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Natural Awakenings Fairfield County/Housatonic Valley, CT

Happy Trails to You (Until We Meet Again)

Sep 29, 2020 01:59PM ● By Carrie Brady
For many people, the image of a horse and rider walking down a beautiful trail inspires bliss.  There is freedom embedded in that image, as well as a sense of curiosity and wonder.  You never know what amazing things you might discover on a trail and the experience is different every time since nature is constantly changing.  For others, even accomplished riders, the same image may incite fear.  Outside the relatively controlled environment of an enclosed riding arena, some people feel panicky.  They are afraid of what may be ahead, of what might happen if the horse gets spooked by a strange sound or animal running across the trail, or uninterested in giving up any control to an animal that has a mind of its own.

Horses given the freedom to explore early in their lives and regularly exposed to different situations are more likely to approach the trails with excitement than fear.  Those that have only known the confines of riding rings and stalls will take more time to adjust and benefit from the support of more experienced horse guides to show them the way. 

Humans adapting to change are similar. Those who have been through challenging transitions in the past and discovered unexpected opportunities and benefits in those changes have developed “thrival” skills.  Unlike survival skills, which keep us alive but not necessarily well, thrival skills help us rediscover the excitement in the unknown, and the unlimited possibilities for good things to come, even in the face of fear.  Wild animals typically have amazing thrival skills.  As humans have encroached on their homes and feeding grounds, they have adapted. In Connecticut, bears, bobcats, deer, and dozens of other species live happily among humans.  Dangerous encounters occur but are extremely rare.

One essential thrival skill is knowing when to leave.  Dog owners teach basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and “leave it.”  Leave it is the command most likely to be lifesaving - leave that toxic thing you are about to eat, leave that porcupine alone, leave an unsafe area.  Humans also need to learn when to sit and stay, when to come, and when to leave. It may be difficult to leave but sometimes it is essential.  When the water source dries up and the grass is no longer plentiful, wild horses move on to new pastures.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has opened gates and taken down fences for the human collective. As a species we are more connected in the face of a common challenge that crosses all boundaries, but we also are gripped by fear and traveling down unfamiliar trails. The comforts of our routines, relationships, and environment all have been altered.  

Nicole Miale, publisher and owner of Natural Awakenings, has served as one leader of this diverse herd for many years, offering us opportunities to connect with and learn from one another, and to build the type of thrival skills and community support that serve us well. As one final gift to us, she is modeling how to “leave it”—to recognize when it is time to move forward and to have the confidence to see what comes next. A dog in an animal communication session recently explained it this way: “Only a human could think that being able to run as much as you want all day in a big fenced yard is more freedom than going out for long trail hikes twice a day.” 

Before the pandemic, we have mostly been running around our yards, following well established patterns. Sometimes we changed yards and had new places to explore, but typically we moved within the fences we set for ourselves. The pandemic has opened all the gates and our yards may no longer offer us what we need.   We can choose whether to stay in the familiar yard as it is altered by forces we cannot control or to go through the gate.  The trails are beckoning.  

As we move forward, may we do so with the confidence of a seasoned trail horse, with excitement and joy, welcoming the adventure.  May we also remember we are one herd of humans, and continue to support each other on the journey. To Nicole and all who have been a part of the Natural Awakenings’ community of writers, readers, and advertisers, let’s ride off into the sunrise, whistling Roy Rogers’ tune, “Happy trails to you, until we meet again,” ready for whatever comes next. 

Carrie Brady is the creator of Possibilities Farm, a wellness retreat center in Wilton where she partners with a herd of horses in innovative non-riding programs for personal growth, professional development, and wellness. She and the herd are currently offering phone coaching and distance energy work and will be reopening for in-person services in December at their new home in the Hudson Valley, New York. PossibilitiesFarm.com. 

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