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Unbridled

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Unbridled. That's what I am. I am free to go wherever, do whatever pleases me. There’s nothing to stop me from splashing in the river, racing the wind, or grazing atop the highest mountain. Forever unbridled, forever free.
There is a girl who comes to visit me. She sits on a boulder and watches me. My instincts tell me to be cautious of humans, so I keep my distance. I stay nearby, though, perhaps closer than my herd would approve of.
It puzzles me why she sits there. She watches me, and I watch her. I've been told humans are odd creatures, but I have never gotten this close to one before. She braids some grass into intricate designs, her dark mane blowing in the wind. They call it hair, don't they? It is braided into the same patterns as the grass. Suddenly conscious of my own mane, I toss my head. My jet-black mane looks better when it’s been tousled.
But eventually my curiosity gets the better of me. I walk slowly in the girl’s direction.
“Hello, my name is Midnight,” I tell her, even though she can’t understand me. “I’m called that because I matched the midnight sky when I was born.”
Now I’m about a tail’s length away from her. She stays very still, as if not to scare me away.
I move closer, lifting my head, and tell her proudly, “I bucked off a mountain lion once. I’m not afraid of you.”
She tentatively holds out her hand. I hesitate, then rest my muzzle against it. I blow warm air, the horse sign of friendship. To my surprise, she leans down and blows back at me. I decide to give her the name Violet, because she smells like violets in springtime.
Violet reaches out again, this time to rub the white spot on my forehead. I whinny softly to her, and she says something in return, in her own language.
My mother used to tell me stories of humans when I was a foal. She told stories of them taking our homelands and taming us. Out of fear, I would hide under her neck where I felt safe. I’d tell myself that no human could ever tame me.
But things are different now. I am older, and wiser. Here I am, greeting a human like one of my own kind. I don’t think Violet would ever want to hurt a horse. Her voice is too cheerful and kind, her hands graceful and gentle. Not like the humans of the stories. I wonder why they don’t portray the good side instead of the bad.
Both of us have grown more confident. Violet strokes my neck and untangles my mane, and I let her. With swift, smooth movements she transforms my attractively chaotic tail into a swirl of braids that is more orderly and elegant. I’ve always thought a wild, unkempt, wild-blown tail is the mark of a true wild horse, but Violet’s way of thinking is intriguing to me. Maybe I’ll attract a pretty mare this way…
When I get back to my herd for the night, the other horses question me. “Where have you been?” they ask, but I brush away their questions with a flick of my tail. Interacting with humans is simply not done. In their minds, at least. I happen to disagree.


The next morning I trot off in search of Violet. The mountain breeze is brisk, in a refreshing sort of way. The trees are as green as the grass, still soaking in the last of the summer sunlight before autumn arrives. Birds are chirping loudly and the sky is a cloudless ocean of blue.
Violet is sitting on the same boulder again. When I approach, I whinny to her. She smiles and holds out an apple on her palm. Eagerly, I take it and gobble it up rather loudly. All of us seem to eat loudly; I guess it’s just a horse thing.
Suddenly, I want to show her my world. I want her to see the majestic mountains, the graceful rivers, and the peaceful meadows that have all the best grass. I want her to feel the thrill of the wind whipping against her face, galloping so fast and effortlessly it feels like flying.
A bit clumsily, I get down on my knees, hoping she will understand. At first she looks at me with her head tilted, confused. But then her face brightens and she climbs onto my back, one leg on each side like most humans do. I stand up and take off at a trot. Her weight is easy for me to carry, and as we approach a creek, I slide into as smooth a canter as I can manage.
I take a long stride, then gather myself up and leap gracefully across with yards to spare. Turning my head, I look at Violet. Her face is filled with a wild and adventurous joy, although she is holding onto my mane for support.
Eagerly, I turn my head back and start galloping. My hooves carrying us across the terrain, we pass many beautiful sights. We rush past the raging river with its thundering waterfall. I slow down just enough to get a good look, then we’re off again.
As we start to gallop up the mountainside I begin to grow tired. But, being a proud, determined wild horse, I do not stop until we have gone as high as we can go. Violet gasps at the stunning sight before us. My whole world looks miniature from here, the trees just small dots and the river just a winding green thread against the sprawled tapestry of my wilderness.
All too soon, I notice that the sunlight is quickly fading. Before it gets too dark, I start running back down.
When we arrive back where we started, I stop. Violet dismounts with a dull thud onto her boulder.
It is then that I realize that I, Midnight the mighty, the free, the untamable, have been tamed by a human. But it is different that I had imagined. A human has captured my heart, but I am still as free as the wind that rushes through the canyons of my beloved homeland. I have been tamed, but my spirit is still free.
Still unbridled.





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