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What kind of trail are you leaving?

Jay Parks

October 17, 2017

I have two shire draft horses, Tina and Penny. They are 19 hands high—about one-third higher than the typical quarter horse—and they weigh about 3,000 pounds. Their hooves are the size of dinner plates. From their knees down to their hooves, they have long white hair. They’re beautiful animals, and when they run, it’s unbelievably gorgeous.

I let them into the pasture to graze, and then call them back into their pen. They come running from a quarter mile away, and it makes the ground shake.

They’re smart and responsive and eager to please me. But the other day, my grandson went into the horse pen. I’ve taught him the first rule of the farm: “You open a gate, you shut it.”

The boy’s a rock star about opening gates and shutting them, at least most of the time.

The other day was the one time that he left the gate open. My wife Holly called, and she sounded panicky. “The horse are out, and I don’t know where they are,” she said.

I was at the office, so I called my buddy and asked him to go over there and start looking for them, and I started racing home.

“I’ll tell you what’s going to happen,” I said to him. “They’re going to tell you where they’re at. I promise. You just have to pay attention to what they’re telling you. You might see a field filled with white clover blooms except for patches about two square feet where the blooms will be gone, I said. You’re looking for that kind of sign, something disheveled.”

He walks over to the farm, stands at the gate, and looks out. The first thing he sees is a bale of hay with a corner eaten off to reveal a different shade of green.

He walks over there, and he sees hoof prints. After getting his bearings for a minute, he says to himself, “They had to have gone west because that’s the only place for them to go.”

He walks up the street to the west. Then the trail goes cold. “If I’m a horse, what am I going to do?” he thought. “What am I heading to?”

Horses, especially my girls, want to graze. They can smell what they want. So he thinks, “There’s a pasture right over there. I almost guarantee that they’ve walked down this trail heading for that pasture.”

He walks along the trail, and, sure enough, he sees hoof prints. He walks into the pasture, and he sees that the grass is ankle high except for a couple of dips.

Eventually, the clues led him into the next pasture. Behold. There they are.

He walks over with a rope and tosses it over their necks and walks them back to the barn.

This all got me thinking: “I wonder what happens when I look over my shoulder. What kind of trail do I leave?”

Unintentionally, I leave marks. Some of them I’m proud of, and some of them I’m not.

I have to ask myself these questions:

• What kind of trail do I leave?
• Are people able to follow me, and does it lead them to good places?
• Does it give them enough strength so they can advance themselves and feel better?
• Or, am I leading people down a path that I’m not proud of? One that’s not what I’m called to be?

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