The Horse World’s Unsung Heroines

~*~

Women in the horse industry work very hard. I know because I’ve done it.

Each day is a grind of activity that wears you out and wears you down. You work in all weathers; under all conditions. For good owners, and bad. With well-mannered horses, and with demons (largely a reflection of their owners either way.) You don’t call in sick, and if you’ve broken something in the line of duty, you work around it.

You muck, you sweep, you clean tack, you feed hay (and grain), you scrub toilets, you pick the s**t out of paddocks, you groom, you ride, you de-cobweb the barn, you dust, you clean the kitchen, you do first aid. In many barns you do your best to manage uncomfortable feelings caused by the disdain of those who look down upon you while you’re doing all you can to ensure their horse(s) are happy and healthy.

You must be vigilant; resilient; detail-oriented; take initiative; be observant; empathetic (difficult for some); patient; skilled at what you do and be quick at it. You get back on the horse if you fall off. The horse always comes first.

The Mane Tamer Marked

“The Mane Tamer” on display at the Urban Gallery, May 2018, for the ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival

At the end of the day you leave the barn filthy and saturated in Eau d’Equine. Exhausted and maybe even bruised or broken from an unfortunate altercation with one of your charges for which you are always to blame (always!). You stand in line at the grocery store to buy dinner, somewhat subconscious of your malodorous presence, yet unable to motivate yourself to care too much because you don’t have the energy to go home and clean up first. Oh, and a social life outside of work? Good luck with that. Almost killed me to sing in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir during concert weeks after a 10-hour day at the barn.

For most who follow this path it is a labour of love. There is no glamour and certainly no big money to be made. The best you can hope for is an environment where you and your work are appreciated; where you can find your niche and from there build your life.

When I was interning at a hunter/jumper show barn in my mid 30s I was at a crossroads in my life, trying to figure out what’s next. And for some that’s exactly what working in a barn constitutes. It’s a weigh station for figuring out the next step. Some choose to pursue the equestrian path; others give thanks the equestrian path led them somewhere else. Those who are fortunate enough to have built successful careers from the ground up in the equestrian world have slogged in barns aplenty. This does not include the (very) few who are born into money and have it all handed to them on a silver platter. Most in the business have done the grunt work, and have a few tales to tell because of it.

To celebrate the unsung heroines of the equestrian world, six equestrian-themed images from my new series Barn Mavens will be on display in May at the Urban Gallery in Toronto. The gallery is one of 200 official venues in Toronto during the ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival.

The gallery theme for this exhibit is Women at Work, and in my showcase I’m pleased to feature two of the knowledgeable and hardworking horsewomen of Santerre Show Stables in Mono, Ontario.

The top images are not on show for this exhibit, but will feature in an expanded exhibit sometime in the future, or possibly even a photo book docu-tribute to women who work in the horse industry. In the meantime, it is an honour to have my work featured along with three other talented photographers at the Urban Gallery for this international event.

If you’re in the area feel free to check it out. Ten percent of the proceeds from all sales of  Barn Mavens series images will be donated to Whispering Hearts Horse Rescue in Hagarsville, Ontario.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Daily Prompt: Notable

Spring Fever

contact

~*~

We’re in the 90 day territory of Bear’s long 120-day rehab.

How time flies.

What was daunting three months ago has become a routine; a new rhythm which, a month from now, will change again as we embark on the next phase of his healing journey. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he’s been such a good boy about recent his limited lifestyle. But then … it wasn’t spring.

Yes, spring has sprung and with it the vagaries of temperament it brings.

Last weekend Bear’s “girlfriend,” Heidi, returned from her two-month stint in Florida. That was exciting enough, but add to that the fact she was also in full season and well the boys, notwithstanding they’re all geldings, were all pretty excited. Especially my darling cooped up Bear.

He was a regular Romeo ~ my normally well-behaved boy reeling with spring fever.

I would say happily, but he really wasn’t. When we went outside for his walk, Heidi galloped all the way across the paddock screaming for him. Naturally, this had Bear all excited ~ on his toes, head in the air, ears pricked, nostrils flaring, eyes bulging. He voiced his own ear-piercing screams in response. And I’m standing at the other end of the lead line wondering what the heck I’m going to do to calm my love-starved boy down.

Hmmm …

First of all, I couldn’t allow him to exacerbate his healing injury and secondly, I didn’t want to get trampled. Somehow I had to get his focus back on me and away from the femme fatale. The first thing to do was to get him walking again and indoors. This required assertiveness without aggression, and total presence of mind.

