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  • Courageous Connections

Playing with Fear

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

So there I was, leaning against a white horse fence with the phone camera recording what’s happening in the ring. My hands are shaking so I brace my elbows on the top rail. Kathy Sanders, president of Courageous Connections, is in the ring showing how she plays and trains with Snazee, one of CC’s veteran therapy horses. My job is to tape their activities for posterity and social media.

Let’s step back a few days and a few years. Horses are among the many things that scare me. Along with rejection, poverty, loneliness, bed bugs, and centipedes. Elephants too, but I don’t run into those very often. Big things. Little things. All with one thing in common…I don’t know what to do if they erupt into my life. So I get scared, and paralyzed, and feel like my life may spin beyond my control.

Take a deep, shaky breath and do the one thing I have learned will mostly succeed. Face it down. Recite a mantra of, “The worst thing that can happen is….” I’m cautious; I make plans; I do my best not to feel too small.

And that brings us back to me leaning against a fence, photographing a playing horse. A horse that really, really scares me with its size and my fear of its unpredictability. Kathy is talking, coaxing, and laughing with Snazee. The mare tosses her head and breaks into a fast trot, racing around the ring. I’m a new person and she’s curious, so she charges toward me, swerving easily at the fence. I’m showered with flying sand as I step back…but keep the camera going.

I swear the horse is laughing in the joy of movement and play. It’s kind of infectious so I find myself smiling.

That’s why I’m here. To relish the excitement of getting to know an incredibly beautiful animal while I deal with my own anxieties. I’m not about to step into the ring and frolic, but maybe, just maybe, this fear has lessened. And maybe I’ll use this memory to be a little braver somewhere else when the big scary thing is playing in front of me.

Contributing Author: Susan Brown

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