Moonlight Trail Riding

Here at everyone on staff is involved with horses in one way or another. Some of us compete or have competed in various disciplines, western and english, some of us are accomplished trainers or knowledgeable in keeping a horse healthy. Among us we have everything from multi-stall barns to pasture kept horses with simple shelters. We have expensive horses and ones we keep just for the love of it. Quarter horses, Thoroughbreds, Racking Horses and my personal favorite, Paso Finos, are everyday topics among our staff.

Story originally posted by: C harmain Senior Site Producer

We debate the pros and cons of neck sweats and bell boots. Magnetic therapy, homeopathic remedies and home-made fly repellants. Honestly, we really don’t love any one breed or discipline over another. We just love the horse!

Last Saturday night, October 14th, found my husband, Lou, and myself on the road for what would be a first for me. A night-time trail ride under a full harvest moon. I had spotted a home-made sign on a road sign the week before with a phone number to call for information. Lou made the call and we decided to go at the last minute. Our horses, Sadie – Lou’s Palomino Quarter Horse and Dusty – my Buckskin Paso Fino, had recently been shod for the fall and were ready for the trail. Lou packed his flashlight and we were off.

We arrived at the homesite of the Dirty Butts Trail Club in Hephzibah, Georgia, just off Highway 25 a little after 7 p.m. A typical trail scene welcomed us. Horse trailers, some already unloaded, were everywhere. Someone was stretching a tie-line for their horses. Some were preparing to stay the night with tents. There were dogs and little children everywhere. Someone was preparing a bonfire for later. Organized chaos was evident everywhere we looked. One of the first sounds we heard was laughter.

The gate keeper directed us to our host and hostess, Richard and Teresa Marcano, who greeted us warmly and made us feel very welcome by taking us around and introducing us to our fellow trail riders.

photo: trail We smelled the barbecue long before we got back to camp.

As night fell horse and riders gathered around, some with glow sticks and flashlights, waiting for the rising moon. Just as the moon began to peak over the horizon a deputy sheriff arrived to help us cross the highway onto our designated trail. 1200 acres of marked trails, through pecan orchards and deep woods, around lakes and through freshly cut hay fields. As the moon ascended in the night sky, the ground took on a silvery cast and our shadows shortened. Horses neighed, the riders … some quiet … some noisy … all enjoying themselves. Approximately one hour into the ride we stopped at an empty house, set back from a field … the windows like bits of black coal next to the white paint in the moonlight. Steam rose from the bodies of our horses and their breath was like smoke from a medieval dragon. Once or twice we lost our way from the trail and the adrenalin flowed even though we knew there was no danger. Some horses refused to cross a small stream and we had to turn around and make another way. Moonlight casting distorted shadows through tree branches spooked more than one horse.

Flashlights were needed in the deep woods where the moonlight was blocked by ancient oaks and tall pines. Horses stepped gingerly over felled trees and down embankments. The scent of woodsy things and crushed pine needles reminded me of Christmas.

In all we rode approximately 4 hours led by our host, Richard, who is a certified EMT, and upon returning to the campsite found the bonfire reaching for the sky and the smell of barbecue chicken on the grill. By one a.m. Sunday morning the horses were cooled down and resting quietly while we enjoyed a full course supper around the bonfire. The fee for this heavenly encounter … bring a covered dish! Talk was fast, punctuated by exclamations of delight over one story or another. One rider whose cinch broke while trotting through a hay field, causing her to take a spill, was catered to by all.

By two a.m. our horses were loaded and after saying goodnight all around with promises to come again, Lou and I headed for home. We quietly talked about the night, not wanting to break the spell cast over us by the moonride.

When we reached home, our other horses, Snowball and Dixie Boy neighed like crazy and ran the fence line to welcome us back.

We’ll go again I’m sure. And soon I hope.