A passion for Standardbreds

pat LR

Marni with Santo Domingo, a 12-year-old retired Standardbred trotter she’s fostering and retraining as a pleasure riding horse for a future forever home.

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While I contemplate what’s involved in setting up a dedicated Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry website this blog of horse mom musings is the temporary outlet for sharing this work. There’s still so much to learn about building an effective website. I don’t entirely understand “embedding” or the little extras like “slugs” or “excerpts.” I’m a writer and horse person, not a web expert.

Still, I better get on it.

In the meantime, please follow this link to Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry: Marni Reimers Interview to find out about this remarkable woman’s passion for fostering, rehabilitating and retraining off-the-track Standardbreds, giving them a chance at a second career by turning them into amazing pleasure riding horses.

My thanks to Red Scarf Equestrian for providing a broader platform for this project.

Unsung Heroines Poster

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Further reading:

Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry: Eira Engzell Interview

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

Let’s celebrate the barn dog …

Milo LR

Milo holds space

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A barn is incomplete without at least one barn dog.

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Barn dog Reilly LR

Reilly keeps watch

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These unsung canine heroes and heroines are tasked with all kinds of important responsibilities.

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Clean up crew LR

BoBo on clean up duty

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They’re wonderful companions and crew.

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Barn dogs LR

Abbey and Mikaila keep company

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They’re loyal to a fault.

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Bjorn LR

Bjorn accompanies Willow and Juliette to the arena

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They complete the picture.

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Reilly and Abbey LR

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

 

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

 

 

Trust Me

greetings

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Horses are social creatures. Curious and affectionate, especially among those they trust.

In that way they are like people. We all want relationships where we can be ourselves and feel comfortable socially. Where we can be curious and open to new ideas that help us to expand our experience of life and grow without threat of judgment or censure. So we can thrive, and not merely survive.

Still, trust is a fragile thing and easily abused. Horses are slow to trust. We must earn it every time we interact with them. To do this we must be authentic and consistent every moment we spend with them. To this end we must release the ego and its toxic agenda and surrender to the truth that lies within the heart.

Canadian horse trainer, Chris Irwin, describes horses as “victims waiting to happen.” To me this says that when we want a connection with a horse we must demonstrate that we are worthy of their trust. For, when we engage with them with the intention of creating connection we’re actually asking them to relinquish their natural instinct as prey and trust that we are not, in fact, a predator.

In my opinion, one of the most precious and satisfying feelings is to have earned the trust and made a connection with one these 1,200 lb (+/-) flight animals. From this perspective alone it is a privilege to pat a horse never mind sit on its back.

Too few people understand this.

Nurture what you love,

Dorothy
Horse Mom

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

Speechless

In the wake of receiving a WINNIE Award for Best Equestrian Photo Journal ~ English at the EQUUS Film Festival I have prepared a short speech.

Here goes …

1 - EQUUS FIlm Festival - WINNIE WINNER copy“I’m speechless. Really, I am. Lost for words. Hardly able to describe the extent to which horses have guided and transformed my life. My bastions of comfort; reflective mirrors of my inner world. When I consider my debt to these amazing creatures it goes beyond words. Particularly in the past few years when my level of self-awareness has been raised by my conscious interactions with them and people qualified to guide the process of healing.

Horses have taught me to stand my ground; set boundaries; be in the moment. They’ve helped me to learn how to regulate my anxiety. They’ve softened me. They’ve shown me a beautiful language that requires no words, only presence.

This past year has left me speechless. My recent success with Unsung Heroines of the Horse World in its very infancy as a project has, in some respects, been overwhelming and in others perfectly wonderful. I’m still trying to process this. To receive these Laurels is amazing and the fuel I need to keep moving forward. The challenge now, as I wait at this junction, is to continue to follow the path. To flow with a creative project that began just over a year ago with the submission of a few photographs to an art gallery in downtown Toronto.

IMG_1408The biggest challenge, as always, is to be in the moment with what is and listen; to feel; to be open to what’s next without an agenda, and I will do my best to meet it.

