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 us in giggles. I wasn’t there when it happened, still the story goes that one morning, while Bear’s stall was being picked out 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.

I’m told that when the barn manager 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, there’s some concern 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 wooley 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

Restoration Isn’t Just for the Medieval …

Dozing

 ~*~

Looks like Bear’s has an easy life of it, eh? Basking in the late spring sunshine. Not a care in the world, except that his buddy, Dream, has left him on his own for a while. This is how I found him when I arrived at the barn on Friday. All by himself in the middle of his paddock, chillin’.

I’ve never seen him do this. At first I wondered what on earth was going on but then, as I moved closer, he rolled over on his back for a little scratch, stood up and came over to greet me. He was feeling good and relaxed, and he wanted me to know.

A little R&R between rounds of training ~ rebuilding muscle; rewiring the brain; re-establishing connection is important. Rest is good. It gives us strength for the next leg of the journey. Gives us an opportunity to regroup; rebalance and, possibly, recalculate our next course of action. Given my experience with adrenal fatigue, which is stress induced, I firmly believe we need to incorporate more opportunities for rest into our daily lives. It’s a challenge, I know, but not impossible. And it’s important. Information overload and manic, perpetual doing is undoing our world, if I might be so bold as to say so.  As I’ve learned, running on empty is nothing of which to be proud. Self-care is important.

Mark my word … 😉

Bear and I had a rest from each other for two weeks …

Initial separation from my boy is always difficult. As a vacation approaches I gradually distance myself from him so that when I leave it’s simply a matter of saying “Goodbye, buddy, see you in a couple of weeks.” It’s good for both of us. Then, knowing he’s in good hands, I am able to enjoy my vacation worry-free. Of course, if anyone needs to reach us in case of emergency, they have our mobile number. Otherwise, the mind switches gears and my focus is on where I am.

Where we were was Italy ~ a vacation in the planning for a year. We spent three days in Florence; a blissful week at a rented Tuscan villa with five other couples in our neighbourhood, and ended with three days in Venice. It was a truly amazing experience.

When I was deep in adrenal malaise six months ago the last thing I wanted to do was plan, let alone go on, a trip. My last few travel experiences had been rather less than enjoyable from a health perspective, and for a long while I felt I would never travel again. It was just too stressful.

The villa in Tuscany. Serenity now ...

The villa in Tuscany

The planning of this trip was left up to my husband, although I did have a say in where we would go. The villa was a no-brainer ~ we’d been having organizational meetings of the “Tuscan Twelve” since June of last year. The villa near Iano was selected by the group last August, so we didn’t need to give this any further thought. However, because of my debilitating health situation I wanted to keep the rest of the trip as simple as possible ~ no flitting all over the country trying to see everything and getting into adrenal overload. I had no desire to feel miserable for 14 days.

So, I suggested Florence, because it was only an hour away from the villa, and Venice because it was two hours by train from Florence. My husband was good with that. Both cities we’d visited previously as part of a cruise experience and as any of you who have been on a cruise will know, eight hours at a destination is really only enough time to help you decide if you’d like to return again. We’d talked many times of revisiting these two beautiful cities and experiencing them more completely, so that’s what we arranged to do.

I’m not going to get into a travel log here. It was a phenomenal trip on so many levels and one that proved an important point ~ the worst of the adrenal fatigue appears to be behind me.

Italy, with all its culture, flavourful food, fine wine, dry climate, bright colours, flair, antiquity, art, music … and on, offers such an all-embracing panacea of rest and relaxation. I have not felt so good anywhere in such a long time. Even the travel days, while they didn’t exactly agree with me, were less stressful than other such experiences of the recent past. (I will mention that when we arrived in Florence ~ via Frankfurt ~ my one piece of luggage did not arrive with me. That got me pretty close to a panic attack that first night. Fortunately my husband was able to help me through that experience and I managed to get to sleep. The bag arrived the next morning after breakfast. How do you spell R-E-L-I-E-F? My medication was in that suitcase!)

In Italy I felt my sense of wonder return; my energies revived. I felt restored. (I want to write about it more fully, but may need to start another blog to do it justice. 😉 …) It seemed like both the end of an old and the beginning of a new chapter. The end of an intense period of healing that began five years ago with a trip to Sarajevo, and the beginning of a new enlightened phase of healing that includes the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning certification program I’m starting tomorrow.

