Why The Long Face?

 

The Long Face

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.
~ Hal Borland ~

~*~

Bear and I are so ready for spring.

Are you?

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Slow and Steady

snow day

~*~

The hibernation continues. Nothing is happening in a hurry. We’re not going anywhere soon.

It’s day 41/120 of Bear’s rehab and recovery and, with no time in the saddle, I’ve had lots of time to think, and write and even explore some art again. Everything, it seems, is a meditation to understand where the path is leading next.

While Bear’s initial treatment period is 120 days I’ve become well aware a full recovery will take a lot longer than that. It’s going to be about a year before he’s back to the fitness he had before the injury occurred, assuming he heals well. So, perhaps it would be more accurate to say we’re at day 41/365 (+/-). Either way you look at it, it’s a long road to wellness that lies ahead.

Things are progressing slowly, as well they might. Bear is showing no obvious signs of improvement, nor does his injury appear to be getting any worse. The only shift so far seems to be reduced swelling in his afflicted ankle. It looks tighter, and this is good. So, at least we know we’re on the right track. We won’t get a true sense of how things look until Bear’s next ultrasound which is scheduled three weeks from now. In the meantime, we maintain the status quo.

Bear continues to relish this forced R&R, and is being a good boy for the most part ~ that is with the exception of one little escapade this past week that had Wendy in giggles. I wasn’t there when it happened, still the story goes that one morning, while Wendy was picking out Bear’s stall with him in there, he snuck out through the open door and went for a saunter through the barn, landing at Sam’s stall three doors down. (Sam was outside at the time). There, he happily tucked into Sam’s hay.

Wendy says that when she caught up with the naughty escapee his eyes were shining with guilty pride. He just looked so darn pleased with himself. That’s my boy! If we know one thing for sure, Bear knows how to amuse himself.

In fact, Wendy’s concerned that Bear’s taking his confinement a little too well and may not take kindly to going back to work when the time comes.

I guess we shall have to wait and see.

Speaking of carrots …

Carrot monster … which, of course, I wasn’t but you had to know the subject was going to come up sooner or later … I got savvy this week and bought in bulk. Yes, Bear has a mega-bag of carrots all to himself ~ a whole week’s worth of orange root vegetables. (Lest you’re under the impression he’s the only horse in the barn spoiled this way, he is not. His buddy, Midas, gave me the idea.)

The carrot addiction runs rampant through the barn and often we run out on the weekend. The next delivery isn’t until Wednesday. So, rather than augment Bear’s supply at the scandalously expensive supermarket ($3/5lb bag, I think), I’ve opted instead to go with a 50lb bag wholesale ($8) from the carrot lady. (I don’t have a head for numbers, so these may not be completely accurate, but you get the picture.) It’s more cost effective to indulge Bear’s carrot habit this way and there will be no carrot shortage for the foreseeable future.

Walkabouts and Sun Dogs …

Walkabouts this week have been unimaginative as the weather has been miserably cold. Yesterday we had -25C with -42C wind chill, and today is hardly better. Brutal! The only good thing about the extreme cold is the sun dogs come out to play in the deep blue winter sky around mid- to late-afternoon. We’ve seen a lot of those lately.

sun dogI’ll be heading out to the barn shortly, and dare say the regular routine may be slightly modified to account for the frigid conditions. We’ll see how things are when I get there. In addition to walking with Bear I’ve been practicing the occasional Wu Wei session in his stall where it’s slightly warmer. (Body heat, and all that). Usually my observations are limited to watching him bat around the nibble net while he’s tugging on hay and giving me the wooly eyeball. At any rate, it’s an opportunity to be with him in the moment; to go with the flow and empty my mind of all unnecessary thought. Just being there … with Bear … watching him in all his glorious contentedness helps to keep me grounded in this current reality.

And so, we return to my thoughts …

My head is full of them and, for the most part, they are contemplative.

My intention at the moment is to expand my window of tolerance. Be able to take on more without feeling overwhelmed by it, or even the idea of it. On the one hand I want to jump head long into new adventures and opportunities, and on the other it all seems a little too intimidating right now. This old pattern of behaviour exacerbated by adrenal fatigue requires new programming.

To this end I’ve been reading a couple of helpful books spurred by my studies in Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning last year.

The first is Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping by Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky, a noted neuro-endocrinologist who’s undertaken considerable study on stress hormones and their impact on our lives. Reading this has certainly given me a better understanding of the parts stress and stress hormones have played in my evolution, and thus put me in a better position to manage it. As the title suggests it’s written in a language accessible even to the most non-scientific mind. (That would be me.) Now I have an even keener understanding of how my health deteriorated into adrenal fatigue; the hormones involved and why it has impacted my life the way it has, and what the ramifications would be if I don’t make adjustments to my lifestyle.