I’d like to thank Lisa Diersen and Diana DeRosa of the EQUUS Film Festival for a chance to share my message of women who work behind the scenes in the horse world through my photography, and for honoring my film with this prestigious award …

… my family and friends for tolerating my preoccupation with light and shadow whenever I have a camera in my hand, and then lending me their courage when it comes time to sharing my vision …

… my husband for believing in me every time, and through everything.

Finally, I’m grateful to my horses, Bear and Sophi ~ my heart and my wings, respectively. They raise me up, always.

To finish, let me just say that horses will show us the way, if only we will listen. So, please, take a moment to turn down the volume of our incessant hectic modern-day experience and tune in to the invaluable, healing frequency of Equus. It will leave you speechless.”

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

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©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

 

Blue Bear

Blue boy

It’s been almost a year since Bear’s sudden departure. Memories are flooding back, but they don’t make me sad anymore. They make me wistful, and grateful. He was the horse that healed my heart and now I can only think of him with the joy that was our life for all those amazing years.

As the cycle of the first year comes to a close, I’ll be sharing some of my favourite images of him in the next few posts. I’ve also put together a Celebration of Life video that will be uploaded to YouTube soon and tagged to this blog. It’s all part of the closure.

Connected through heart and spirit, Bear’s last message to me was to “Let go and let be.” Two days later he was gone and 50 weeks on I am finally preparing to release his ashes and fully pour my heart into life again.

He will be forever in my heart; the heart he healed with his deep wisdom and his own incredibly loving heart.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

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©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Creator … *Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry*
An official film selection of EQUUS Film Festival 20182018 OFFICIAL FILM SELECTION LAUREL copy

 

The Sky’s the Limit

Nancy and Sophi

Attentive ears. Relaxed and swishy tail. Soft eye.

Sophi was in her element at the dressage clinic with Diane Creech on Saturday. Nancy, my coach, did an amazing job riding her and I could not have been happier for my girl.

Diane called her a “super mare” many times, and said that we’re really only tapping into 40 per cent of Sophi’s potential. So, I guess that means there’s lots of room for her to grow into fourth level/Prix St. George dressage, and as long as she stays healthy, enjoys the work and has fun, the sky’s the limit.

We will invite Sophi to take the next step and see how far she wants to go.

So excited for my sweet girl.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

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©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Soar

In Flight

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When I was younger and bolder I used to enjoy the thrill of jumping a simple course of fences with a trusted, and trusting, equine partner.

It’s been about 15 years since a freak accident put an end to this pastime. Frankly, I don’t even care to work over ground poles anymore. Having said that, I can still remember and appreciate the precision, timing, coordination, balance, athleticism, and sheer joy of soaring over a jump. It is a unique and amazing feeling, indeed, to sit astride a horse who loves their work.

Horses, like people, are individuals with different characters, talents and enthusiasms. A skilled trainer can identify what makes a particular horse tick and create a training program that allows it to blossom in a discipline for which they demonstrate a clear talent and enjoyment. Training a horse to race when they clearly have no aptitude for it is like pressing a child to run a marathon when they’d rather throw javelin. They simply will not thrive in, or enjoy, the experience. So, like the attentive parent who thoughtfully nurtures a child’s obvious interest in, for instance, horses, a good trainer will notice when a horse demonstrates an obvious talent and enthusiasm for jumping or running and guide their development accordingly, being careful not to overwhelm mind, body and spirit in the process.

I once worked with a well-regarded trainer who, when asked a general question about horse training, always answered, “It depends on the horse.” What works for one horse, will not necessarily work for another. It depends on their history, temperament, talent. The ability to be sensitive to the needs of each individual horse is the mark of a good trainer. One-size-fits-all has no place in the training of  horses.

My three-year journey with Sophi in the discipline of dressage has been slow. At the beginning we worked with a trainer who appeared to show no interest in moving us beyond first level, even though Sophi’s previous experience and training had been more advanced. Did this coach demonstrate a lack of belief in my ability to ride my dressage horse at a higher level? Yes. So, I let this coach go and enlisted another who came highly recommended and  brought new eyes and understanding to our training. She immediately saw Sophi’s talent and acknowledged that with some polishing I had the skills to ride more advanced tests. Within six months Sophi and I were showing second level. This year we’ve nailed our third level movements and now we’re adding in more complex fourth level “tricks” that Sophi not only loves to do, but already does reasonably well. This is an exciting time for both us, and I’m so looking forward to watching her (and I) soar under the watchful eye of our amazing trainer.

