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Being fitted for a horseback adventure, I saw a horse from a distance and had a feeling that this would be the one. You may have felt this way about a business opportunity, a scholastic proposition, or a career choice. The horse was a black spirited filly with dark eyes and a thick black mane. She was strong. Bold. Moments later I was being instructed that she would be fun to ride but a bit complicated and challenging. Like many challenges we face, I found that to be an understatement.

I have enjoyed riding horses from time to time throughout my life. I once swam a horse in the Weber River on a hot summer day as a kid. I have been around horses on hunting excursions, mountain trips, and family vacations to Jackson Hole. My grandfather loved horses. Often, when I was with him horses were a subject of conversation. Grandpa had saddles and tack in his garage and a two-horse tandem axel trailer in the drive. He was the kind of man that wore a cowboy belt and had a photo of a trophy horse on his desk at work. He was a character. Once, during a grouse hunt, he told me to jump on and ride a cow that had been grazing on a mountainside pasture. I made the attempt. Gramps laughed long and hard at that one. I had dirt in my mouth and my body was bruised. Almost as much as my young ego.

With the filly standing nearby, the outfitter asked if I was confident with horses. I assured him that although I was born and raised in the city, and had only occasionally ridden horses,  I was confident. Besides, we were being led by a guide. What could go wrong?

As the trip ventured along a lazy river and the leaves rustled in the breeze I was content that the spirited filly was very obedient and well trained. For the most part, she was keeping her place in the lineup. She occasionally sped up and bumped the horse in front of her. She did try to leave the trail and speed ahead a few times. It was as if she wanted to be the lead horse. But what horse doesn’t? Each time she went rogue, I would calmly pull on her reins and redirect her back to where the rigger had placed her. Soon, I would learn that she didn’t really care to be told what to do and what not to do. She had a threshold of tolerance, a will of her own. The kind that keeps a rider alert.

After hours of working with her and enjoying the beauty of the ride, we began circling into the pasture where the trek had originated. My filly began acting very spooked. I looked around and discovered a large male horse thundering across the field toward her. He was free roaming about 200 yards away and was not carrying a rider. She began to rear up. Controllably at first. I stroked her neck and spoke calmly to her. I leaned forward in my saddle each time she arose. She stayed in line.

As the male approached our group, the lead guide shouted out to me warning me of apparent danger. “He’s going to strike her!” he exclaimed. What happened next was taken from an old western movie. The male ran smack into her, chest first and about knocked us over. Had she not darted just prior to contact he could have hurt us both. Wisely, instinctively, she bolted out into the open field at a full stride. I had never ridden a horse at this speed. I could barely hold on. At first I was laughing and enjoying the thrill. As I began pulling back on the reins and speaking out to her I saw the barbwire fence. She picked up speed. Fear entered my soul. I began losing grip. I was about to fall off. I grasped her shiny mane with both hands and buried my face in her neck leaning into her. If she turns toward that fence, I thought, she will hurt us both or worse. She turned.

In an instant all activity slowed and I seemed to have a heightened awareness of the danger of my plot. I could hear riders rustling to my aid. I could hear loud unrecognizable shouting. I could see dust flying. I had clouded vision. My neck whipped and my back lunged forward. Then a deep, instant quiet.

Be still my heart. I was safe. The filly was unharmed. She too had seen the fence. She had dropped her hind quarters, locked her legs, and come to a rumbling abrupt stop just inches from the fence. I fell off and rolled in the dust. My mouth full of dirt. My body bruised.

She stayed with me. I rose to my feet. I spoke calmly to her. She was bold, spirited. She was complicated. Many times we fear the worst. Many times we see the dangers. In life and in horses, be confident in the rider. Keep distractions to a minimum. Sometimes just hold fast and ride it out. Trust.

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