I’m ready to take the next step. My adrenals will support me now, I know it.

And then there’s my beautiful horse who was so happy to see me when I got back. He had a lovely time of it while I was away, make no mistake. Enjoyed lots of fussing over while he worked and played hard and got plenty of rest.

We both needed this break from each other to help process all the new information we’ve absorbed since our move to the new barn six months ago and to prepare for the next period of growth.

Together we’re gearing up to enjoy this new chapter ~ and while it’s going to be a lot of work and life expanding in ways that, at this point, I can only imagine, I can’t help but feel it’s also gonna be fun!

~*~

Bear 13

… The birthday boy …

~*~

It seems fitting that as we enter this new chapter we’re also celebrating Bear’s birthday. He turns 13 today. That’s right up there in middle age. Time to start thinking about some joint support. 😉

Nurture what you love … and get some rest.

Restoration isn’t just for the Medieval. 😉

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014 

 

A Happy St Patrick’s Day

A happy day indeed.

Here’s a trip down memory lane ~ my journal entry for the day a dream came true.

~*~

March 17, 2006

6:25 a.m.

It’s a beautiful day for bringing Shakespeare home. Not a cloud in the sky; not a hint of a breeze ~ just lovely …

Later the same day …

So, I have my horse!! My dream come true.

And he is the most beautiful boy both in looks and demeanour. I am greatly blessed.

He’s already endeared himself to a number of people, and his next door neighbour seems to like him too.

Shakespeare took everything in stride, even when he got tense in the trailer when he was first loaded. It wasn’t anything a little tranq couldn’t settle.

The traffic coming home was busy but not brutal. We took Hwy 4o1 and were fortunate to leave Hagarsville when we did ~ half an hour later and we would have been snarled in traffic due to a horrible accident that  occurred around 4 o’clock. We had just returned home about that time.

Yup, we had the luck of the Irish with us today.

When we got home Shakespeare stepped off the trailer a little groggy but none the worse for wear. Certainly, everyone who saw him was impressed by him. One thing that made a real impression was his pudginess. Yes, he is over weight but nothing that can’t be remedied. N says that when he loses the weight it’s going to be much easier for him to work ~ easier on his joints and legs.

After I walked him around the arena for a while I took him to his stall where he met his new barn mates, and then I spent a little time grooming him. He’s a sensitive guy. I had to nudge him firmly in the side when he got evasive to me holding up his left front foot. This really upset him ~ not in any angry way but more in a “why are you getting upset with me?” kind of way. He’s smart though. I had no trouble picking up his feet after that.

It was fun to spend time with him. He settled into his feed and hay without trouble and fluttered his nostrils at the shavings in his stall as he’d never seen such a thing before. (He’d been bedded on straw.)

He likes carrots, and he likes to be fussed over.

I think he’s going to fit in really well.

I had a rehearsal this evening so left the barn around 5:30 p.m. I’ll be back tomorrow to spend some time with him and will spend even more time with him on Sunday.

I am blessed.

Shakespeare comes homes ... March 17, 2006

Shakespeare, a strapping four-year-old, comes homes with me … March 17, 2006

~*~

As you might imagine, St. Patrick’s Day is a happy day for me.

Today Bear and I celebrate eight years together.

My plan was, of course, to spend time with him and spoil him rotten. Maybe even ride, if it wasn’t too cold.

However, the adrenal fatigue has caught up with me today and I’m confined to home.

I’m sad, but circumspect.

Life unfolds as it should.

We’ll both enjoy another day of rest and I can imagine him outside enjoying his new friendship with Dream.

How appropriate!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Where There’s A Will …

Connection

Change of any description, if it is to be undertaken with mindfulness, takes energy.

The move to a new barn at the beginning of the year has required a great (and positive) shift in the way I view the equestrian world and my place in it. It’s also invited me to step up to the challenge of beginning to live the dream I’ve had since childhood ~ of being a competent dressage rider.

It’s been a meandering road to get to this point, mostly due to my own lack of self-awareness and a life time spent in survival mode. And now that I am here, I’m learning to adapt to a new way of being while still negotiating the pitfalls of energy-depleting adrenal fatigue ~ one of the side effects of living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for so long.

Still, we’re on the right track now and it will take as long as it takes to evolve into the partnership I have dreamed of for Bear and I for so long.

Changes are already happening. I find it difficult to write about it while we’re in transition simply because there’s so much going on I don’t know where to start. And, I don’t want to exhaust myself in the attempt to do so.

