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"Stetson and the Hoop" (2014 Lit & Land of the Horse)

Stetson snorted, his head lowered only inches from the ground, the white plastic hoop a round and unknown thing, foreign smelling, a "man" thing.  He snorted again and blew. Small whirlwinds of dust rose from his nostrils. He dipped his nose toward the curve of the PVC pipe, flared his nostrils again, inhaling then blowing the scent back out. 

Puffs of dust rose as Stetson sniffed up and around the length of the hoop, first by his left hoof, then by his right hoof.  Tentatively, stiff legged, his body stretched away, poised, ready to flee, ears perked, eyes wide, he mouthed the plastic with his upper lip, running his whiskers along it - touching, then drawing back, then lowering his head again.

This time he bit the "man" thing, lifting it with his teeth. The stiff hoop rose up from the ground, as if alive. He dropped it and jerked backward, jumping to the side, instincts wary, his Bureau of Land Management tattoo suddenly visible beneath the waves of black mane.  "He'll always be like that," Tommy said. "Them wild horses is that way, leery of new things. They're smart, though, he won't forget it." 

And I won't forget Stetson - the confident way his feet met the earth, his willingness to befriend me, his curiosity, the way he perceived the landscape through each of his heightened senses, even his sense of belonging.  More than anything, I am grateful to him for reminding me that humans, like horses, are also at home among the grasses and rivers and mountains and trees.  We, too, are Nature's creations.

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