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Fog brings humidity, mystery, and surprises to morning barn activities. Dewed spider webs cover the landscape, revealing the masterful artistry one cannot see at other times. Clarity of perception is otherwise shrouded, requiring one to guess or imagine what lies ahead.What is that out there? Is it what I think? Or not? If not, what might that be, exactly? Mystery may mask vision, but it heightens other senses. 

Horses can hear better than humans. Well in advance of our picking up on a sound, perhaps muffled, horses know that something is out there be it friend or foe. I always enjoy an early ride in humid weather before the sun has had a chance to dissipate the fog to repaint the sky in shades of gray and azure. 

First of all, it’s always a good practice to challenge one’s trusty steed by taking him/her out on unfamiliar trails or familiar ones when things are different because it teaches or reminds the horse that the rider is trustworthy, change is not always scary, and spooking for no good reason is not acceptable. 

In terms of natural beauty, there is, as always, so much to observe, even in thick fog. All manner of wildlife enjoy wet grass as a source of refreshment and essential water. I have seen 

woodchucks make frenzied circles in deep, wet grass to suck up the water and bathe themselves. Birds are plentiful early in the morning, but even more so when the ground is moist and can easily be pecked for worms and insects. 

On a recent ride with a friend through fairly dense fog, we started out strong and steady, the sounds of hooves against wet grass squeaking happily. Our first surprise encounter was with a doe and her twin fawns who seemed to appear out of nowhere, like creatures in a Science Fiction flick. The sight, smell, and skittish noises of these familiar field denizens did not phase our horses. I remember my very first ride on my unbroke, undernourished horse when he was three. I walked him around a paddock and all kinds of deer popped out at us. Ranger did not care. Of course, later, when he was well fed he needed remedial reminders and some serious training, but the good soul has always been present. 

Confidently, we continued around some fields where the fog, still thick, seemed to cover more space than the earth as we could not see trees or farm buildings. That was where things changed. Tiger, my friend’s horse, started prancing and snorting for no reason we could determine. My horse started to follow suit. At such moments, I wonder whether to press on, create a distraction to regain focus such as circling in and out, or consider an alternate route. There was no time to decide as an ATV revved up its motor and headed off in the opposite direction. The horses spooked, but separately, we were able to regain focus and continue, but we had to call out to one another to find each other. 

We continued, and discovered that one of my favorite fields that leads to a streamside trail had just been cut. We thought about it, and decided we would try to make it down to the water as the fog did seem to be lifting, at least a bit by that time. Our ride ended well, and we made our journey home, happy for having been out with our horses, grateful to have strengthened our horses’ resolve by presenting challenges we could manage, ready for the next ride through the clouds with our equine companions...

Katharine MacCornack
Published on 2020-09-02