Suffice to say that while I learn to ride Bear according to his training imprint he is gaining strength and stamina and is so much more relaxed. It’s almost as if he’s come “home” in himself somehow. No more arguments because my hands are so busy (because they aren’t anymore). No more miscommunication. As I begin to integrate the nuances of the new skills I’m learning Bear settles into a frame of mind that demonstrates to me I’m finally beginning to “get” it while he is more happily engaged in our work.

I cannot begin to tell you what a difference this has made to our relationship overall. Something has changed. A switch has gone on. Our bond is tighter. It’s as if as open as he was before he is even more so now simply because I’ve stepped deeper into his functionally imprinted world and left my own dysfunctionally imprinted one behind.

What a relief! What a gift! To see the world through his eyes and understand what it means to be “at home” at what you’re doing. The more at home he is, the more at home I am. It’s magic!

The elements of training that have brought us to this point involve a lot of technical explanation that I’m not going to get into, at least not at the moment. Suffice to say that working with a highly skilled dressage coach who has invested himself in Bear’s and my progress has made all the difference. In just five coaching sessions, and all the rides in between, Bear already feels like a completely different horse and I feel like a more competent rider. My default to hunter frame is a thing of the past.

Notwithstanding the obstacle of adrenal fatigue and the drain that is on my energy my dressage dreams live again.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

~*~

Speaking of wills …

Last year, as some of you know, I remarried. This has made it necessary to revisit and revise my Last Will and Testament to reflect my change of status. Of course, it’s important to adapt a Will according to any change in life circumstances. I’m no lawyer but I believe it’s safe to say that to file one once and never look at it again is probably not the smartest thing to do. Life circumstances change constantly and a Will, naturally, must reflect this.

As you can imagine, my horse figures into my Will, as he must. What is to happen to him (or any of my animal companions) should I make my grand exit from planet Earth before them?

“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed …”
Antoine de Saint-Exupèry

My arrangements in the past have been pretty loose, as far as Bear is concerned. Now that I’m revising my Will, I’m going to tighten things up and attach to it a Limited Power of Attorney outlining what I want done for Bear in my absence.

This idea was suggested by the owner of the barn where we are now and I think it’s a great one. This way even when Lloyd and I are away on vacation there is a written document which stipulates the steps to be taken in case of emergency, and it’s all been established ahead of time while cooler heads prevail. Beats a desperate phone call in the middle of the night while we’re half way around the world and I’m having a panic attack. 😉

When searching for a template online I came across this one from a fellow WordPress blogger at Capital Cowgirl. It’s most comprehensive and, as you can see, adaptable for equestrians and pet owners. I’m going to use this template for my other four-legged fuzzy companions as well.

If you are a horse owner and/or have pets as a part of your lifestyle, I suggest taking a few minutes to draw up a Limited Power of Attorney for each one and attaching them to your Will. As well, give copies to the caregivers in question so your instructions are readily available. This way you know you’ve done your due diligence with respect to the care of your animal companions while you are absent, for whatever reason, and the people to whom you have entrusted their care have a clear understanding of your wishes on the matter.

Bear is so important to me and, as you might imagine, I have given lots of thought as to what I’d like to happen should I pre-decease him. The option of the Limited Power of Attorney is sound and, attached to my Will, makes my wishes official.

And where there’s a Will … there’s peace of mind.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Forward with Forgiveness

Handsome

A quick post, off the top of my head, as a thought occurred to me today in the middle of my coaching session.

Bear’s had a quiet week. I wasn’t well for a couple of days so he got to enjoy life as a muddy pasture ornament with his buddy, Sam. Didn’t need to answer about anything. Just got to be a horse. Which is fine.

Today I was back in the saddle after an episode of adrenal fatigue on Tuesday, and feeling my way into the work again. Curled up in a ball, as I was, in my recliner in the living room for a day or so, it was a challenge to get the old body to open back up.

Of course, horses demand that we be open. If we close down, they close down. It’s really simple body language.

At any rate, it took me a little longer to get in the groove today and Bear, feeling his outdoor privilege and, likely, rather bummed at having to work again, was being particularly ornery. Or perhaps, and rather more likely, he was simply taking advantage of me.

As well, since getting home from our 18-day trip it’s been a challenge to get back into the great work ethic we had going before I left. Everything we had before is there, it’s just taking longer to find it, and Bear isn’t giving anything away for free.

