OMG, I just love Mac, he's so smart!
Last weekend we went for a trail ride on the BLM land nearby. We have to cross two waters to get to the most open part of the trails, and then there are a couple main trails with maybe some off shoots for looping, but I haven't figured them out yet. Some of what look like offshoot are actually game trails or trails that the free-range cattle have sort of made so they don't really pan out.
I was riding Mac out there and thought I'd try to connect two of the main trails. This is high desert riding, so lots of sand and trees and scrub brush with no real landmarks to see from this particular location. I'm not too far away from home because probably if I went in any direction I'd either go back to the water or find a farm or a road, but when in the middle of it, it all looks the same . . . sand, trees, brush.
After following what I thought might be a side-trail or a game trail without coming to one of the main trails, I figured I'd call it a day. I left it to Mac to find his way home. I dropped my reins and let him go. Without just turning 180 and following the same tracks he made heading out, he turned maybe 45 degrees and started walking through no-mans land. Then he came across his own tracks and we followed those for a little while. Then we came to the main trail and followed that for a little while. But always the guy who doesn't like to exert more energy than he has to, he knew a more direct way. He went off the main trail and back into no-mans land. I told him if he could get us to the EXACT spot where we cross the water (he's got options maybe a mile long), then I'd give him a cookie. So he stopped so I could give him his cookie. I told him, no, I'll give you a cookie when we get there. So we continued on through the scrub and trees and sand with no trail to follow. And lo and behold he got us to the EXACT water crossing spot! So he got a cookie and then we followed the trails the rest of the way home.
He is so smart. It would be one thing if he just followed the trails to get us there, that would be the easy thing to do. But he knows that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line so he cut out the trails and blazed his own.
If I ever get lost in the woods, I will 1000% trust him to get me home.