A New Direction

NEWS III 1200 WM

Things are changing here on the farm. It’s time to shed the old to make room for the new.

Change invariably means discomfort ~ it’s why so many people are averse to engaging in it.  A proverbial “Do Not Disturb” sign hangs on the psyche of most because the need to hold on to the known, even if it feels debilitating, is the rut they know how to negotiate. It takes courage to forge a new path and stake claim on a new way of life. When thinking back to the city folk I used to be and the country folk I’ve become during the past three years, I know that the change, notwithstanding all the challenges and discomforts, is the best thing I could have done for myself. My health is better; my resilience strengthened.

And so, like the proverbial software upgrade, we’re updating to a newer version of our farm, complete with another learning curve.

Exciting and slightly unsettling all at once.

Sophia copy

 

In the meantime, Sophi and I deepen our bond as we continue our climb up the dressage training ladder. So much fun and so satisfying to grow in this way while the winds of change blow about us.

Change is inevitable. How we adjust to it depends entirely on our attitude and our willingness to accept an opportunity to grow. For me, this represents yet another chance to shed the negative old that no longer serves to make room for the positive new. I relish the opportunity.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2019

 

 

Two Years

BFFs 1200

~ Bear and Abbey ~

It’s been two years since my beautiful horse, Bear, died so unexpectedly. Where does the time go? Memories like that depicted in this photo remind me of his gentleness. He and Abbey were such good friends. She really missed him for a while, but over time has transferred her affections to my mare, Sophia. Animals are so adaptable. We could learn a thing or two from them, I think.

 

It’s also been too long since my last post. Life unfolds, and unfolds, and unfolds and sometimes the unfolding is so involved it’s difficult for the Muse to get a word in edgewise. Still, I’m hoping things will settle down soon so I can get back to putting pen to paper, as it were.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this …

“Real transformation begins when you embrace your problems as agents of growth.”

Michael A. Singer
(from his book “The Untethered Soul”)

As always, nurture what you love,

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2019

Celebrating Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry for International Women’s Day

Many incredible horse women have made a difference to my life. Either through their skills, talents, or examples, they’ve shown me how to be, and not to be, around these magnificent creatures.

Unsung Heroines Poster

The equestrian world is its own school for life, speaking to those with hearts open enough to listen and learn.

Here’s to hardworking horse women everywhere, making a positive difference to the lives of horses, and humans, alike.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2019
Aimwell CreativeWorks

No “Snow Days”

life goes on

There are no “Snow Days” on a horse farm.

No cancellations due to icy road conditions or blowing snow
(with the exception of riding because, yes, there is wind chill in the arena not fit for human or horse)

On the coldest, snowiest, blowiest, most unpleasant days:

the stalls still need to be mucked;

the horses still need to be fed;

water buckets in the paddocks still need to be dumped and replenished;

hay still needs to be distributed several times a day;

the barn still needs to be swept and cleaned;

the horses still need to be groomed ;

an ailing horse still needs attention;

the manure still needs to be dumped …

and so it goes.

Just sayin’ …

Here’s to the unsung heroines of the horse industry enduring winter conditions at equestrian facilities everywhere!

Stay warm and nurture what you love…

Dorothy
Horse Mom

 

~*~

 

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2019 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

 

Willow and Juliette’s First Horse Show

It’s always a big deal in the barn when a little horse crazy girl and her pony enter their first Lead Line class at the horse show.

And so it was on July 14 when the wee Juliette and her fair steed, the proud Willow, made their debut at the Lord Simcoe Hunter/Jumper Show at the Essa Agriplex just outside of Barrie. Just had to bring my camera and go to town.

Cuteness overload, wouldn’t you agree?

Let the story begin … Click on the image for commentary.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

Sweet Relief

Weather Vane

Every season poses it’s own special challenges. Last week, heat and humidity dogged us for an extended, uncomfortable period. Too hot to do too much. No riding. Lots of hosing off horses hot from standing in the sun all day. On Thursday stormy chaos was followed by sweet relief. And then, as always, the promise of better things to come.

The next day was better. Fresh air; fresh outlook; fresh vitality. The horses were almost nuts with it.

