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Courage Saddles Up Anyway
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Courage Saddles Up Anyway

“It isn’t her job to patch us up and make us whole, but for a moment, she can let us feel what it would be like if we were.” - Anna Blake, Author and Equestrian

My work-to-ride lease horse is named “Tara,” which means “Goddess of the Seas.” Outside of my family, my two loves are my two greatest fears: horses and the ocean. Every weekend you’ll find me at either place and usually both. I love riding and swimming but have been at it long enough that I have seen riders unseated by a spooked horse and swimmers pile-driven into the sand by an angry riptide.

But like a moth to a flame, I can’t quit them. Nothing beats a good day at the barn followed by a trip to the beach. so I decided to leave my fears in the van and get out there.

Tara is a pasture horse and every time I go out to get her she raises her head regally to appraise me. She reminds me of movies I’ve seen of Queen Elizabeth I, with startling red hair and royal gaze. Tara’s queen of her herd and they circle her like her acquiescent entourage.

As she saunters towards me, the other horses make way for her, and as I halter her, she eyes me over, wondering if I am woman enough to be her leader. I’m not, but I strive to be, so I will fake it until I make it. I take a deep breath and hum to her as we make our way to the hitching post. I make sure to run my hand the length of her back before asking Her Highness if I can please pick out her hind hooves. I tell her repeatedly what a good, gorgeous girl she is, hoping that half of her confidence and boldness will rub off on me.

With each trail ride, she gets more and more settled into our routine, but yesterday, as we passed the halfway mark, shots began echoing off the trees, announcing our distant neighbor’s intention of target shooting. Harmless, I knew, but Tara didn’t. She started trotting without being cued, head high. We are also near a private airport and almost simultaneously a plane flew over us, too low for Tara’s comfort. She started sidestepping, eyes wide, so I halted her to get her attention. She swept her head sideways to look at me as if to say, “Are you going to keep me safe? Because I can get us outta here real fast if you’re not.”

“It’s okay Tara.” I patted her neck, returning her gaze and taking a deep breath, which she echoed. She gave me another look that I can only imagine meant, “It had better be.” After a few quick steps, she settled down again with a loud relaxing snort. And it was okay. Little by little Tara is teaching me her secrets to confidence.

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