First Star to the Right ...

The universe shrank to center on the pair as they moved in under the trees and back out to be touched by moonlight.

Trail stretched unending , like a heavy cord of licorice taffy, before and behind. Time stopped - the world faded into nothingness. They ran in a small ever-changing, pocket of existence. The rhythm of his hoofs beat as the heart of that universe. Trail appeared before them and lost substance as they moved past. There was no thought, no pain, no emotion, only a nightmarish, instinctive drive to chase past each ribbon as it appeared. But, perhaps, that was only the perception of the rider, clinging to the saddle.

The young gelding moved down the narrow, wooded trail, alert, with a long, free stride

~ ~ ~

This photo is of me and SHADOW in '93, at about 2am at the finish of our first 100 mile endurance ride. We'd been going for 23 hours and 42 minutes, over 20 hours of that on the trail. It was in October of that year, so yeah, we rode a lot of that in the dark. And not just any dark, but East Texas deep piney woods dark. I don't care how full the moon is, or how cloudless the sky, not much light can get down past those tall pines. The thing is, horses can see in the dark just fine. Most horses live outside. They spend half their lives in the dark and seem to be comfortable with it in a way that modern people can't really wrap their heads around. I'm sure they can't see as well in the dark as they can in clear sunlight, but I've never had one that seemed to have trouble knowing where to put their feet. In total pitch black, they'll slow down and soften their gait and, in my experience, slowly sway their heads from one side to the other as they go down the trail. I don't know if they are watching or listening - probably both.

What seems to bother them more than the dark is the shadows. The night can be otherworldly, turning familiar things unfamiliar - and moreso with a bright moon. It seems that even a stark moon casts muted shadow. Where we live, we have a lot of light-colored rock, and it seems to almost glow in the moonlight, counterpoint to the odd moonshadows from the once familiar bluestem and yucca.

The thing that you really have to have to ride at night is trust - trust in your horse. If you have that, you can let them run - and there is something inexplicably freeing in the abandon of turning yourself over to their care. In the daylight, even at a gallop, you probably keep that contact - you're watching the trail and speaking to the horse with your hands and seat and balance, warning them of a rumple in the trail, a hole or a rock, collecting them subtly when the trail shifts downhill. In the dark, when they can see ahead and you can't - any direction you give them is only interference. If you don't have trust, that same ride will be a trial of gut-clenching terror - like riding a roller coaster with your eyes closed.

Sue L


Leah Braemel said...

LOL, I know what inspired this post!

Details like how they turn their head from side to side can add an interesting reality to my tail.

And 100 miles? You both must have been exhausted. But I'll remember that too if I want to write about a character riding that long. Thanks, Sue!

Leah Braemel said...

LMAO I should have spellchecked that one - make that 'tale', not 'tail'. Talk about a Freudian slip there!

Cathy said...

I still have the locks of Shadow's mane. Time flows like a river.

Becky Burkheart said...

>>LOL, I know what inspired this post!

YES!! and thank you. it turned out to be a good topic.

and LOL about the 'Tell Tale Tail' - I'll have to write that one!


Cathy - yes, time flows. I still miss him, I guess I always will. The locks I have ... I was never able to make a display for him with the snips like I did for the others, and there's no marker on his grave. I just couldn't - and now, as you said about time - it's starting to grow over.

Sue L