Sophi and I had our first outing since Tuesday. With the temps having dropped substantially, and blustery winds blowing about bringing in all the nice, new, fresh air, it wasn’t surprising that my darling girl had springs in her toes. The muggy malaise a distant memory. She, like I, was ready to work again. But she was twitchy. Cracking and rustling noises in the woods beside the sand ring where we were communicated the presence of monsters. After about 10 minutes and one breaking branch too many Sophi spun out. Unable to grab a piece of mane fast enough, I had an unscheduled dismount.

Over the Valley

No harm done. I stood up, brushed off the sand and walked over to Sophi who was standing some 20 feet away patiently waiting for me to collect her. After reassuring her that everything was okay we walked together to the arena. I hopped on and for 45 minutes we trained our third level test movements. If she had wind in her sails we had to ride it out. Safely inside and protected from the woodland gremlins she was happy to oblige.

The potential for falling of a horse is part of the risk of riding. Getting back in the saddle is one of those personal triumphs that can’t be over-stressed, especially as we age. For me, like most dedicated horse people, it’s an automatic impulse. Unless you’re sporting some kind of prohibitive injury, back on the horse you get.

Still, riding creates wear and tear on the hips, back and knees even under the best of circumstances, and a good maintenance program, as I’ve discovered, is a must. Fortunately, my regularly scheduled fortnightly visit with the chiropractor is today.

Sweet relief after my own moment of stormy chaos.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

The Ducks Went Marching …

Duck Duo

When we took possession of the farm three years ago we inherited a couple of old ducks. They’d been a fixture at the pond for many years, as I understand it, happily swimming, eating, snoozing, waddling and quacking.

Occasionally they liked to make a great escape by ducking under the fence or gate when no one was looking. Oh yes, they knew they were not supposed to leave their enclosure. I believe the white one, Huey, was the prime instigator as he was often the one in the lead as I tried to corral them back into their enclosure. I could almost hear him quacking marching orders to his accomplice as they scurried back to the pond with me in slow pursuit. Sometimes they would re-enter the way they got out and I could fill in that hole in the hopes that would be the end to their wanderings. Somehow they always found another way.

Escapees

However, lately things had changed. They were escaping more often. The last time I saw it happen they squeezed between the slats at the bottom of the gate. (Shakes her head.) And, strangely, they stopped being able to find their way back in through their chosen escape route. So, lately there’s been a lot of “Keep your eyes on the ducks!” and hoping we could catch up to them before they got into trouble.

It seemed to me as I watched them one morning (they were usually waddling about early morning but lately any time of day was a concern) that they had a death wish. They were old. Perhaps, like the mother dog who instinctively smothers a sick newborn puppy, the ducks had an instinct that their time had come, for they would not be contained. If you search for death eventually it will find you. There are several packs of coyotes in the area, and raccoons and other menacing creatures. An escaped duck that cannot fly is a  sitting duck.

Naughty ducksSo yesterday, while I was riding in the outdoor ring, my attention was caught by a glint of white just outside the pond. Feathers. My heart sank. I rode Sophi up to it and, sure enough, there lay Huey. Some time within the previous 18 hours he’d met his maker. As he lay there cushioned in soft down I wondered at his struggle. There was no blood. Whatever got him was not hungry. I felt angry and sad and … well, what can a person do but surrender to the process of nature?

And then I wondered about Lewey. What had happened to him? The two old boys were inseparable. They were a dynamic duck duo ~ Mutt and Jeff; Laurel and Hardy; Daffy and Donald. Had Lewey run off into the nearby woods in sheer terror? I examined the pond enclosure from where I sat and couldn’t see him. Only the three Muskovy ducks were there. Where was he?

I rode Sophi away and returned to the barn to cooled her down as it was a very hot, humid day. When I took her outside for a short hand graze I noticed on the other side of the driveway a patch of grass glinting in the sun. I knew immediately what it was. I put Sophi in the barn and went to check. Lewey lay there surrounded in a mass of green and grey Mallard feathers. Again, no blood. Just death. His location on the other side of the pond from his fallen brother. Somehow they had become separated. Divide and conquer. The predator’s play.

Pond III walked back to the barn and grabbed the wheelbarrow and a pitch fork. As I gently scooped up each little body and its feather bed and placed them in the barrow the Muskovys watched, following me from one side of the pond to the other. They were curious and, perhaps, a little traumatized. They seemed to be talking it out as I spent a little time with them. I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d witnessed the terrible event. I commiserated with them and assured them that as long as they stayed in the enclosure they would be safe. The poor things seemed quite confused.