Well, as many of you will know, I’ve made plenty of adjustments to my life since the adrenal fatigue kicked in; surrounding myself with a great support team who’ve seen me through the worst and are helping me move into a life chapter where I feel stronger and healthier than ever. Still, the healing is ongoing. I have acquired a greater appreciation for my body and all that it’s been through over the years. This puts me in a more empowered position to be patient during the healing process, and helps me to appreciate even more the need for patience when it comes to helping Bear with his bum ankle.

Recovery takes time. I see that for myself, so I know it for Bear. I’m getting stronger in many ways. ~ the Pilates exercises I’m doing are more advanced than they were two years ago when I started, and my strength and stamina is getting better. Things will improve for Bear too, if we give the healing time.

The second book, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by psychiatrist and author, Dr. Dan Siegel, is another insightful text helping me along this healing journey. It’s designed to help the reader “make positive changes in your brain and in your life;” creating new neural pathways that promote a healthier way of being so that old, dysfunctional behaviour patterns no longer have hold their power.

I’m really enjoying reading this book, too. It’s an exciting prospect to feel I can live life more expansively than was programmed into me as a child. I’m doing my best to let go of the old limiting ways and adopt new ones. What I’ve learned so far allows me to view Bear’s situation in an even more open-minded and life-affirming way; an opportunity to focus on the glass filling up rather than running empty.

Happy PairReading the two books together is, I’m finding, really beneficial. Both, from their own perspective, talk about the complexity of the brain and how hormones and stress and early life programming help to shape who we are. They also guide us to understand how it’s possible to facilitate change that helps us to live fuller lives. It’s exciting stuff, but it doesn’t mean any of it is easy. Still, it eliminates the need for drama and puts the victim mentality firmly where it belongs ~ on the neural pathway of dead ends.

This in and of itself is a great blessing, not only for me but, of course, for Bear. The more positive I am and the less stress I put on him, the better his chance of healing and the happier he will be.

Slow and steady wins the race. ;-)

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWork 2015

Keep on Keeping On

It’s been just about a month since Bear’s injury diagnosis. Things are proceeding along much as one might expect. The journey toward wellness continues.

Bear’s spirits are good. For a horse on stall rest he’s bearing up well (ha!), content to play tug-of-war with the hay in his nibble net and indulge my own boredom-alleviating practice of teaching him tricks.

I miss riding.

This week he learned how to smile on command. Perhaps it would be more correct to say he developed an obsession for it. Why? Because now he smiles, whether I ask him to or not, for the explicit purpose of getting a carrot. Even if I simply stand in front of him and look like I might say “Smile!” he stretches his neck, tilts his head, rolls his eyes and grins at me expectantly. He’s such a ham.

I try not to encourage him too much. On the other hand, his cheerfulness leads me to believe that, in spite of his confinement, he’s a happy boy and pretty content with his lot as it stands.

This is such a relief. A lot of horses are not so sensible under such circumstances.

Still, Bear pushed his luck a bit last week.

Let me explain …

Bear’s been good about following me around on our walkabouts in the arena lead-rope free. Turns out he lead me right into a false sense of security.

A week ago Friday a pall hung in the air with the news that Wendy, the barn manager, had been thrown from a horse the evening before and broken her wrist and fractured a bone in her pelvis. Such news is always disturbing. It’s a reminder that in spite of everything we might love about horses, there are inherent risks to being in their company ~ whether on the ground or in the saddle. Naturally, my thoughts were with her somewhat, leaving me feeling a little distracted.*

Still, I had Bear to think of too, so went about the business of bringing him into the arena for his walkabout. Just because of the unsettled nature of the day I decided to err on the side of caution and keep him on the lead rope while we walked around the cold arena.

As he was being sensible I decided to unhook him. He followed me around and, as usual, left a special delivery which I would need to pick up. While I walked to the far end of the arena to fetch the bucket and fork he wandered away by himself for a moment. No big deal. He was quiet and would, I knew, reconnect to supervise my cleaning efforts.

Usually he follows me and the bucket and fork back to the muck skip in the corner, but this time he wandered off again, sniffing at jumps or anything else that happened to capture his attention. Then, without warning, he dropped and rolled flopping back and forth and really grinding his day sheet into the sandy footing. This was accompanied by the obligatory grunts and squeals of delight which made me feel good for him. It had been weeks since he’d been able to give himself a good, self-administered back rub.

Of course, I watched admiringly and smiled as he launched back to his feet and gave himself a good shake. The next moment my look of admiration quickly changed to one of horror when, with a squeal and explosive expulsion of gas, Bear leapt into the air like a Lippizaner doing airs above the ground. I was even more horrified when he did it again … twice! He looked ever-so pleased with himself, snorting and blowing, ears pricked, eyes bulging, head periscoped and searching, I dare say, for the next opportunity to elevate my stress hormones.

“Bear! Stop!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. The vapours of my breath filtering through the freezing air; my heart racing. “Stop it, Bear … you’re not allowed to do that!”

He stood stock still. His majestic head held high; his nostrils snorting their own vapour in a kind of triumphant fanfare. Holy crap, what a magnificent animal. He turned and looked at me with the noncommittal air of someone consumed in their own moment. Concerned that he might try something stupid like that again I knew I had to do something to get his attention back on me and de-escalate his energy.

