of light we had...after applying like 10 filters to the photo!
I had never ridden in the dark like that before. I've ridden at night before but always under the glow of arena lights. Gracie's blonde-tipped mane and forelock formed a halo around her head and neck but it wasn't light enough for the phone camera to pick up. I could see Queenie's blaze and the pallor of her lavender bridle in the darkness, but nothing else.

We had a great time. Kathy and I were able to talk nonstop and catch up on things, and we ended up covering about 3 miles in the 45 minutes that we rode. Both Gracie and Queenie were stellar: neither seemed bothered by the lights of the cars, simply walking confidently onwards into the night. Kathy was amazed, and honestly so was I. I know horses can see quite well in the dark, but I hadn't actually experienced it before.

Afterwards we untacked the mares and lingered, talking, with only the motion sensor light from the barn as a lone beacon in the night.

I told Kathy I have a new item on the equine bucket list: riding under the full moon...in the snow!


  1. Full moon in the snow is WAY harder than you'd think. I finally got to do it in Reno, and here's the problem: the full moon rises when the sun sets, right? So it's super low on the horizon for hours after sunset (as it gets colder and your idea starts to seem stupider and you start thinking about just going home where it's warm), and it's casting huge long black distorted shadows over the stark-white glowing snowfield. It's light enough to see, but really hard to see anything useful!

    A good snowfall should give you enough albedo to see just fine under a quarter or half moon. Just line it up so that it's fresh snow and the moon is high soon after sunset, when you want to ride, and you'll have a great time.

    I LOVE night riding. Best part of hundreds. (Cantering! In the dark! You'll do it one day.) Go do Vermont Moonshine if you don't think you'll be ready for a hundred soon enough!

    1. Funder you made night riding sound like the most fantastic thing ever with your description of it in your 20 Mule Team post. That's going to stay with me for a long, long time! I hadn't done a single endurance ride yet and I was already texting Liz, "We HAVE to do 100 one day!" :D

      Thank you for the tip re: full moon + snow. Good to know, and it also means we can just ride at night whenever it snows...which may be a common occurrence this winter if the long-term forecast for this area is correct. Last winter I would get out of work at 2:00 am and be astounded by how LIGHT everything was outside if it had snowed. I could take pictures with my phone sans flash and everything showed up clearly.

      Really looking forward to it this winter!

    2. And Hannah's description of the Vermont Moonlight made me add it to the bucket list! I do hope to ride it some day.

    3. Awesome! :D

      And that's right, you get out of work at weird hours, so you're not necessarily riding right after sunset. Any fresh snow and more than quarter-moon, high in the sky, should do you just fine.

    4. Awesomeness! :D Sooooo excited!

  2. Riding in the dark is basically all I did 2 winters ago. Our outdoor light was broken and if I didn't ride in complete darkness, I would get to ride. I actually got one of those hikers head lamps and it worked pretty well... My eyes would adjust and Liam and I really bonded with trust in the darkness...

    1. It was so cool to experience how much better than us they could see! It's wonderful that you had that experience with Liam. And I did order a headlamp, so we'll be able to repeat the adventure with a little more light to guide us. :)

  3. I ended up riding at night in the woods by accident several weeks ago. It was on a trail I sort of knew and Nimo was actually totally fine trotting. I was not as fine because I couldn't see well and was convinced that I was going to be smacked in the head by a tree branch. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but I definitely need to practice more! Just FYI, you probably know this already, but the OD hosts a night practice ride in July every year. There's no snow, but maybe there will be a full moon:)

    1. I actually did not know about the OD night practice ride! That is awesome!!

      I hope you post about your night ride! :D

  4. How very fun! I need to get out a lot more at night in the coming months to prepare for 75/100 attempts in the next year. Field riding at night sounds way more appealing than woods and unseen spiderwebs and branches going *thwack* lol

  5. Awesome!!!!! I used to ride at night all the time in the summer because it was just too hot in the daytime! I love it. When there is a full moon everything glows silver and the stars are absolutely amazing!! I never had outside lights but I have great night vision (for a human) so it was cool. I totally have to do a nighttime snow ride. I've never done that because I'm a wimp about cold. I always try to ride at the warmest time of day in the winter. One cool thing about riding at night in a full moon is you can see where you're going but it's funny because it messes with yours and your horse's depth perception!! I always had to giggle when my horse thought she was stepping on flat ground when it actually sloped down suddenly. Thanks for the idea about the snow ride!

    1. That sounds awesome, achieve! You just made me even more excited about this idea! :D