The old boys were laid to rest at the back of the farm under a pile of manure where Mother Nature will nurture them to dust. The cycle of life.

The ducks went marching home. One way or another, it will happen to us all.

RIP boys …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

My Lucky Charm

 

Going Home

Shakespeare, age four, comes homes … March 17, 2006

~*~

Twelve is a popular number in cycles.

The 12 months of the year.

The 12 signs of the Zodiac.

The 12-year cycle in Chinese astrology … and on.

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the day Shakespeare trotted into my life. This day does, I feel, mark the end of an important personal cycle. As I contemplate movement forward in my life I must make room and allow the past to be the past.

Shakespeare was a change agent. He was a catalyst for self-awareness and made me a better person because of it. Taught me to stand up and be counted. Taught me to open my heart. Taught me I had a voice and that I needed to use it.

He was my comic Shakespeare. My little leprechaun who even now teases my memory  bringing laughter and tears and joy.

To mark the end of this 12-year cycle I have started to build a cairn in his memory at the highest point on the farm. My monument to him and his great spirit and everything he meant to me.

And so, life goes on.

Shakespeare will always be my lucky charm.

Wise Guy

Shakespeare, age 15

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

Planning to Shine

It’s been just over two months since Shakespeare departed and the Wednesday wave of grief continues to roll through. Each week its impact is less, still, I  choose to be gentle with myself on this day when the waters are stirred once more.

Today my thoughts begin to turn away from loss to what may be found from its experience. The silver lining, I suppose.

Bear was a huge part of my life for a long time, and for the past two and a half years our journey was shared by a beautiful Hanoverian mare, Sophia Loren (Sophi). Now she is the full focus of my attention so, in the spirit of getting on with life, I would like to tell you about her.

Sophi

This little mare is as larger-than-life as one might expect from one bearing the same name as a cinema icon. I didn’t name her. Like Shakespeare, she arrived in my life offering a challenge. Shakespeare, named for one of the greatest wordsmiths of the ages, helped me to find my heart, and my voice, as a creative writer; Sophia Loren, named for one of the brightest shining stars in the firmament of Hollywood, is helping me to shine. I’m not going to get into all the complex ways this is meaningful to me. I believe, however, that my experience with these two horses rather underscores the idea that the Universe will send you what you need, when you need it. You just need to be open to recognizing and receiving it when it lands on your doorstep.

Sophi and I struggled, in the beginning. Not that we weren’t well suited. Not at all! Like Bear, she was only the fourth horse I looked at and we fit like a glove. No, our struggles came through outside influences. Finding our groove in that first year proved difficult as our coach, it seemed to me and for whatever reason, chose to dumb everything down. Sophi was training Third Level dressage when she passaged into my life, and our coach was keeping me stuck at First Level, a place from which I was determined to rise.

That coach and I parted company after a year for a variety of reasons. Four months later I was introduced to Nancy. A brilliant, accomplished coach whose only agenda was to help Sophi and I realize our potential. Within a couple of lessons she had us training Second Level movements. Six months later we were preparing for our first dressage show ~ my first time in the ring in 10 years! In such a short period, Sophi and I had risen together through the watchful eye and skillful teaching of a coach who truly cared and wanted us to succeed. No quick fixes. Everything I had learned over decades of training had been held within waiting for the right person to draw it out. It was a matter of trust.

Shoulder In

Shoulder-in … Image: Victoria Sambleson

In July and August of last year Sophi and I participated in our first shows together. Three tests over three days at each show. I learned all the Second Level tests by memory and Sophi was an absolute star. Sure, I was nervous, and adrenal fatigue was a concern as always, but feeling Sophi’s confidence, and the encouragement and support of those around me helped to override that. Our scores improved from test to test and we ribboned in the top four in all six classes.

We had so much fun. I’m so grateful to all my friends who encouraged me to take that uncertain leap, and to my coach for showing me it was possible. I’m grateful for Victoria who groomed for me at the show, and JF who transported Sophi in the horse box, his journeyman show confidence underpinning the whole adventure (“Go get ’em, tiger!”) For Eira who did such a lovely job braiding Sophi’s mane; and Courtney for doing such a beautiful body clip on her. Sophi looked immaculate and so proud of herself. And, naturally, I’m so grateful to Nancy for working with what she saw in me, not with what someone told her to see.

