February 10, 2024
It was unseasonably warm today, so I wasn't about to pass up hitting the trails. Around midday, Dreamer and I headed out for a nice trail ride.
Dreamer was unusually speedy, which was a rather nice change from his recent slow-poke ways. He was also more alert than normal and being a bit overdramatic about things that we rode by. I'm used to him stopping fairly often, being on high alert, and staring at things. I usually let him look for a bit and then ask him to move along. He did that a few times as we hacked along down the trail, and I responded as usual.
However, at one point on our ride he stopped with head raised and was staring intently at something off in the woods to the right of us. Now, often when he does this, I don't see anything out of the ordinary, but I always take a look. This time? It was no imaginary monster, or sound I couldn't hear, or some small creature I would have overlooked. As I zeroed in on what he was staring at, I saw something completely unexpected.
In the woods, situated behind a tree, was a man lying on the ground. He appeared to be sleeping. I stared for a moment to look for signs of breathing (thankfully he was). It was such a strange place for someone to be lying down, that I was concerned he may be hurt. So, once I realized he was breathing, I shouted at him. Then I called again. And again. No response. Not even a twitch.
I was concerned for the man's wellbeing, but I'm no fool. There was no way I was going to get close and try to wake him. "Death by psycho in the woods" is NOT how I'm going to go.
Since I was near the trailhead, I decided to ride on and flag down the first person I came across. Thankfully, it didn't take long before I came across two bikers. I stopped them and explained what I saw. Not only did I want a second opinion on what to do about this guy, but if I did have to attempt to wake him, I sure as heck wanted witnesses. I led them back down the trail and when they saw him, they were surprised. I think perhaps they were hoping or thinking I was joking. I wouldn't blame them. It was an extremely bizarre situation after all.
We all stopped in the middle of the trail, and the two of them also shouted at him and tried to rouse him from a distance. Still no response. Another biker came by and stopped to see what we were doing. He said he would be coming back this way in an hour and a half and would see if this guy was still there by then.
Since he was not sprawled out, but rather lying in a typical side sleeping position, and he was breathing, we decided that we would all continue on, and the third biker would check on his way back. I was also going to have to come back that way, so I planned to check as well.
I ended up seeing a friend and stopped to chat for a while. A good bit of time had passed by the time I made my way back toward where the man had been sleeping. As I rode back, I decided that if he was still lying there, I would call someone to have him checked on. As we rode by, I saw that he was awake, sitting up, and sipping on a drink. He did not appear to be in distress, so Dreamer and I continued on our way back to the barn.
I do believe that I was likely the only person on the trail who saw him. Had Dreamer not clocked the man's location, and I not bothered to check what had his attention, I would have never seen that man. What if it had been an injured person? What if it had truly been someone who needed help and nobody noticed?
I made sure to tell Dreamer that he did a brilliant job alerting me to that man's presence.
We horse people need to keep in mind that our horse's senses are far superior to ours. They will always see, smell and hear things that we don't/can't. Also, people who push their horses to move on immediately, rather than letting the horse look, process and continue, can end up missing something important.
The moral of today's story? Always listen to your horse.