As horses read, and respond to, the energy in their environment it was clear to me I needed to de-escalate my energy first. I started focusing on my breath, deeply inhaling and exhaling in a way that would allow him to sense the retreat of my own upset energy. I did this for several breaths and, while doing so, made a conscious effort to relax my whole body, softening my core so he could read my body language to say it’s okay to come down now.

His response was almost immediate. He soon lowered his head to level, indicating the intensity had passed, and began to lick and chew to demonstrate some relaxation.

“Good boy, … come on, Bear, come be with me,” I encouraged in a soft voice that reflected my more relaxed state. I continued to breathe audibly.

He began to amble in my direction.

“Good boy … nice and slowly now …”

He stopped and sniffed at the cavelletti some 10 feet from where I stood. While he was thus distracted I quietly walked over to him and stopped a few feet away to acknowledge his personal space. He stopped sniffing and turned to face me, acknowledging my presence. We honoured this reconnection together. It was a sweet moment.

Then, without any further effort on my part, Bear wandered over to me and put his muzzle against my chest as if to apologize for his lapse in judgement. I stroked his neck and attached the lead rope to his halter, and we started walking again. It was then that I had a good long talk with him about how inappropriate his actions had been, and impressed upon him that since I am not allowed to ride him right now he’s not allowed to go leaping around as if nothing is wrong with him. It sends the wrong message and, more importantly, it could set his recovery back weeks.

I couldn’t stay mad at him for long. Still, since then his walkabouts have been limited to the lead rope.

What a twerp!

End note …

There have been two snow days this week (including today) where I haven’t been able to get to the barn to see my boy. Lovely Sarah has been pampering Bear for me on these days which is amazing as this allows me to rest easy that he will be okay in my absence. :-)

And this past Friday Bear had his third of three shockwave treatments. Now we have a month to wait until the next ultrasound which will tell us how the injury is healing. In the meantime, we simply keep on keeping on.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

*Wendy is on her own brand of stall rest right now, and appears to be doing well.

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

 

 

Get Well Greetings from Spike Pearson … A Pictorial

Bear has received many greetings and warm wishes from concerned friends

This week, a special declaration of friendship from his buddy, Spike Pearson.

~*~

“Bear! Someone’s sent you a get well card!”

Good Penmanship

~*~

“For me?”

For Me?

~*~

“That’ right … Look!”

Compelling Reading

~*~

“What does it say?”

With Love

~*~

“Oh, how lovely! Look at all the carrots. Would you like one?”

Get Well Carrots

~*~

“That’s a silly question!”

Thank You, Spike

~*~

“What do you say?”

“Thank you, Spike Pearson! You’re the best!”

Spike Pearson

~*~

Bear is such a lucky boy to have such good friends.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Next update coming soon …

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Things Are Getting Silly Now … and a Sonnet

Meeting Lucky

Bear meets his lucky charm for the first time …

~*~

For good or ill things are getting silly now. Probably for good since a little bit of levity is a welcome change and living in the doldrums is no fun at all.

It’s week three ~ some 24 days into Bear’s treatment for an injured lateral suspensory ligament ~ and with the dust finally beginning to settle, finding stimulating ways to amuse ourselves in the depths of frigid winter is high on our list of priorities.

Thankfully, Bear continues to be cooperative and sensible during his convalescence, and the comic side of his character is once again taking centre stage. (Or perhaps I’m simply able to see it again. Amazing what happens when you open your eyes.)

During our most recent hand walking excursions, with the arena sound system set to the classical music station and Bear now on free walk (I believe the fact that his blanket stays on while we do our walkabout helps him to understand this is not an opportunity to go running off steam) he’s been following me around like a happy puppy dog. And, just like the proverbial hound out for a walk with his/her mistress, within minutes of our perambulation he leaves me a special delivery, which I then dutifully clean up under his expert supervision. After making a deposit in the bucket at Poo Corner, we continue our walkabout, and while I hum along to Mozart or Thomas Tallis or whoever, Bear ambles behind me, gently running his nose back and forth along the fake furry fringe of the hood on my winter overcoat. He’s ever so tactile.

Lately Bear’s been learning how to bow

Learning to bow has come about as a natural result of the carrot stretches I’ve been integrating into our daily walks to help keep him bendy.

Bear is a fast learner, so teaching him to bow has been easy. (He’s also rather motivated by the promise of an orange root veggie reward.) Being the smart apple he is, he’s taken this exercise one step further and bows without prompting.

For instance, we’ll be engaged in our walkabout (we walk dressage test patterns to cure the monotony) when I’ll sense he’s stopped somewhere behind me. I turn around.

“What’s going on, Bear?” I’ll ask with some amusement.

He’ll give me a knowing look with those big, baby browns and then gaze down at his front feet, one of which will be placed forward of the other. Next thing I know he’s bowing for me. Forgive me … for the carrot he knows is padding my pocket.