Extension

Extension … Image: Victoria Sambleson

Sophi thrives in the show ring and this gives me confidence, and as we share in each other’s confidence we thrive together.

Now we’re training Third Level, starting to introduce all the fancy moves that Sophi already knows (lead changes, passage, etc.) and loves to pre-empt. (“Oh, I know what you want…” and gives it to me before I even ask.) She’s a very smart mare.

We’re planning to show next summer. We’re planning to shine.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 

 

 

In Memorium

 

Bear flies free

~*~

It was the third day after Bear’s passing. Windy. Cool. The twilight hour. I was still slammed by the shock of his sudden departure, searching for even some hope of peace. It was also the day of his cremation, the final transition from the flesh. There was a lot of turmoil inside me as I attempted to process the whirlwind I’d experience just days before.

As I walked home from the barn I was moved by the beautiful colours forming and fading in the sky. The sunset was going to be spectacular so I sat on the hill and looked to the south, just watching the clouds shift with the force of the northwest wind. Cold weather was coming.

I had been sitting there just a few minutes when, the words, “Look to the negative space,” leapt to mind. I was familiar with this concept from time spent participating in art therapy just after Bear had come into my life, so instead of looking at the clouds, I looked at the space between them. And call me crazy, but there he was, in profile. The orange of the sunset kissing the clouds as his nose pushed through them. His eye soft and half closed; a vision of peace. The quarter moon a twinkle of cosmic delight.

I captured it, of course. It may not be obvious to everyone who looks upon this image, but to me it is a symbolic fly-past full of meaning and comfort and peace.

It has been a long time since I wrote to this blog. Life has certainly been an interesting adventure since we began our journey as horse farm owners, and one of the (sad) realities of this type of life is that death is never far away. Horses, as magnificent and powerful as they appear are also incredibly fragile and sensitive beings. One wrong foot fall could mean a broken leg; a drop in barometric pressure could induce gas which leads to colic which …. and so it goes. Still, I would not trade this life for anything.

Full Tilt

Shakespeare (Bear) … June 24, 2001-November 21, 2017

Bear was my dream horse who led me to my dream life. Dreams are not static. Dreams do not sustain themselves. They are replete with struggle, discomfort and stress, and require constant nurturing, protection and love. However, they’re also the blessings of glorious sunrises and sunsets. The rides on the trails; the triumphs in the show ring; the camaraderie of the barn family; happy, healthy horses; fresh air and the peace and quiet that comes from living in a valley in the middle of nowhere. (Insert your own dream blessings here.)

It’s a new life. All things new ask us to step outside our comfort zone; to let go of what no longer serves and be open to new and wonderful opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery. We are asked to be different; to change. For most people this is an impossible prospect. However, as I have discovered it is in the “forced” metamorphosis that we finally learn to see ourselves in truth. Knowledge is power. Once we know who we are and what drives us we have the power to change it. From an equine experiential learning perspective Bear’s last message to me was “Let go.” So, to honour his memory I am looking at my life and setting the intention of letting go of habits that do more harm than good. One of them is my life-long tendency to be a control freak. (“Oh, is that dog hair on the floor? Oh, dear …” she says as she walks by it and into the kitchen.)

I promise to do better writing to this blog. My world as a horse mom means everything to me, and now that I’ve lost my Bear ~ my “first born” ~ I am finding new meaning in what it means to be the steward of such a magnificent being. For that’s what I am, a steward. Antoine de Saint-Exupery, noted French philosopher, aviator and poet wrote in his book, The Little Prince:

“We are responsible forever for the things that we tame.”

Bear entered my world at a time when I needed him more than anything. He was four years old. Young. Vibrant. Strong. A dressage horse. My dream horse. Little did I know that his real purpose in my life was the difficult task of pulling me out of my dissociative life pattern into one of self-awareness and being. An almost 12-year journey for which I can never thank him enough. While I thought I was “taming” him he was, in fact, taming me. We were stewards of each other. And while he is no longer here on this earthly plain, I feel him in my heart and I see him forever in this image, transitioning to that place of limitless peace. I honour his memory by living the lessons that he, a most beautiful and noble horse, taught me.

Thank you for visiting. May you and and your loved ones enjoy a peaceful, happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous 2018.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2017

Weekly Photo Challenge: 2017 Favourites