Once indoors he came back to me fairly quickly, but was still on his toes. Normally, I would turn him loose in the arena to work out his anxiety on his own, however with his injury this was not an option. So, while he continued screaming for Heidi and acting like the proverbial hormonal teenage boy we returned to bare bone basics, hearkening back to exercises I’d learned while studying natural horsemanship with Chris Irwin. We spent a half hour doing in-hand work at the walk.

Since he was obviously stuck in a disturbing energy the only thing to do was to get him focused on moving out of it by going forward. As he was intent upon walking circles around me I let him lead the way, keeping a firm connection in-hand and calmly guiding those circles all over the arena. I remained conscious of my breathing and encouraged him to come down from his exhilarated state by audibly exhaling slowly so he could connect with my own calm energy. I talked gently to him and gave him praise whenever I recognized a noticeable shift.

With the dressage whip, which is a neutral instrument until we put our own energy into it, I gently tapped him on the shoulder or in the belly area when he absently crowded my space. I needed to reconnect him to the idea of safe boundaries and being present, with me. There was no drama involved. Elevating my own energy was not going to calm Bear down. I simply needed de-escalate his exhilaration by channelling his overwrought energy into an underwhelming task.

By the time we’d walked 15, or so, forward, 10 metre circles all around the arena his energy had already de-escalated. To finish and ensure we were completely on side with one another, we did one of my favourite awareness exercises. I call it “Eyes on Me.”

Respecting Boundaries

We stand facing each other about six feet, or so, apart. (Usually we can do this with him untethered but in light of his injury I kept him on a loose line). I keep him at that distance (creating a boundary) by simply pointing the dressage whip at his shoulder or tapping him gently on the knees when he wants to move closer. I need him to respect the boundary I’ve created for both our sakes.

The idea is to get him to keep his eyes on me. When his mind drifts or his attention is distracted by something which causes him to turn his head away, I regain his attention by shifting my body weight in the opposite direction to invite his attention back into the connected space we share. After a few minutes of this he’s generally licking and chewing and yawning, demonstrating to me that he’s fully back in his body and in my presence, and feeling good about it. We can stand there for 15 minutes and enjoy the most peaceful communion just being in the moment together. It’s amazing.

This was done to good affect on Sunday, and I was pleased. It just proved to me again that positively channelling excess energy in a constructive way can help to offset anxieties that can quickly overwhelm. I used to do this a lot with Bear when he was younger. It’s a gentle way to help desensitize the anxious horse when ice is falling off the roof, or a storm is rolling in the distance. Soon they learn to trust that the safest place is with their human companion … and isn’t that what we want?

Personally, this exercise has taught me that when I’m feeling anxious it’s helpful to distract myself with something that grounds me again. Listening to soothing music, reading a good book, or simply hanging out with Bear usually does the trick.

When we returned to the barn Bear was feeling mellow yellow. I was so glad to have had the presence of mind and skill behind me to guide Bear through a potentially volatile situation, without getting either of us more worked up or hurt.

After a thorough grooming, he returned to his new digs (yes, he now has a room with a view across the aisle from his old stall) and I spoiled him with treats. He’d earned it.

When I left to go home Bear was contentedly munching on hay … oh yes, and dreaming up his latest sonnet which, of course, his alter ego, Shakespeare, later summoned me to transcribe.

What can I say? I’m a pushover for a writing assignment …

Sonnet XXVI

With spring upon the air there is no doubt

The wistful thoughts that populate my mind.

Yet dwell upon them not lest I should pout,

Forgetting gentle deeds of those so kind.

Tis stuck indoors I’ve been these many weeks

And cabin fever’s cramped my usual style,

Still, liberty toward me slowly creeps

And renders ‘pon long face a welcome smile.

*

For lately in the warm delight of day

When mother’s love hath led me in the sun,

I feast upon fresh shoots and wisps of hay

Reminding me this journey’s almost done.

For winter hath released its icy hold

And once again spring’s warmth I feel, not cold.

~*~

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 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

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. 🙂

~*~

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 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, 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

Pony Potpourri Revisited … Time For Change

Bear Springs for Spa Time

Well, actually I sprang for some spa time for Bear this week.

As you know it’s been a long, cold winter. In addition to the new work ethic which is testing our physical resources differently, our winter-weary muscles have been expanding and contracting like cracks in the sidewalk to combat the bitter cold. Time for an early spring tune-up.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll recall that last year Bear was introduced to chiropractic care. This time I decided to try something different and enlisted the services of a highly recommended registered equine massage therapist (REMT).