Bowing

Carrot, please …

 ~*~

Oh, my goodness … he’s so cute! And just for a moment I’ll forget this wretched injury vortex in which we’re holed up and simply revel in this touching moment of joy we share.

Of course, he’s rewarded for his effort and initiative, and then I make sure to move him forward quietly so he understands the moment is ended. (Otherwise we might be stuck there for some time while he demonstrates his bowing prowess by constantly switching which leg he brings forward and bowing and repeating. … Gosh, I hope I haven’t created a monster.) As we continue his free walk, we stop to practice his bowing for as many carrot pieces as I have left in my pocket. He’s always wander struck when my pocket is finally empty.

Still, twenty minutes of hand walking goes quickly when interspersed with a little silliness accompanied by classical music.

At least we finish with smiles.

Speaking of smiles … doing so on command is next on the trick roster. I’ll keep you posted.

And now … a Word from Poet’s Paddock

Meditation 2

Shakespeare musing …

~*~

Naturally, Poet’s Paddock is empty these days, but Poet’s Stall doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Still, Shakespeare (Bear’s registered name and creative alter ego) has had plenty of time to contemplate his navel and conjure some poetic fluff.

As many of you know, dear Shakespeare has a penchant for poetic rumination (visit PoetsPaddock for more) and from time to time I have been known to indulge his flights of fancy in this blog.

Herewith a sensitive rendering from our equine muse, transcribed, of course, by yours truly …

~*~

Sonnet XXVII

One hundred days and twenty in this stall
To rest and watch as others’ worlds go by.
And restless though I be as bouncing ball
More sad I am to hear my mother sigh.
Though side by side this journey now we trace
Our joys and sorrows cannot be the same
Tis not t’ward a finish line we race
For she is well and I, perchance, am lame.

Neigh, step by step while on this pitted path
Together wobble we this journey scorned,
Still in our hearts we harbour little wrath
For out of battles victories are born.
And though the days seem long and move e’er slow
This too shall pass, and to new heights we’ll grow.

~*~

 So, there you have it. This week is a little more light hearted, a little silly, and I pray this will continue to be the case as we move forward with Bear’s recovery. It is, perhaps, how we’ll be able to maintain our sanity during this dormant period.

As mentioned in my last post I’ve learned to acknowledge that this is, perhaps, an opportunity for further healing on my part as well. Little signs along the way are showing me this is, indeed, the case. I miss riding, make no mistake, but the intense cold makes it easier for me to focus on what’s really important right now and that’s the healing journey. I’m putting my faith in the process. Perhaps at the end of this Bear and I will come out stronger than ever and life will open up even more than I imagined.

I’m hopeful.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Going With The Flow

 

Shadow~*~

It’s day 18/120.

A little over two weeks have passed since Bear’s injured suspensory diagnosis and things seem to be progressing well. Thankfully, my emotional roller coaster has levelled out as I’ve become more accepting of this unexpected turn of events. I’ve also gained a better understanding of shock.

One thing I’ve learned from this experience is that we should never underestimate the impact of shock, no matter how minor we consider it to be. Shock disorients and unbalances us in all kinds of insidious ways, impairs thought processes and wears us down. Allowing the dust to settle during a time of personal crisis is crucial before we make important decisions if we’re to live without regret.

Of course, Bear doesn’t really make decisions … he simply goes with the flow ~ something I can still afford to do better. He’s has managed to settle into the new routine without all the drama. He is perfectly content, while in his confinement, to amuse, and be amused ~ eating, sleeping, engaging in Jim Carrey-like facial contortions. He’s accepted his lot ~ a reminder for me to do the same ~ to go with the ebb and flow of life and be with what is; to respond to events appropriately as they happen and then, as the proverbial contented horse, go back to grazing. It’s a challenging lesson, to be sure, but here’s Bear, in his wisdom, showing me the way. I always knew he was more than just another handsome face.

For me, as always, personal awareness is key. While I struggle with old issues triggered by the shock of Bear’s injury I realize that to face them head on and deal with them mindfully is the best possible course of action. In an odd kind of way, Bear’s convalescence is giving me yet another opportunity to heal some old emotional wounds and, as an added bonus, get appropriate rest as well. Healing, emotional or otherwise, takes energy and can be tiring. So, we need rest.

Let’s see … there are only nine-and-a-half weeks of this course of treatment left (but who’s counting?). A quick calculation tells me May 6 marks the beginning of the next stage, whatever that happens to be. That’s well into the spring. Thus, as I gaze into my crystal ball I foresee Bear and I languishing in hibernation mode, getting lots of rest. ;-)

So, that’s the scheme of things for now. I don’t have another horse to ride at the moment, so my option is forced R&R with Bear. There’s no point in bemoaning something that cannot be changed. Life happens and, as my dear boy keeps reminding me, it’s best just to get on with it as best you can … and smile.

The Routine …

Naturally, we’ve developed a new routine and it appears to be working well.

