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What-Ifs
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What-Ifs

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.” – Rudyard Kipling 

The world has seemed determined to bombproof my new relationship with Tara from the start. Throughout this past month, my trail rides have held more surprises than I've seen over the previous year.

Our stables’ riding trail starts out along an adjacent horse farm. Usually, when we ride out we pass a few horses grazing peacefully, no problem. This past Sunday when my friend Judy rode Jester and I rode Tara for the third time, the neighbor’s pasture wasn’t so peaceful as they were working on some fencing repairs. Jester spooked and balked at the ATV and the strange man with the fence-post hole digger that was interrupting our tranquility. Tara matched Jester with a spook of her own and a 180 degree turn, ready to flee back to the safety of her herd. Their heads were high and their eyes wide like two kids watching a horror movie. They looked as if they were thinking "What if that ATV is a cougar in disguise? What if that handyman is really a horse hunter? What if that post hole digger is a tool used to disembowel ponies?”

Thankfully Judy and I were able to prevent our horses from bolting away from this new experience. We asked them to stay still, and most importantly waited until the horses fed off our calmness and grew bored of just standing. When we eventually continued our walk, Tara still seemed a little anxious. As her eyes darted left and right, mine did also. What if she was still ready to run for it and a flock of birds bursts out of the hedge to set her off?

I caught myself beginning to absorb her fear, so I physically shook my head as a signal to myself to mentally shake it off. Then I recalibrated my thought process to positive “what-ifs” rather than negative ones.

“What if Tara could forget her fright and walk along with her head low and relaxed? What if she were tuned in to me instead of tuning into the cougars that might be hiding in that tree?”

I visualized how well-behaved and attentive she had been earlier when we rode in the safety of the arena during warm-up, and I immediately relaxed. Before too long Tara absorbed my serenity. Her head lowered and she gave a huge snort of relief. The remainder of the trail ride was peace on earth, with goodwill to all horses and riders.

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