I was sitting upstairs yesterday after yet another hot and humid day. I worked my client horses earlier, but not Cooper. My excuse... by the time I got to him it was just too hot. But it stormed at around 5, and when I went to let the dogs out around 7:30, it was a beautiful night.
I don't know what was different last night. I don't know what made me decide to ride when I have been putting it off. I don't know why I decided to ride out vs just working Cooper in the arena. But I found myself saddled and heading out the driveway as the sun was going down.
When I went out the driveway, I turned left. If you would have asked me in that moment why, I'd have said something prophetic, like… I wanted to chase the sunset. But there was no one there to ask that question. So, I'll admit the truth here, I wasn't chasing the sunset. I was running from where I lost Disco.
As the songs played, and the sun came down; I realized I was taking the path I wish Disco had taken that day nearly a year ago. I was surrounded by crop fields and open spaces. Not a fence to be seen. I thought about how different everything would be if he had just turned left that day. I guess that can be said about a lot of things in life…. "What If?"
"What if"… That is the question I didn’t ask that day. I didn’t ask “What if he wasn’t ready?” I didn’t ask “What if I approach this differently?” I didn’t ask "What if" when, as he doubted me and showed fear in the beginning of that session, it was the only question I should have been asking myself. Disco paid the price that day for my overconfidence. Now, a year later, I cannot find a way to let many "What Ifs" happen, good or bad, with horses, relationships, or out in the world. I’m stuck in a limbo of indecision in more than just my ability to ride and prepare for KY.
Trauma has a way of doing that to you. Of weaseling its way into aspects of your life that you thought had nothing to do with what happened. It has a way of breaking you, of making you wonder about the outcomes of every action you take, and every word you say. It has a way of making you think of a negative outcome to even the simplest of decisions. It makes you wonder, if you will hurt someone else the same way. Where you may have once found strength and comfort, you find anxiety, fear, and pain. Where you may have once been strong on your own, you find yourself grappling at anything to keep your head above water on a bad day.
I could go on about the "What Ifs" in every day life that I struggle with, but to keep this on topic I’ll give some examples of those directly related to what happened…. The obvious one is the “What if I push too hard?” But to be honest, I’ve asked that less and less lately because I have not really pushed Cooper. In order to avoid the answer, I haven’t asked of him what I need to. I’ve just about let that "What if” win. So now I am faced with… "What If I’m not ready? What if in holding myself back, I set Cooper up to fail? What if I don’t go to KY? What if I regret it if I don’t go? What if I waste one of the best horses I’ve ever had, because I’m scared?"
The biggest "What If" I have yet to allow myself to ask though. The one that is pretty hard to stomach for someone who used to believe anything is possible. Hard to fathom for someone who has done so much in life so far. More than anything, it is the question I want to deserve to ask myself. But in my heart of hearts, I do not think I am ready to.... "What if I can do it?" Even now typing those words, I can’t yet foresee a day when I will actually believe them.
I wish I could tell you all my decision today. I wish I could say that I’ll start asking myself “What if I can do it?” daily. With that, I’ll start back training Cooper every day, and we will see you in KY. But I know better than to make that promise. Not just to fans and an audience, but I know better than to try and make that promise to myself. Because forcing myself to do it, and being ready to do it, are two different things. So may be, I need to rephrase the question. May be instead of "What if,” I can start asking myself “Can I do it today?” "Can today be a day that I make Cooper better? Can today be a day for him to help me move forward?” Some days that answer may be yes, and sometimes it may be no. But the yes cannot happen if I never ask the question. Who knows; "What if today, the answer is yes?"