In the mornings before I arrive, Bear helps ~ a loose interpretation to be sure ~with the chores. Wendy rotates him between stalls (for a change of scenery) while the barn is being cleaned and, being the enterprising equine he is Bear finds all kinds of opportunities to make himself useful. Cleaning up residual grain in his buddies’ feed tubs and scarfing remnant hay are his first priority. He hates wastage.

By 11 a.m. or so, his arduous tasks complete, Bear’s back in the comfort of his own freshly cleaned stall, indulging in a generous helping of hay plunged into the depths of the nibble net he’s borrowing from his generous buddy, Midas.

By the time I arrive (around noon) Bear’s almost finished his morning hay ration or is lost in a mid-day snooze. We say our hellos and then head into the arena for a little hand walking which, as I’ve discovered, can be considered more entertainment than exercise. Sure, he gets to stretch his legs, but more importantly he can gaze admiringly at his reflection in the mirror, or play follow the leader, or hunt for carrots in my pocket. The possibilities are endless. Eventually, when the weather warms up and the ice melts, we’ll be able to go outside for a toodle, but for now these moments of mirth and perambulation indoors must be our lot.

After 10-15 minutes of freezing our butts off, we head back to the barn for his daily grooming ritual, complete with more carrots and the occasional wintergreen mint. He likes those. As well, his bandages are changed, his hay net refilled, his stall picked clean, his water topped up and, oh yes, a heaping handful of yummy orange root vegetables are left in his feed bin.

Not spoiled at all.

The Perfect Day … New Shoes and a Massage

Who wouldn’t like a fancy new pair of shoes and a massage to brighten up a cold winter’s day?

Who indeed? (sigh …)

Monday was not my day for a pedicure and a back rub. It was Bear’s.

As luck would have it his appointments with Farrier Tim and REMT Jaime just happened to fall on the same day.

Egg-zactly what the doctor ordered …

Proper hoof care is important, and perhaps even more when a leg injury is involved. Even though Bear’s right hind suspensory is bandaged 24/7 for the duration of his 120-day confinement, it requires extra support to aid healing. The egg-bar shoe, which Dr. Maggie, Bear’s attending vet from McKee Pownall Veterinary Services prescribed as part of his treatment, is designed specifically for this purpose.

As the name might suggest, this shoe is egg-shaped. It fits onto the hoof like any other shoe, however part of it juts out behind to help take pressure off injured suspensory ligaments.

Naturally, Bear enjoyed having his back feet trimmed and measured, and his new custom loafers properly fitted. He’s simply loves the attention. For my part, it was when Farrier Tim asked if the snow pads should be left under Bear’s front shoes (and I said no because, of course, Bear won’t be going outside until the ice and snow are a fading memory) that the rehab road ahead took on the appearance of a winter prairie highway … endless into the horizon. (I try not to think about it.)

Oh, well. At least Bear now has the shoes for the journey.

… and a massage, just because …

About an hour after his pedicure Bear was happily in massage mode. Floppy-eared, soft-eyed, and as zoned into this gentle muscle manipulation as anyone could be. Maybe I need to book one of these for myself … hmmmm.

spa time

 

So, what about a little pampering for this Horse Mom?

Yes, indeed. What about it?

Between the six-month Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning certification program in which I participated the last half of 2014 (an amazing learning and healing experience) and this proverbial blow to the solar plexus things have been pretty intense of late. A change of scenery is definitely in order. Figuring out what that is, where it’s going to be and organizing it is another matter.

My biggest challenge is that living with adrenal fatigue for the past three years has, out of necessity, made my world quite small. My life has been at home and at the barn, with the occasional accompanied trip abroad which I always had to manage carefully. This experience provided me with great insight on recovery time and maintaining a low profile while the body does what it needs to heal. Still, now that I’m feeling more robust I want to expand my comfort zone again. Just how to do this without overwhelming my still recovering nervous system is the pressing question.

I expect I’ll be asking similar questions once Bear starts into work again in a few months. How much can I push him without risking re-injury to that suspensory? See … we are not so different.

It’s all about mindfulness, of course, and being open. As I’ve said before, things invariably unfold as they should and it’s been my experience that going with the flow is always a good practice. Doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it does work. Just ask Bear, my going-with-the-flow guru.

Nurture what you love,

Dorothy
Horse Mom

P.S. Yesterday Bear had his second round of shock wave therapy. While it’s too early to tell if there’s been an improvement in his injured suspensory we can say for certain that his condition is stable. (Hahahaha … :-) )

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

 

From Shock Waves to Opportunity

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is also sometimes a matter of opportunity.”
Hippocrates

~*~

So, another leg of the healing path lies before Bear and I and what a wobbly pair we are. He and his bum ankle and me and my shaken sensibilities.

Naturally learning of Bear’s injury last week was a shock to the system. For days I felt the sting of his diagnosis and the disorientation of having had the rug pulled out from under my dressage dreams.

Yet, all the while I believed that in its place, when I was ready to see it and step up, a door mat to opportunity would appear ~ that all-important cloud’s silver lining. I still believe it.