We all need a chance to blossom and soar. Surrounding ourselves with appropriate, supportive people and being in an environment where we are encouraged to thrive and grow will give us, and our horses, the best chance to do this.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

Weathering

Weathered

The ravages of time take their toll. We are weathered by the challenges we face; the people we encounter; the experiences we have, and the joys and troubles we share. For good or ill, life weathers us, and we either wear it well or we allow it to wear us down.

I know as an equestrian that while I still ride and love it, my limits are now set by the wear and tear on my body and a sense of my own mortality. Life has weathered me to a new level of self-awareness and taught me to respect my own boundaries. Just as I cannot expect an old performance horse to perform the strenuous tricks of his earlier career I, too, must cut myself some slack.

When it comes to our farm everything about it is weathered to one degree or another, and since landing here in autumn 2016, we’ve committed to sprucing it up a little at a time. Taking on a run-down 100-acre horse farm is no picnic and presents all kinds of challenges. Priorities must be set, and accepting the fact that some things are perfect in their imperfection is an important thing to bear in mind. Our schedule for improvements must not compromise the integrity of the farm’s character.

Old Shed

This old place has seen a lot during its 150-plus year history. To the extent that it’s possible I want to work with the local museum and archives to discover who put down roots here and how the property evolved and changed over time. Who had the vision; built the original buildings; planted the trees. We’re going to acknowledge those who pioneered here with an historic plaque and place it by the original hog barn (above), the weathered foundation of which was built with stone found on this property.

Barn Quilt

In 2017 we had a barn quilt created and installed as an initial tribute to the farm’s history. It adorns the front of the original bank barn which was modified to accommodate horses in 2000 as part of a major building project by the then owners. The pattern is called Hunter Star, and the colours  we selected bear some meaning. The green represents the proliferation of trees on the farm. The blue is for the headwaters of several rivers that have their source in these rolling hills. The plum is for a previous name of this farm (Plum Tree Farm) which we discovered while going through the basement and finding a piece of folk art of the original farm house and the barns (pictured below). And the maple leaf, of course, is to commemorate Canada’s 150 years of confederation. For point of reference our farm, homesteaded some time in the 1840s, is older than Canada.

Plum Tree

Of course, there are lessons to be learned on a more personal level as well. One of my greatest challenges is accepting that I, too, am perfect in my imperfection. Time and its ravages have indeed weathered me, but they’ve also helped me to identify my priorities. Good health. Good works. Healthy relationships. Experiencing and sharing joy. And creating and maintaining an environment here on the farm where horses and people can thrive on every level.

Weathered barn

 

Some days I feel more weathered than others. Bear’s passing was a harsh excuse for the building of character. Still, even as I rebuild and repair from that unexpected blow I remind myself that I want to thrive on the other side of life’s storms, not end up a broken relic. Resilience is its own reward.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

The Kiss

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered

 

Life Is What Happens …

Old Home

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon

Having lived a rather dormant life for the past few years while recovering from adrenal fatigue, I find myself catapulted into a whole new way of being. It’s all good, but wow! I dare say I have never felt such a jolt of forward energy as I have since about mid May. So much is happening I’m still wrapping my head around it all.

Sharing any of it before the dust has settled is rather pointless.

What I can say is that Bear has graduated to a bigger paddock and is enjoying all-day turnout, which is fantastic! And he so deserves it after all those winter months confined to his stall while he recovered from his suspensory injury.

He has been such a model patient. Wendy says she’s never seen a horse cope better.

What a star!

Does my heart good to see him so happy. He’s going to be a great therapy horse.

In the meantime, life continues to happen. Change is coming. And I will have some news about … well, you’ll just have to stay tuned …

Remember to nurture what you love.

Dorothy
Horse Mom

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©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015