At one point during canter work he had a hissy fit, unexpectedly leaping to the left in response to nothing in particular. I corrected the situation and got him going again, but felt he was being rather mischievous and unforgiving.

I happened to mention this to Coach.

He said, “Bear’s a warmblood. They’re notorious for not wanting to go forward and will find excuses to give you a hard time about it.”

Coach helped me manage my way through this hiccup. I worked at opening my position to invite Bear to move forward more fluidly. Things were starting to go well again.

And then it hit me …

I had accused my horse of being unforgiving when, in fact, that finger was pointing right back at me. Not about forgiving Bear, or anything like that. Forgiving people. People in my life who have unwittingly put stumbling blocks in my path that prevent me from going forward. But it’s not the stumbling blocks that are preventing me from going forward anymore. It’s my own lack of forgiveness for the people who put them there in the first place.

I have been in my own way. Bear telling me to get out of his way was a way of letting me know how much of an obstacle I present to myself and my ability to move forward with my own life.

On the surface I’m all “oh, that doesn’t bother me anymore.” But down deep, I can feel it, niggling. And every once in a while I’ll feel or say something that stokes those damning fires of resentment, which in turn blocks my path forward to the better way of being I have for so long strived.

That light bulb moment on the back of my horse was a revelation. Not only was I seeing with my mind the incredible boob I’d been recently harbouring all that resentment, but on the flip side of that my body was releasing the negative tension attached to it. This was allowing Bear to open up his stride and really swing through his body into a lovely forward canter.

To some this might sound farfetched, but to me it’s terribly real. It has lead me to the conclusion that as long as we carry resentment, jealousy and hurt feelings with us on our journey we are in danger of not being able to move forward toward our goals and dreams as we’d like.

The fact that certain people in my life have hurt me has not changed. What has changed is my perception of their deeds and my willingness to move on from the pain of it. To go forward in self-awareness along my healing path with a forgiving heart is what matters now.

And I have my horse to thank for that.

Thank you, Bear …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2103

How my horse saved me from an in-store cosmetic makeover …

Who are you?

Slightly off the beaten track today, but I felt I just had to share this little moment of unguarded candor from Saturday.

I was in the cosmetics department of the local drug store, minding my own business while engaged in the daunting task of selecting a suitably coloured lip gloss for daily use. (To my gentlemen readers: this can be a laborious endeavour for most women, make no mistake. 😉 )

Holy horsefeathers! … With so many lip-plumping, shine-enhancing shades and varieties and brands on the market these days what was once a simple foray into creative cosmetic self-expression has become more of an exercise in close-your-eyes-and-pick-one.

Ploughing through 12 or more shades of pink to find the one that works best for me is not my idea of a good time. What’s even more frustrating is when I do finally find the one I like and want to replace it a year later after it’s been well used, it’s either been repackaged and renamed so I can’t find it, or worse, discontinued. Thus the search for a new shade begins all over again. (And this is true of ALL cosmetic products.)

Another consideration: Do I trust the salesperson (usually a woman) to have my best interests at heart when debating the merits of pink versus peach against my skin? Sometimes I wonder. Call me a skeptic, but when she says I look good in a particular shade does she mean it or is she simply trying to make a sale?

Hmmmmm …

Perhaps this is more about my own trust issues, I don’t know, but I’ve bought a lot of lipsticks over the years that, under artificial store lighting, looked really good but, when I got home and tried them in natural light, made me look like a charicature of myself.

My make-up case is a veritable lipstick grave yard.

But, I digress …

During my little escapade I became acutely aware of a roving make-up artist brought in by the store for the day. Her mission: to provide make-up refreshers or, if a hapless “victim” purchased $75 worth of product or more, a full makeover.

She wasn’t really harassing people, but you know how it is … when you’re in a hurry you don’t really want to be bothered interacting with someone whose real purpose is to sell you stuff you don’t need. Frankly, I already own a full complement of expensive product I haven’t been able to use recently due to my ongoing entanglement with adrenal fatigue. I haven’t been able to get out much. The barn has been my social focal point and, as you might imagine, there isn’t a great call for a full face of make-up there.

So, doing my best to make myself invisible, I crouched low to the ground and ruminated with much focused intensity upon which of the the many gloss colours at my disposal might be most lip-smacking appropriate. I don’t wear a lot of make-up, but I am particular when I do.

