It was pitch black in the trees. As we sped along the trail, it would wind back out into the open and the moon would turn the world into a ghostly land of shadows and shapes. I wasn’t sure, but I thought we were getting close. I’d ridden the trail dozens of times on at least a dozen different horses, but in the dark it was leached of its familiarity.
As we wrapped around a small canyon, I distinctly heard the sound of hooves pounding along behind us. No telling how far, but definitely close. My heart leapt into my throat and I’m pretty sure I made some sort of a sqeak noise. “Stoner! We gotta go!”
My brave, willing and nearly invisible pony felt my panic and surged into a powerful canter. I knew enough about the trail to understand that we were smoking it just at the limit of safety – not counting that it was dark – but we’d been riding for 15 hours and the sound of those hooves felt much more sinister than the actual Norwegian girl on a willowy chestnut mare making them could ever be.
We thundered around the next bend and I saw the lights of the finish up above us – we were so close! Stoner again picked up on my excitement and he whipped through the last tight turn, tired but powerful hindquarters propelling us both up the last hill and into the open. We galloped toward the finish line in front of a cheering crowd (which was really cool) and I dropped down against his neck as we passed underneath it, hugging him on the verge of tears.
We were the 5th place finishers in the 2014 Western States Trail Ride (aka the “Tevis Cup”).