There were no obvious physical maladies needing to be addressed, but why wait until there’s a problem? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?

So, this week I arranged for a spa day for Bear.

Oh yeah, that feels good ...

Oh yeah, that feels good …

While he stood quietly, the REMT commented on how trusting and relaxed Bear is while being poked and prodded and nudged. What can I say? He’s always loved attention.

First, the REMT worked along the right side of Bear’s body and then the left. It was fun to observe my boy’s obvious pleasure at having his muscles gently massaged. For a full 45 minutes or so Bear languished in his very own la-la land.

You got that right ...

Right there. Right … there. Ya …

The bottom line is that Bear’s in pretty decent shape for a horse his age. He’s nice and free through the shoulders (blocked shoulders are a common problem) with only a little tightness through the sacrum. This, the REMT noted, was to be expected given the icy paddock conditions since the beginning of January.

When I returned Bear, all warm and snuggly in his cool-weather jammies, to his stall he was feeling no pain, which was just as well because a couple of hours later the vet arrived to administer Bear’s first intra-nasal Strangles vaccine. Naturally my happy boy took this in stride, not seeming to object too much to a straw-sized tube being ever-so-briefly wedged up his nose to deposit the vaccine. Perhaps not the most comfortable moment in a spa day, but there you go.

His discomfort, whatever it might have been, was soon forgotten and easily remedied with a generous helping of carrots and time in the paddock with his friend Konnor. Together they picked at hay and basked in the early spring sunshine for the rest of the afternoon.

And, glad to have given him this happy time, I left him in peace.

~*~

NEWS FLASH!

Zu Zu Says “Bye, Bye!”
Zu too

Bye, bye, Zu Zu …

Last week it was announced in the barn that Zu Zu, Bear’s girl friend since January 1, is leaving for other muddy pastures this weekend.

It was a short, but happy, courtship for Mr. Bear and little Miss Zu. The rising four-year-old Canadian mare (some said Mr. Bear, at age 12, had robbed the cradle) offered a ray of sunshine for the gentle Hanoverian gelding. Through the frigid and bleak mid-winter Miss Zu helped her handsome paddock mate feel welcome in his new digs. Together they trudged through mountains of snow and spent hours digging in three-feet drifts scavenging for patches of green.

Zu Zu called the shots. Bear followed her everywhere. Naturally, Valentine’s Day was celebrated with his alter ego, Shakespeare, a poet out standing in his field, penning his Sonnet XXV especially for her.

It’s a sad parting of the ways. Zu Zu, with her rambunctious nature and hearty appetite, will be missed.

Still, Bear’s response to the separation has been eased by the fact that he has made new friends of the male persuasion ~ Dream and Konnor ~ and together they hang out happily in what I like to refer to as the “Gentleman’s Club,” as they’re all so polite and well-mannered.

Bear and Zu Zu enjoyed a quality friendship for a couple of months. Some human relationships should last so long and be so happy. 😉

We’ll miss you, Zu Zu.

~*~

“Neigh!” quoth he …

Riding: The art of keeping a horse between you and the ground.

~Author Unknown

~*~

Defining Horsepower

Original horsepower

Original horsepower

Ever wondered about the origins of the term “horsepower?”

A search of the Internet brought this definition, which will appeal to all you beer drinkers and draft horse lovers out there. Maybe a few car enthusiasts too. 😉

Horsepower is the unit of power in the English system of measurement. The term horsepower was coined by James Watt (1736-1819), the Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer renowned for his improvements of the steam engine.

 Definition

One horsepower (hp) is equivalent to 0.7457 kW in standard SI units. A healthy human can sustain about 0.1 horsepower, a car can generate several hundred horsepower, while a steam turbine in an electric power plant can produce more than 1.5 million horsepower.

Horsepower-hour is a unit of energy or work equal to the work done by the applied power of one horsepower over the period of one hour. The corresponding standard SI unit of energy is the joule. One joule = 3.73·10-7horsepower-hour.

 History

The term horsepower was coined by James Watt (1736-1819), the Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer renowned for his improvements of the steam engine. In the early 1780s, Watt and his partner Matthew Boulton set out to sell their steam engines to the breweries of London, calculating that they would be likely customers because brewing was such an energy-intensive process. In order to convince the breweries of the advantages of the steam engine, Watt needed a method to compare their capabilities relative to horses, the power source they were seeking to replace. The typical brewery horse, attached to a mill that ground the mash for making beer, walked in an endless circle with a 24-foot diameter, pulled with a force of 180 pounds, and traveled at a speed of 180.96 feet per minute. Watt multiplied the speed times the force and came up with 32,580 ft-lbs/minute. That was rounded off to 33,000 ft-lbs/minute, the figure used today.