Then, as the wolf is to the rabbit, I was pounced upon.

“Can I help you find something?” the over-made-up make-up artist enquired with a saccharin snarl.

How to wriggle myself free?

“No thanks!” I responded quickly and resumed my focus on a seemingly fruitless search.

The prowler wouldn’t take the hint and continued to hover, almost standing on top of me. So while still crouched, I turned on my heels and decided to get a closer look at her.

She was young middle-aged, I’d say, and face painted in such a way, no doubt, as to demonstrate her prowess in the cosmetic arts.

Heavy foundation, piled-on layers of eye shadow in shades of cerise and black, false eye lashes, big ruby lips, and hair dyed black sporting a streak of cerise that flashed carelessly through long unkempt bangs — a little too Goth, for my taste. Still, I smiled, thanked her for her query and returned again to the task at hand, hoping she’d go away.

I was to be disappointed.

“We have a special offer on today … ” she began her cheerfully whining speech.

I only half listened as she went on about this and that to do with the special in-store offer.

“Blah … blah … blah … blah … blah … or you can have the full makeover with a purchase of $75 or more. Would you like to follow me?”

That’s when I finally turned to the unrelenting and, without pre-meditation, flashed this bolt out of the blue:

“No thanks … I’m going to the barn after this and my horse doesn’t care what I look like.”

A pregnant pause hovered between us. A quizzical expression crawled spider-like across her mask such that I could almost hear the synapses in her selling strategy snapping in panic behind it …

Abort! Abort! Abort!

Then, after a moment and with wonderfully punctuated hesitation, she said …

“I … guess not …”

She then turned and walked away.

Victory complete, I exhaled with relief and returned again to my torturous lipstick hunt.

It was the wonderfully dumbfounded hesitation in her response that amused me.

Perhaps she’s never spent time with a horse. Perhaps the notion of going out in public without a full face of make-up is anathema to her. Or, perhaps, both notions are as foreign to her as wearing a full face of make-up every day is to me.

Had I intrigued her or confused her? Or did she think my manner downright rude and boorish?

I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.

What I do know, from personal experience, is the trap that’s set as soon as you park your derriere in the make-up chair of a cosmetic department.

Let the up-selling begin!

You come in for a lipstick and, unless you are really, really strong, leave with a full compliment of new face paint you will literally never use — all because the make-up magician made it look so good. Once home you’ve either forgotten, or have no idea, how the tricks work.

Experience has taught me that being cornered in this way is to be avoided at all costs. Like my horse, Bear, I don’t appreciate being bullied into doing something I don’t want to do. And sometimes, like Bear, I need to get myself out of that corner by demonstrating a little bit of attitude.

So, ladies, (gentlemen: feel free to pass this along to the women in your lives) if ever you feel cornered by some over-zealous cosmetician, feel free to lean on my exit strategy. And, hold fast to the immortal words of French poet, Antoine de Saint Exupéry:

” … it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

And that is how my horse saved me from an in-store cosmetic makeover. 😉

Nurture what you love … including yourself …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

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Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Playing Horse Games …

Playing horse games is not for the faint of heart.

Getting dumped, tossed, de-throned, ejected, launched — take your pick — is one of the hazards of borrowing time on the back of a prey animal. It’s right up there with getting bitten, kicked or stomped on. If you’re not paying attention, you’re bound to get hurt.

Anyone wishing to weather the storms of the mercurial equine spirit is best advised to batten down the hatches. Time with a horse can be as unpredictable as anything else you might imagine … and perhaps more so.

To the horse-besotted, however, it’s all part of a thrilling but dangerous game that changes every day.

I suspect this is why some might consider horse people, like me, to be one toon short of a looney. After all, I have been bitten, kicked, stomped on and thrown at various times throughout my equestrian life and still my passion for horses persists. Why would any otherwise rational person put his or herself within stomping distance of a four-hooved flight animal anyway?

Let’s just say that where our passions, dreams and hearts are concerned I believe it’s safe to say we’ll endure almost anything just to be close to what calls to us. Think about what calls you. When you’ve got the bug, whatever it may be, it’s most certainly got you. 😉

But I digress …

Truthfully, I have experienced the unscheduled dismount more times than I can recall. The fault is always mine, though there have been freak incidents too. Maybe I’ll share one wih you one day. Horses are just being themselves when stuff happens. A person who chooses to play with them must accept the consequences, for good or ill.