But first, the “five stages of mourning” experience, which I liken to shock waves, had to flow through ~ a time of quiet (and agonized) introspection and self-care.

The first shock wave arrived by way of denial, and lasted about 24 hours. A fog seemed to settle in my mind, clouding my ability to see everything exactly as it needed to be seen. Dissociation, if you will. I simply found the information too overwhelming. After an hour and a half spent with the vet and learning of the diagnosis I made my peace with Bear and left him in the kind care of the barn manager. I needed space and time for the new reality to sink in. A pre-scheduled casual appointment gave me the opportunity and I took advantage of it knowing that Bear was in good hands. Even so, I floated between the comfort of knowing the source of his distress to the discomfort of uncertainty with respect to how he would heal. Denial disappeared when I returned to the barn the next day to find Bear in standing wraps tussling with his hay in the nibble net. It was then I understood that this experience was real.

After denial the second shock wave, anger. Why Bear? Why now, after all the progress we’ve been making? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Still, even while I was going through it I knew there was no point in holding on to this negative energy. Anger is an emotion that must flow in and out of the picture, like any other. It’s message ~ to help us grasp the fact that a boundary has been crossed and that we need to do something to mend that hurt. Anger is not the focal point. Horse hooey happens. It needs to be mucked out and released. So, that’s what I did.

The third wave of shock, bargaining. If only I’d been more in tune with Bear’s needs; if only I’d called the vet sooner; if only Bear could talk! … I know better than to beat myself up about things over which I have no control, so this stage did not last long either. I have been a steward of Bear for the past nine years and always done the best with the knowledge I had at my disposal. Lamenting over what was and berating myself over not being smarter/a better horse person/a soothsayer doesn’t help. Still, it’s one of those things we apparently need to do to get through to the other side of grief.

And then yes, a wave of depression because of what is lost. Bear and I have been progressing so well and now our training is set back several months … or perhaps forever if this injury doesn’t heal. (I believe it will, but there are no guarantees, as the vet reminded me.) So then, what of my riding? Is it time to give that up? When I consider this option my eyes well up and my heart races. No, it can’t possibly be time to let go of an activity that brings we such joy. I’m always happiest with the wind in my mane. Happiest when Bear shares his wings with me. Oh dear … here come the tears …

And then, finally, the wave of acceptance. I’m getting there. The silver lining is peeking through this heavy, dark cloud that has shrouded my week and the light is beginning to show forth. I’m getting stronger again and feeling like I can perhaps cross the threshold of an open door to opportunity, even if I don’t know exactly what that is yet. Bear needs time off, this is evident. Perhaps a change of career is in order for him. This remains to be seen. In the meantime, I need to focus on what I can do. Expand my world. Draw on my adventurous spirit. Open my mind and heart to the idea of adding to my herd.

My dressage dream still stands. I want to create my own freestyle choreography and test it at Prix St. George level. (Hey! I’ve never voiced that before!) I have a great trainer now. I still have a lot of good years ahead of  me and want to make the most of this opportunity.

Still, time will tell. In the meantime, I focus my attention on Bear’s boo-boo and do the best I can to keep him comfortable and entertained while he’s in rehab.

And how’s Bear doing?

We’re at day 9/120. Bear’s in good spirits and being sensible about the new routine.

On Friday he had his first round of Shock Wave therapy ~ a non-invasive treatment that uses shocks of energy to stimulate the injured cells back to wellness. Since then I have been responsible for the daily changing of his standing wraps (both hind legs including a sweat on the injured fetlock), and hand walking 1-2 times daily for 10-15 minutes each time. It’s been obscenely cold in southern Ontario so there’s no time for imagination. We simply walk. Bear seems wistful about it. It’s as if he understands that something is lost and that the new normal, however temporary, is just what it is.

The attached diagram shows where Bear’s injury (and Hershey’s just as a bonus) has occurred. The extensor branch of the suspensory ligament, where Bear’s injury is located, helps to support the fetlock to prevent over extension of the joint while in motion. Any number of factors could have contributed to the inflammation he’s experiencing in that area right now. I’ve given up speculating on it.

(It’s a funny thing … several years ago I had a mounting accident (yes, I wasn’t even on my horse yet) and severely strained the ligaments of my right ankle (hind!) when my foot flip flopped violently from side to side in the deep footing of the outdoor sand ring (it’s a long story … sigh … ). So bad was the sprain that I was black and blue from the tip of my toes to just below my knee, and I didn’t have full use of that ankle for several months. So, to some extent I can empathize with Bear’s situation.)

The recovery is going to be a long and slow ordeal. Four months to heal the injured area and, if we get the all clear, another eight months just to get him back to the fitness level he enjoyed before he injured himself. By that time he’ll be 14 and a half years old.

Will he make a total recovery? As I’ve said before, it remains to be seen. He’s getting the best of care and the rest, really, is up to him. In the meantime, he’s enjoying some R&R and I have an opportunity to establish a new equilibrium and expand my horizons.