A healthy human can sustain about 0.1 horsepower, a car can generate several hundred horsepower, while a steam turbine in an electric power plant can produce more than 1.5 million horsepower.

Source: Cutler J. Cleveland, The Encyclopedia of Earth … www.eoearth.org

~*~

Direct from Poet’s Paddock …

Spring

by Shakespeare “The Equine”

Spring is here;
Brings with it change.
My life and habits
Rearrange.

With paddocks closed
Alas, to dry,
Amuse myself in
Stall, must I

With dreams of fresh
Green grass to eat.
I count the days with
Stomping feet.

On warmer days
Bid rugs farewell
And feel sun on
My back a spell.

With joy I revel
In its beams,
As through the window
Pane it streams

Upon my shiny
New spring coat.
Handsome and dark,
But I won’t gloat.

And birds, they sing
Their song so sweet.
“Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! Chirp!
Tweet! Chirp! Tweet! Tweet!”

While buds appear
And set to bloom,
Adorning our great
Garden room.

Yes, I love spring
A time of joy.
Reminds me I’m
A lucky boy.

~*~

The change in the format of these posts is easily explained. It’s time to do things differently. Bear and I are experiencing such a profound shift on so many levels with our new coach in our new environs it’s a challenge to write about it at any depth. So, instead I’ve decided to have a little fun with the blog format, sharing snippets of our lives rather than delving too deeply into the inner journey. To everything there is a season and a time to change.

This seems to want to be a newsletter. This appeals to me well enough as writing and producing them my forté for a long time as a commercial writer. The format is looser and more dynamic. Should I change the theme to accommodate this style more readily? I don’t know yet. We’ll see where it leads.

I hope you enjoy it. Of course, your constructive feedback is more than welcome.

Nurture what you love …

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

Bear’s Winter Blahs

Spring is just three weeks away but you wouldn’t know it to look out the window or gaze at the forecast. Winter still blows at full blast.

At the barn everyone ~ horse and human alike ~ is bored with it. And I know I’ve never had so much time out of the saddle during the winter months as I’ve had this season. It’s just been so cold.

And, too cold to get out the serious camera.

So, in the last few days I’ve attempted to capture, with my iPhone, some of Bear’s winter blahs.

Presented herewith.

Commentary in Shakespeare’s own words … of course. 😉

~*~

Breath

The breath of winter hath the season chilled.

~*~

Chillin'

And yet, somehow, remaineth I so cool.

~*~

Alone Again

Zu Zu away, alone I am not thrilled.

~*~

Digging In

But bury nose in bucket ~ I’m no fool.

~*~

Carrots

For carrots glow there as a blazing sun,

~*~

View

And with a splendid view my heart might sing.

~*~

Bored

Yet bored, am I, when all is said and done.

~*~

Grass?

The grass is yet not green. When cometh Spring?

~*~

So dramatic. 😉

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©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

Nurture Your Dreams …

Another snow day. Another day at home for me. Another day of fence sitting for Bear.

"All this time off is boring," says Bear. I want my mom."

“All this time off is boring,” says Bear. “I want my mom.”

I don’t like driving in the snow and since we’re expecting up to 20 cms of the white demon today I’m inclined not to go anywhere. I can handle the conditions just fine (though I’d rather not get caught in a blizzard.) It’s the numb nuts out there defying the law and driving with a cellphone glued to their ear that trouble me.

So, it means a day away from Bear. Some separation anxiety, but I’ll be fine. He’s getting great care and will be happy to hang out in the paddock most of the day with his new girlfriend.

He and Zu Zu are really quite cute together. The other day I turned him out and Zu was waiting for him. Bear lingered by the gate with me for a few minutes and then wandered off along the perimeter of the fence toward the shelter near the corner. As he rounded the corner he caught sight of Zu, called to her and started trotting through the heavy snow to be with her.

I guess it’s love. 😉

Our first month at the new barn has enlightened me in so many ways.

My new coach, so knowledgable about the mechanics and nuances of the dressage journey, has opened the way for me to see my potential, which means I’m no longer so focused on the dysfunction. I’ve had three coaching sessions so far. Happy with our progress? You bet!

It’s so refreshing to feel hope.

The remedial work at the old barn was fine. It prepared me for this amazing time of expansion and growth. I’m really grateful. Still, I’m just as happy not to be focusing backwards anymore. It’s “Forward ho!” all the way now.