Which is why it’s important to be in the moment while in the company of the equine.

So … to my story …

Thursday was another one of those sultry summer days punctuated by the wet, clinging kiss of humidity. After settling into the saddle I directed Bear around the perimeter of the outdoor sand ring and noted a lack of willing forward energy in his step. We skirted puddles, lingering evidence of the previous days’ heavy rain, and slopped through wet patches that couldn’t be avoided. The footing was a little heavier than usual … I knew he wasn’t lame so wondered if, perhaps, this was contributing to Bear’s apparent sloth.

After several minutes, and with a squeeze of my lower leg, I nudged Bear into a trot. Again, his gait felt laboured; unwilling, and it took some effort and coaxing between seat and leg to get him more responsive. At one point it occurred to me that Bear might be feeling slow after his day off. But this is twisted logic really, because after a rest day shouldn’t he be feeling more frisky?

… Hold that thought …

We trotted about the ring, leg yielding into corners and doing 20 metre circles to create bend and flexibility. Then, following a brief rest we worked transitions between gaits to get Bear’s back and hind quarters more engaged. This sort of exercise helps to fire up the ol’ engine, as it were.

In the meantime, in the background the routine clatter of buckets and splashing of water emanated in fits and starts through the open door of the wash stall located in the corner of the adjacent barn. Usually the horses, including Bear are indifferent to this noisy distraction. It’s just part of the barn routine. But there are days …

Now, it’s important to note that when riding I do tend to zone out from the world-at-large and focus intently on my connection with Bear. It’s part of the therapy of riding. There is no welcome mat for outside thought.

I was thus engaged when, as we approached the open wash stall door and were about 10 metres away, Bear took exception to the aural assault of banging buckets and, before I knew it, had leapt violently sideways away from the noise, partially unseating me in the process.

The world whirled around me as Bear spun out in panic. I held onto the reins for dear life and grabbed at his mane trying to use momentum to hoist myself back into the tack. Time seemed to slow though everything was unfolding so quickly. Surely I could pull myself back up before … .

However, it was no use. I toppled to the wet, sandy ground (not a hard fall) and landed solidly on my left buttock, reins still in-hand so Bear wouldn’t get loose. But then he lurched backward and, to my dismay, yanked the reins from my grasp.

To his credit, he stayed with me (it’s rather an insult if your horse runs away after dumping you), his now cool, quizzical look seemingly inquiring, “What on earth are you doing down there?”

I tell you, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

“Oh, Bear!”

Somewhat stiff, annoyed, but unhurt, I hauled myself up and brushed myself off.

My “tired” horse had faked me out. He’d sucked me into his game and worse … I’d bought into it.

Well, his little demonstration showed me, of course, that there was more fire in the belly than I’d been lead to believe, and I was going to call him on it.

So, I remounted and with leg, seat and voice got after him so there’d be no question in his mind what I expected. I figured that if he had the energy to leap sideways he certainly had it to go forward.

(I’ll note here that I do not use spurs and the dressage whip I carry is used only lightly to back up my leg aid when necessary.)

He heard my message loud and clear and responded immediately with a magnificent, floating trot! Hallelujah!

Still, he toyed with me occasionally, throwing in little leaps and semi-spooks to test my will, and authority.

“Are you up to being alpha?” he demanded.

“Better believe it!” I asserted. 

By the time our game was over, about 20 minutes later, he was putty in my hands … and I was happy and pleasantly exhausted. We’d played fair and square … and both won!

Who knows why horses do what they do. Bear was possibly bored with our routine and used outside stimuli to up the ante.

Which only serves to remind me that, if I’m going to play horse games, I better spare a thought for the ever-changing horse rules … 😉

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2012

Wandering through Alfalfa

This week I feel like I’m wondering through alfalfa … all kinds of delicious opportunity around me yet unable to take advantage of it because I haven’t been feeling so great.

On Tuesday, after only 20 minutes or so in the saddle, I nearly collapsed from heat exhaustion and had to bring our training session to an abrupt halt. Bear seemed to know something was up. As I sat on a jump regaining my breath and equilibrium he nuzzled me behind the ear as if to assure me everything would be alright. Horses are so intuitive.