From my experience, the shock waves of life can open the door to deep healing, and healing always brings with it an opportunity for growth and expansion. We just need to be open enough to see, receive and make the most of it.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

 

 

Stalled

stalled

We’re in this together …

 

~*~

Okay, so this is where everything I learned in the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning program least year is put to the test.

Feeling my feelings. Acknowledging. Accepting. Embracing. Releasing. Moving on.

The following pictorial is a summary of Bear’s visit with the vet on Wednesday …

Mr. Curious

Bear plays the role of Curious George as Dr. Maggie and her able assistant, Sarah, set up the x-ray equipment outside his stall.

Since I manage foreign stress better with a camera in hand, in this instance my iPhone, I take pictures.

~*~

x-ray

Sarah holds the x-ray plate while Dr. Maggie captures one of several images.
Bear was a good boy throughout the exercise.

~*~

bones are good

Eureka! Bones of the fetlock joint are in good shape. :-)

~*~

Can I see?

“Can I see?” asks Bear, politely.

~*~

Ultrasound

Time for the ultrasound …

~*~

Sore suspensory

Sadly … ultra unsound. :-(

~*~

The Trooper

Check the other fetlock for comparison.
Bear remains stoic.

~*~

sore

The end result …

Bear has injured the lateral suspensory ligament of his right hind leg.
This is a serious injury.
To prevent further damage (especially since it’s so icy outside right now) he is to be confined to his stall for 120 days to recover.
As well, he will be bandaged 24/7 with a change every day.
He’ll also be hand walked once or twice a day to give him really light exercise and help allay the boredom.

~*~

Nibble net

Bear is in good spirits and seems to understand that we are trying to help him. He’s a smart horse and amuses himself with the nibble net in which his hay is now fed.

~*~

I, on the other hand, am dealing with uncomfortable feelings right now. Even though I know what’s going on (and better to know), and welcome the experience of nurturing him back to health with the support of Wendy, the barn manager, and my lovely friends at the barn, I am sad. Sad that Bear suffers; sad that our training has been stalled. As well, as this is Bear’s first major injury in the almost nine years since I welcomed him into my life, seeing him confined in this way, even though it’s for his own good, is difficult for me.

How did this happen? Who knows! He’s a horse. It could have happened anywhere. But I expect that learning to move correctly has put stress on an area of his body (the right hind) that is his natural weakness. With the time off and proper care he will quite likely come back feeling stronger and better than ever, but there are no guarantees. I’ve received a lot of encouragement from other horse owners who have been in this boat, and this helps me to feel somewhat better. Still, the uncertainty, I guess, is what unsettles me the most, especially since my life in general feels unsettled right now.

And yet, I remain optimistic.

Today I get a refresher course in bandaging from Wendy, and Dr. Maggie is coming back to give Bear his first of three shockwave treatments which will be spread out during his recovery time.

Over the next few days I’ll begin to develop a routine and a rhythm that will help things settle again. A time of new growth; new opportunity; new learning. It’s a matter of taking one step at a time and having faith in the journey.

Perhaps you’re wondering about the expense?
Between the x-rays, ultrasounds, shockwave treatments et al, Bear’s recovery is an expensive undertaking. Fortunately, I have medical coverage from his insurer so most of it will be covered.

So, here we are, Bear and I, hobbling down another path together that will deepen even more the relationship we already share.

Every cloud has a silver lining and I can see the gossamer starting to appear already.

We’re stalled … but we’re fine.

Thanks for stopping by and remember to nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

With The Good The …

Waiting

~*~

It’s a new year. Lots of good things to look forward to in terms of personal growth and development.

And yet, there are trials, too.

Bear is still not completely sound. The right hind continues to be problematic. Kind of like me with my stiff right hip that gradually loosens as I stretch and use it, he’s a bit wobbly in the trot when we get started but gradually pulls through. Early last week it was much better. Then later in the week it was worse.

I just don’t get it.

Stefan says to get a proper diagnosis. No more guess work. We need to know exactly what we’re dealing with. And he’s right, of course.

Yes, the chiropractic helps. Yes, the massages help. Yes, the dental work made a difference. But obviously something else is going on that we need to fathom.

It’s not that Bear’s in a great deal of pain. If he was he wouldn’t be so willing to work. As I mentioned in my last post he’s all soft-eyed and floppy-eared in the going; attentive and willing to put his best foot forward. He wants to work, it’s just that for some reason he’s struggling right now.

So, this week more consultations with the vet.

Since it’s -12C with -20C windchill for most of the week he’ll be getting lots of time off. Perhaps that’s the answer. I don’t know.

Still, one way or the other we’ll find out what’s going on. In the meantime I’ll just keep my heart and mind open and take each day as it comes.

Spoil the boy rotten with carrots, of course, and with those mini peppermint candy canes he took such a shine to over Christmas. In moderation … of course.

