October 6, 2012

Adrenaline Rush and Nighttime Galloping

When my athletic trainer/friend at my Crossfit gym said they were planning on a horseback riding excursion in the scenic national park in the county next to ours, I had visions of a head-to-tail plodding trail ride through the gorgeous fall foliage.

That is not what happened.

What happened:  I showed up dressed like I'd ridden before, and was consequently put on an incredibly sensitive, well-trained and hot little Quarab mare that the public is not normally allowed to ride, and was treated to an experience I'll never forget.  One of the guides was a girl about my age who has also done some eventing, and she put me at the front of the cantering group and several times she had me hold my fiery mare back as the other horses got in front of us, then let her go at a hand gallop or full gallop.

Did I mention that this was a nighttime trail ride, and it was pitch black by 20 minutes into the ride?  Deep in the forested hills of Brown County?  On trails?

What you see is sometimes not at all what you get. She was so incredibly sensitive and well-trained, above and beyond trail horse level for sure.
The experience of just trusting my horse's night vision and knowledge of the terrain, letting go, and tearing around like I was never going to ride again was unforgettable.  I haven't ridden like that in years, and I'd never ridden at night before.  It was scary at first, thinking we'd hit a tree or veer off the trail, but adrenaline took over and I relaxed and let her go - and she wanted to go go go, and loved every second of it.  Her ears were neutral until we started galloping, and then they were pricked and she pranced like a little peacock when I held her back the rest of the ride. She turned out to be as smart and sure-footed as she was well-trained, and she never put a foot wrong, even down steep hills, through creeks, and through narrow, winding, heavily-wooded trails.

At the end, the guide girl motioned me back and said, "Want to see how fast she can really go?"  Turned out, I hadn't yet found her final gear.  The last 200m of the ride was through a totally flat, open pasture with a small water-filled ditch in the middle, and we held our horses, who were still plunging with anxiety to run, until the pasture was clear of riders.  Then she yelled, "Okay!" and let her mare go.  Mine followed, and all I could do was throw my head back and laugh into the chilly fall air as she went from zero to flat out gallop so quickly, the Rolex XC horses should take lessons.  By the time we pulled up, I had tears streaming down my face from the wind whipping me, and I knew that that was the fastest quarter mile I'd ever ridden, and that includes the racehorses in high school.
My awesome group from the gym.  And a random horse butt on the left.
The precision, the hard work and the cautious care we take with our horses is awesome, but tonight I needed a heart-stopping reminder of why I do what I do, and I got it in the most unlikely of places.  Truly something I'll never forget, and a perfect ending to my long 25th birthday week.


  1. Wow! What a rush that must have been :) Happy Birthday Jen!

  2. What a great ride!!!
    Nothing like an Arab to demonstrate speed. I love my cobs, but Barry was like a well tuned sports car and so fun when opened up.
    You should try it with Connor, in a safe area or an arena. Happy Birthday!