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Close Encounters on the Trail

By Leslie Potter

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

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Trail Riding
You never know what you'll find when you go exploring on horseback. Photo: Leslie Potter
The weather has cooled down quite a bit here in central Kentucky, which makes for ideal trail riding. Since our abbreviated show season is long over, Snoopy and I are enjoying some relaxing meandering on the paths around our boarding farm. It’s usually relaxing, anyway.

Last night, we followed the usual path out to the back of the farm. As we approached the point where the trail moves away from the paddocks and into a wooded area, I noticed Snoopy start to tense up. I thought it was just because of the frolicking horses in the paddock behind us, but then I looked over just in time to see three small deer in a clearing ahead of us. They looked at us, and I had only enough time to think, “uh oh” before the deer turned and went crashing off down the trail. Snoopy responded in kind, sitting down and demonstrating an enthusiastic rollback and starting off back up the trail. I’d been on quite a loose rein, and it took me a few strides to convince him to stop. Fortunately, Snoopy is generally inclined toward whatever option requires the least amount of work, and he decided that continuing to walk back down the trail was easier than galloping home.

The deer stayed just ahead of us on the path for a little while, running off again each time we got too close. Snoopy stopped being afraid of them and actually seemed a bit curious about them. Eventually, they went off the path and we continued on our lazy, relaxing ride.

Encountering deer on the path is a pretty standard exercise for trail riders. In fact, this is the third consecutive ride where we’ve seen deer—although this was definitely the closest. But it reminded me of what was probably our most exciting trail encounter.

Years ago, we were out on the trails near our barn in Maine, approaching the field where I liked to practice Snoopy’s animated saddle seat trot. Suddenly, Snoopy froze. I looked around and didn’t see anything, but could feel the tension increasing in my horse. It was as if he coiled up into nothing but 1,000 pounds of potential energy. I still didn’t see anything, but I heard heavy hoofbeats and the jingle of a harness. Seemingly out of nowhere, a pair of Belgians came trotting into view in the field in front of us, pulling a huge wagon. Snoopy was trembling, but transfixed. We were obscured enough by the trees that neither the horses nor their driver noticed us. I think we opted to skip riding in the field that day, although I’m sure I would have had quite an animated trot from Snoopy after that experience.

What’s the strangest encounter you and your horse have had on the trail? Click “Submit a Comment” below and share your story.

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kygal    rural, KY

9/26/2012 10:03:04 AM

the first horse I actually rode was named Mongoose a 15 year old who was great learning experience we were riding in the pasture when he stopped and went in the opposite direction of what I wanted so I turned him back just in time to see a skunk crossing the area where we would've been I learned to trust a horses judgment after that sometimes they know best

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