I guess a trip to the bulk store is in order. ;-)

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

 

 

My Horse; My Mirror ~ A Year In Review

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw

~*~

How I have changed

My 2014 journey has been filled with highs and lows, ups and downs and many blesséd “Aha!” moments.

With my new coach I am catching a glimpse of myself as the rider I always wanted to be ~ confident, skilled and aware. No limitations on where I might go. No one telling me I’d “never be able to ride” my horse at a higher level because “I couldn’t handle it.” Since this coach’s mandate is to teach skills to the rider that are of ultimate benefit to the horse, he is dedicated to instilling in me correct classical dressage principles. I now feel like riding is something in which I might thrive instead of merely survive. The difference in just a year is profound. I have never felt more in tune with my horse.

Hands

~*~

Coupled with this new lease on my riding life, of course, is everything I learned by participating in the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) certification program this year. Talk about a life changer!

I can say, unequivocally, that I am NOT the person I was when I started the FEEL course at the end of June. My past no longer haunts me the way it did. The self-defeating beliefs that had sabotaged my life no longer have their strangle-hold on me. I understand my Self and the burden of trauma I’ve been carrying my entire life ~ trauma that I have learned to release so that I can live more fully in the moment and with a vibrant sense of well being. A happy side effect is that my overall health has greatly improved. Adrenal fatigue seems a fading memory, though the lessons it taught about self-care are now a fixture in my life and I continue to nurture my Self accordingly.

The FEEL journey wasn’t easy, this is true, but it was so worth it. And I’m grateful to my fellow graduates, the course facilitators and, of course, the wonderful herd of therapy horses who made the healing journey that changed my life a safe, exciting and rewarding experience. An experience that has opened my mind and heart and given me the freedom to live my truth instead of the illusion I’d known.

Yes, I have changed. I’m happy in a way I’ve never been happy. Confident in a way I’ve never been confident. And engaged with life in a way I’ve never felt engaged before.

How Bear has changed

Well, I didn’t think it was possible for my beautiful boy to become any more beautiful but this year he certainly has. He’s blossomed!

When we arrived at the new barn a year ago today, he was going little better than an old school horse ~ weak behind; not accepting the contact; a four-beat canter and arguing with me with each transition. I didn’t see it then, but a year in review and everything I have learned shows me the ugly truth. I’m sure my new coach must have looked at us and wondered what on earth he was getting into. But he never judged us. He simply accepted the challenge and has, by all accounts, turned Bear’s (and my) life around.

Bear today

~*~

I knew going in that working with a riding master of the German school was going to be a treat for me, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what a profound journey it would prove for Bear.

The new coach has been giving Bear the training he needs to be the horse he was bred to be. There is still much to learn, of course, but as demonstrated during Monday’s coaching Bear is moving straighter, using his back more effectively, is sound in the hind end, has a three-beat canter and is happy in his work (as indicated by his soft eye and gorgeous floppy ears.) I have had Bear for nearly nine years now and I can honestly say I have never seen him so relaxed. He loves working with Stefan and he is much happier with me now that I’m “getting” it.

DozingNaturally, all this learning has proven a challenge for my dear boy. It’s been a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back kind of year. Bear would make progress and then be off for a while as his body adjusted to the new, correct way of going. He needed his rest. Visits from his vet, dentist, chiropractor and massage therapist have all helped him to negotiate his way through this learning curve and, I’m pleased to say, his state of mind throughout has been open, trusting and receptive. I’m so proud of him!

As well, he has benefited from my involvement in the FEEL program. I am more aware of my communications with him in general and he appreciates it. Instead of telling him what we’re doing I ask him if he’d like to participate. This encourages me to be more present and get a sense of how he’s feeling before just launching into something. It’s a more consciously intuitive connection than before, even though I have done my best, in the past, to practice awareness with him. It’s just more so now.

Bear has also proven to me time and again that he’s a happy soul. He’s had numerous paddock buddies this year and demonstrated a friendly open nature with all of them. With Tango, his present roomy, he’s quite conciliatory and gentle sensing, it seems, that Tango’s current leg injury requires quiet paddock time. It’s lovely to watch them interact. They could be brothers they’re so similar in temperament and stature.

Yes, Bear has changed. He’s happy in a way he’s never been happy. Confident in a way he’s never been confident. And engaged with life in a way he’s never felt engaged before.

My horse ~ my mirror.

~*~

Dorothy and BearI like George Bernard Shaw’s quote (above) because it is truth.

None of the progress I have made this year would have been possible without a willingness to change my mind and open my heart to new possibilities ~ for my Self and for Bear. And it certainly would not have been achieved without the support of my husband, my therapist, my FEEL family and fabulous new friends and mentors at the new barn. There are not enough words to express the gratitude in my heart for the incredible journey and time of personal growth the year 2014 has been for me.

And now, thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to share in my journey. It means a lot to me to have your support as I write about meaningful times with Mr. Bear.

Who know what 2015 will bring. Based on my experience of 2014, I am optimistic … and I wish the same for you.

May you enjoy a blessed, prosperous and ever so happy new year!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014