Each fall as hunting season arrives, I find myself out riding in the dark. I often get up early and ride my horses to the area we want to hunt. This is all done in the dark so that we can be in position at sunrise. Same can be said for evening, We hunt until dark and then ride back to camp in the dark.
On several occassion we have harvest game animals just before dark, By time we get them cut up and loaded on the horses, We are traveling back to camp in complete darkness. Hunting seasons are prescribed by the state department of wildlife, So I have no choice about full moons, overcast night. Some years there is a bright moon and stars, some years it's black as ink.
I wrote a short story once about my ride up a canyon in the pre-dawn darkness. Kinda of a Mr. Toads Wild Ride. Sparks coming off the horses shoes as they struck rocks, tree branches hitting me on cold skin on my face, eery ice cicles hanging off dripping ledges and of course the horses stopping dead when they came face to face with some black objects that moved. Which I later figured out to be some black angus cattle.
I've been surprised just how well the horses can see and find their way. Onbe fall a friends son shot a moose just before sunset. We rode up the canyon and butchered the moose. By time we got it cut up and loaded on the horses, it was several hours after dark. We had loaded the moose on the two horses my friend and his son had rode up the canyon, So they had to hike out. I rode my horse and lead the other two horses that were packing the meat. It was a very overcast night. Extremely black in the forest with no moon or stars. I couldn't see a thing, And if I turned my light on, I couldn't really tell what was trail and what was just wandering through the forest.
I finally turned off the light and let the horses just head for the trailer. Periodically I would hear their hoof beats going across small wooden foot bridges over boggy areas in the trail, or see the square cut ends of dead falls that the Forest Service had cut out to clear the trail. That was the only way that I knew we were still on the trail. It was about 5 miles back to camp and it took about an hour in the darkness, But the horses did just great with out me directing them at all. They could see the trail in the dark, that I could not see even with my headlamp.
Trail like this just disappear in the darkness. It is really difficult to tell if you are on a trail or just wandering through the forest.