And Bear is so much happier in his work because I’m finally starting to ride him the way he was designed to be ridden.

The key is to create more forward momentum.

“He is a lazy horse,” my new coach jokes kindly, knowing full well that there is something there to be tapped.

Thankfully, Bear is not condemned to laziness. With each session, and under my coach’s expert eye and instruction, Bear becomes sharper and more energized. Transitions become easier. My forty-plus years riding horses is finally manifesting confidence I haven’t felt before. I’m discovering I’m more than the sum of my parts.

Hands still. Legs still. Sit still. Create the energy, get out of Bear’s way and flow with it. This has been the most important lesson so far. Bear loves it. I can ride it.

We don’t argue about canter as much. Sure, there’s room for improvement, but now the door is open we can walk right in and do something about it. When I first arrived at the barn a month ago I thought I’d have to get my new coach to pop on Bear a couple of times to sharpen him up. We even talked about it. But it hasn’t happened yet because, with his guidance, I’ve discovered I’m able to do it myself!

Words cannot express how amazing this feels.

The difference in Bear in just a few riding sessions (most of January was a write-off due to the weather, remember) has been remarkable. I’m so happy for us both. And yesterday I believe coach witnessed Bear’s true potential for the first time. Wendy shared with me a comment he’d made to her that Bear is a “lovely horse.” When a coach of his training (of the German school) and experience makes an unsolicited comment like that it means a great deal. I’m so thrilled for Bear.

So, the first month of this new life chapter has been great. I am excited for our future, am relishing the present and have filed the past.

One brief comment about looking back.

I believe my horse had been telling me for a long while it was time for a change. It’s not that I wasn’t listening. Timing is everything. I’d investigated moving before, but nothing ever came of it. This time, however the change manifested in such a short period of time. From the barn search to the move, with lots of meditation and due diligence in-between, was just a month. It’s clear to me this was meant to be.

When we keep our dreams alive, one way or another, everything unfolds as it should.

Nurture your dreams. Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom 🙂

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

When Things Are Meant To Be … Or Not To Be

... A poet out standing in this new field ...

… Shakespeare ~ a poet out standing in his new field …

~*~

It’s been nearly two weeks since Bear and I started a new chapter in our life together. I’m pleased to say the first few paragraphs have been incredibly fun. 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve known for some time that we needed a change. What I’ve learned from this experience, however, is that when change (or opportunity if you prefer to look at it that way) is ready for you, it comes knocking. The important thing is to be aware and listen for that first gentle rap at the door so we can usher change in quietly and methodically. It’s when we haven’t been paying attention and change starts banging the door down that problems arise. From past experience I know this to be true.

If I thought about it too much I might kick myself for not having made this move sooner. The fact is, though, the timing was not right until now. Opportunity was biding its time waiting for Bear and me (mostly me, sadly) to be ready. I’d looked at potential new homes for Bear before, but not found the right fit. And then, one day last November during an online search I found this barn which, as it happened, had only one stall open. I paid the barn a visit and, after due consideration, made the decision to let change, and opportunity lead us through the door.

The rest you know.

So, I don’t beat myself up over something I wish I’d done years ago. It’s a moot point. Everything unfolds as it should, and when you follow your heart things do, inevitably, fall into place at exactly the right time. No regrets. No mourning for the past. Just a much clearer vision of the future and a toe-hold closer to a dream.

The recent hard blast of winter has been both a curse and a blessing. A curse, of course, in that conditions have been unbearably cold and not suited to riding. A blessing because the extra down time has given Bear and I a chance to acclimate to our new surroundings. He hangs out with his new friends and I hang out with mine. And when it comes to his exercise, because it’s been so quiet at the barn we’ve had free access to the arena. This means we’ve been able to play at will, which is great because it gets him used to the quirks and creaks of his new working space without me on his back.

It’s been a rather smooth transition, all in all. This tells me it was meant to be. 😉

Forsooth, a few words from the poet equine …

~*~

Sonnet XXIV

No way there is to know what life shall bring;

What storms shall pass or sunny days shall hold.

The best advantage is a heart that sings

So through the best and worst one might be bold.

As winter hath its fury bourn this way

And havoc wreaked for all within its path

The choice, per chance, to mope or, rather, play;

Be beaten not by Mother Nature’s wrath.

*

What change the winds hath wrought, what change indeed

As to a new life I am surely born.

And yet, all things that matter, all I need,

Hath followed me; for nothing do I mourn.

Thus, change hath done me good, I’m bound to say,

For happy heart of yore’s more glad today.

~*~

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014