Cowboy could tell at breakfast that it was going to be a fun day. His human packed a bag of hay and carried it and his brush bucket outside. He was so excited that he did a little bucking in his stall before munching on his hay. A trail ride! He was going on a trail ride!
Cowboy was a little red Quarter Horse. He was 21 years old, which is pretty old for a horse, and sometimes his knees hurt him a little, but he still liked to buck and run and have a good time. His human laughed at him and said he was scarier to ride than his stablemate, a big black Thoroughbred named Dublin. Dublin was only 9 years old. He had told Cowboy that he used to be a race horse, but he didn’t see the point in running around in a big circle and he usually quit running after a little bit. That seemed to make people mad, and they had given him to a horse rescue before he came home to live with Cowboy. Cowboy didn’t understand why Dublin didn’t want to run. It sounded like the perfect job for Cowboy!
He wondered if Dublin was coming on the trail ride. Sometimes Dublin came, but usually they went with the neighbor and her horse, Dexter. Dexter and Cowboy were good buddies. Dexter thought Cowboy was funny and sometimes they had a good giggle in the trailer on the way to the trail. Boy horses do giggle, you know.
After breakfast, his human came and put his saddle on and they went to the neighbor’s trailer. That meant that Dublin wasn’t coming. If Dublin came, they went in the little trailer outside their barn. Cowboy thought that maybe it was because Dublin got cranky sometimes and kicked the trailer when they were going down the road. So probably it would be him and Dexter today. Yay!
But when they got to the trailer, Dexter wasn’t tied to it. Instead, Lady was there. Lady was a big buckskin mare and she didn’t think Cowboy was funny at all. In fact, sometimes when he was having fun in the trailer or out on the trail, Lady scolded him for being silly. She was really kind of bossy. But that was OK. It was a pretty, cool morning with a little breeze blowing, and it was still going to be a fun day.
His saddle came off and was put in the tack compartment. He and Lady were loaded in the trailer and they headed down the road to the trail. Cowboy tried very hard to be quiet so he wouldn’t annoy Lady. Lady liked to take a nap in the trailer and wanted things quiet. It was hard, though, because he really liked to talk. Cowboy wondered if they were going to the local park, or farther away to the bigger park. That was a pretty long ride in the trailer.
It turned out it was the little park that was close by. It had a lot of scary stuff in it. There were big grassy fields that looked like they would be a great place to eat, but there were often a lot of kids wearing funny clothes running after a ball on the grass while people did a lot of yelling. Talk about silly! But they didn’t ride near there, they just drove by it to the trail.
Pretty soon he and Lady had their saddles on and their humans were on top of them. Cowboy led the way down the trail. Being the lead horse is a big responsibility and Cowboy took it seriously. He paid attention to everything that was happening, and he was sure to warn the others if he thought something was dangerous. Wild animals lived in these woods and sometimes it was hard to tell if something that was moving was a mountain lion or something else, like a fern. A lead horse can’t be too careful. He did a lot of snorting to assure everyone that he was doing his job.
They made it safely past several people walking their dogs. Mostly the dogs just left them alone. Every so often, one would try to sniff his feet. He didn’t like that and his human always asked the dog’s human to make the dog stop. He would like to kick those dogs but his human told him that was bad manners. Cowboy didn’t really care about manners but his human did, and sometimes she would give him a little slap for being rude. Cowboy thought that the slap was pretty bad manners, too.
They went down a hill to a spot where they knew the grass was really good. He and Lady both went over to the grass to see if they could have a bite. Their humans let them have a little grass and then asked them to move on. There was a bridge to cross just past the grass. Cowboy didn’t like bridges and it had taken a long time for him to feel OK about crossing them. They were narrow and noisy and didn’t feel safe. He couldn’t see underneath them and he had a feeling that trolls lived under them. They had rails on both sides so there was no place to run if a troll popped out from underneath. It seemed like a bad idea to go over such a thing.
Today it really seemed like a bad idea and Cowboy stopped and refused to go on the bridge. His human asked him to move forward by squeezing with her legs, but instead he went backwards. After a few minutes, Lady went first instead. Cowboy felt like Lady was rolling her eyes at him and making fun of him for being a coward. That was OK with Cowboy. If there was a troll under that bridge, it would get Lady first. That’s the way it goes in the horse world.
Lady got part way across the bridge safely, so Cowboy went too. No trolls this trip! Thank goodness. He let Lady stay out in front. She could be the lead horse for a while.
They crossed another bridge, which seemed a little safer this time, and turned off on another trail that ran along the creek. This was a great trail because there was a lot of grass growing along it and they got to stop and graze several times. Cowboy had heard the humans joke about how long it took them to do a ride because of all the grass stops, but what was wrong with that? They weren’t in any hurry. He was feeling braver and took the lead again.
The path ahead bent to the left a little and there was a tree by the bend. Cowboy was moseying along enjoying himself. This was usually a pretty safe place and he forgot to pay attention. Suddenly he saw something move behind the tree! A great white wolf sprang out! Its eyes glowed red, and saliva dripped from its bared fangs.
Terrified, Cowboy tried to save everyone by turning and running, urging Lady to do the same. It would be nice to get rid of the human on his back so he could go faster. But the human had hold of the reins and pulled his head around to face the wolf again. What was she thinking?
Oh. It wasn’t really a wolf. It was a little white dog on the end of a leash. It had seemed a lot bigger when it popped out from behind the tree. That was kind of embarrassing, but sometimes it was best to run first and ask questions later. That’s how you keep from getting eaten by wolves.
They crossed a couple more bridges and some more people with dogs. They stopped to eat more grass in the big pasture, too. What a great trail ride! It was getting warm when the sun was shining, but sometimes some big clouds passed over and it cooled down again. Then they were back in the woods. That meant they had gone in a circle and were getting close to where the trailer was parked. Sometimes this was a scary part. There was a place up ahead with some big buildings with a lot of equipment around them and people scurrying all around making a lot of noise. Sometimes there were big plastic tarps that flapped in the wind. The people were often up on top of the buildings and that didn’t make sense at all, but it would be a good place for them if they wanted to pounce on top of a passing horse.
Cowboy had heard the humans call it a “construction site”, but whatever it was called, it didn’t seem safe. He usually warned the humans that it was dangerous and a lot of times, they listened to him and they turned around.
Today it was pretty quiet and he decided it was worth a chance. His human told him what a brave horse he was, and that made him feel good. He kept going down the trail but kept a careful watch. When they got to where he could see the tarps, he had second thoughts and stopped. His human let him look at the tarps for a few minutes, but he just couldn’t decide if it was safe. Finally Lady decided she was bored and she went ahead. Often Lady didn’t worry about things that seemed dangerous to Cowboy. Then she would go first. Sometimes it’s good to have a friend to lead the way. This was one of those times.
They were lucky and got safely past the scary place, and then they were back at the trailer. The humans tied them up and gave them bags of hay to eat. The hay wasn’t as good as the grass, but eating was always good. Cowboy knew that they would soon be back home. He could have a good roll in the dust, and then he would tell Dublin about all the grass and about all the scary things that he had to face on the trail. He knew Dublin would be impressed. Trail rides were fun, but it was always nice to get home again. He could rest up and be ready for the next time!