Well yesterday, after riding just long enough to find my legs again and feel good about it, I had my friend, Christine, work Bear in the canter. She rides him very well and it is a joy to be able to watch my beautiful horse go through his paces. To see how far he (we) have come in the past year does my heart good. It’s been challenging, and enjoyable, to say the least.

I want to continue growing with Bear, and to do so I must take care of myself. Recovery from adrenal fatigue is a long process, but I am determined in my quest for total health.

So, back to yesterday …

Since I had my camera in the car I grabbed it and captured an abundance of moments, including this one in which Bear, with Christine aboard but not pictured, is wondering through the alfalfa recovering after his vigorous workout. As horses do, he helped himself to a tasty morsel from time to time and relished every one.

I relish every moment with my Bear. Whether I’m with him on the ground or in the saddle he is an important part of my healing journey. I am blessed.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂

Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2012

Bear Therapy …

This week has been about Bear therapy …

There is nothing, perhaps, more mellowing than a mellow horse, and I have needed the comfort of my mellow horse these past few days.

If you follow my blog “Eyes to Heart” you’ll know that my family suffered a traumatic event late Wednesday night. I haven’t been specific about it … not yet. Suffice to say when the life of one of your loved ones is suddenly and unexpectedly threatened it is a shock. I have spent the last couple of days feeling unbalanced and emotionally vulnerable. It has required all my effort to stay grounded and in the moment. The first 12 hours were especially rough.

Since I’m still healing from adrenal fatigue too I’ve had to be especially mindful of my response to this situation and create a lot of down time for myself to recover. This has meant none of my regular physical exertion, i.e. no riding.

It’s disappointing to say the least, but sad eyes and heavy heart are not conducive to the focus and fortitude required to direct a 1,200 lb equine around a riding arena.

So instead I’ve been spending extra time with Bear in the barn … grooming mostly … lingering over his daily “spa” treatments as I release the unpleasant stress of the past 48 hours.

Of course, he doesn’t mind this at all as he happily inhales the carrots and apples and stud muffins, (oh my!) I faithfully deliver. Apart from the occasional pawing hoof if I’m not keeping up to his imagined dietary demands and schedule, he stands quietly in the cross ties while I fuss over him. His lavender aromatherapy facial massage is as much for me in the giving as it is for him in the receiving. I breathe in its pungent fragrance, and my heart softens … and Bear gives me his toothy grin which, of course, makes me smile.

And it’s a pretty darn good escape from the turmoil, leaving me free to mull, contemplate and meditate and let go of what I am powerless to change. I am reminded to be in the moment and the presence of Bear.

I fly to Calgary today to offer my loved one support for a few days. He’s out of ICU and feeling better, though bewildered. I don’t know what I can do but hold his hand and tell him I love him.

Before I leave I’m heading to the barn for more Bear therapy. There can never be too much of that …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012

A Happy New Year on the Road to Recovery

Shakespeare and me

Just a quick word …

Being on the mend means there’s not much energy left to muse. I’m looking forward to this shifting soon. It’s awful to feel stifled.

I’m recovering from the debilitating effects of adrenal fatigue, and as I nurture myself back to health an important part of my “therapy” is spending quality time with my beautiful Bear.

As I heal, my connection to Bear grows stronger, clearer and more buoyant. Instead of the dread and debilitating anxiety I was feeling a year ago while in the saddle, I’m feeling a new confidence and a sense of elation. Bear reflects to me how I’m doing.  Feeling how relaxed and happy he is with me helps me to know I’m on the right track.

On the days when I must yield to an adrenal meltdown it’s thoughts of Bear that keep me grounded. Because frankly, sometimes while sitting on the edge of my bed for hours at a time with a migraine and waiting for the nausea and vomiting to pass, I just want to end it.

Maybe a bit dramatic, but there you go.

I don’t know how long it’ll take for my adrenal function to stabilize. I’m working with a doctor, a naturopath, a chiropractor and a therapist to sort this through. But it’s getting so the good days are really good, and the bad days I’m learning to manage.

And besides, I tend to look at it this way … at least I know what I’m dealing with and am taking the necessary steps to heal. It does mean I’ve had to reduce my activity level. I rest a lot and have de-stressed my life as much as I can. My priorities have changed and my focus must be on getting well so I can fulfill my creative, and other, dreams.

The road to recovery may be a bumpy one, but at least I’m on it. And, as much as I nurture my horse in reality he also nurtures me.

Nurture what you love …

Happy New Year!

Dorothy
Horse Mom