Ever imagine a worst case scenario of what could happen to your horse?  Does it involve your horse running away from you and out into traffic?  If you own a Maeby, you can make that nightmare your reality!

This weekend, Bryan and I decided to take Mae out and hand walk her on the trails near my barn.  She’s never gone out beyond barn property since we’ve had her, and of course we decided to choose the coldest, most blustery day of the weekend to throw on her halter, leadrope and go.  Surprisingly, initially she did better than I expected. 

To get out onto the actual trail, you have to traverse under an active overpass through ankle deep mud, through some woods where the litter can get piled up to your shins (where I was trampled by Ryon btw), and then over one wooden bridge that spans a creek.  As we slogged through the mud, under the overpass, and winding through the trees, Mae was nervous but not crazy.  She wanted to be close to me, even though I was literally trailblazing, and in front of Bryan but otherwise she was reacting as she normally does when she confronts something new.  When we got to the bridge, which is about two stories above the running creek, Mae calmly walked over it without a pause, shocking considering I had fought with Ryon for over half an hour to get him to even step onto it. 

I thought we were in the clear when we ended up in the big, open field on the other side of the bridge.  But Mae was looky at the dog walkers and looky at the cars driving by.  She’d nervously graze and then whip her head up to look around.  After we had let her wander around for 15 minutes, I asked her to trot in circles, paying attention to me, which was going smoothly until - well - it wasn’t.  All of a sudden, Mae decided she had had enough of this outdoors business, bucked, cantered, ripped the lead rope out of my hands, and took off at a gallop across the field toward the bridge heading back to the barn.  She stopped right in front of the bridge, as if waiting for us to follow.  I didn’t think she’d be able to cross the bridge on her own, and Bryan and I walked (quickly) toward her. 

As soon as she noticed that we were heading in her direction, she sniffed the bridge and nonchalantly picked her way across it BY HERSELF.  As soon as she crossed the bridge and disappeared out of sight, we ran for it.  When we reached the bridge, we saw that she had loped off, past the opening in the woods that headed back to the barn, and was running toward the other bridge on the far side of the trail.  She stopped tentatively at that bridge, took a nervous poop, and then slowly crossed that one as well. 

The paved sidewalk, at that juncture, continues to the left under another overpass, however you also have the option of taking a right and walking on a gravel trail that cuts behind a shopping complex toward a busy six lane road, three lanes in both directions.  The gravel trail also happens to be a shortcut back toward the barn, once you get through the busy intersection and past the active golf driving range.

It was at this point that Bryan started muttering under his breath - she’s dead, she’s dead.  I thought we were pretty calm throughout her entire escape but my heart dropped as she turned toward the gravel path.  As she picked her way toward the intersection, images of her running into traffic and getting smashed by a car were flashing through my mind. 

Of course by the time we reached the intersection, she had beat us to the road, standing on the curb, looking at traffic.  The light was red when she stepped onto the street, although it flashed green as soon as she was two lanes across.  Oncoming cars slowly and patiently came to a stop in a line at her crossing.  No one honked or shouted.  At the median, she paused.  Steady traffic was rushing the other direction.  She didn’t spook, she didn’t even look scared, she looked in our direction as if to say - okay I thought I figured out the way back home but clearly I didn’t.  Bryan quickly stepped across the street, grabbed her lead rope, and calmly walked back across while she meekly followed.  She walked back the entire way, quietly and calmly.

I cannot tell you all how scared and angry and frustrated I was at the entire experience, meanwhile feeling like the most awful horse owner ever.  I knew better than to bring only a lead rope, especially one without a chain.  I knew better than to bring her out on her own.  I had thought about bringing treats with me but didn’t grab them before we headed out.  Reflecting back on it all, I’m flabbergasted and astonished at how the entire series of events went down. 

In all my days of trail riding down that particular trail, I’ve never seen one horse willingly go across those bridges, especially not the first time.  When we’re out on the trails near traffic, at least one car honks at us, which startles the horses.  I have never seen a horse WATCH FOR TRAFFIC when it crosses the street and then wait patiently when it knows it doesn’t have it figured out.  The first time I trail rode Ryon, he wouldn’t even step off the curb into the street until we ponied him across.  I’ve met grown adults with a worse sense of direction than this mare.  I may have the world’s smartest or dumbest horse, I’m not sure, but all I know is that she’s the world’s luckiest horse.

When everyone was safe and sound in their paddocks, feet cleaned, and cooled off, Bryan joked that Mae was going to be bragging to all of her friends about her big day out and her grand escape.  I think at that point, I had started breathing again but still couldn’t laugh.  I can finally nervously laugh about it today.  You can bet your buttons we’re going out on the trails again.  But maybe with a pack of horses next time.  And an anchor.