Trust Me

greetings

~*~

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

~*~

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

 

 

EQUUS Film Festival … Here we come!

Mane Tamer

The EQUUS Film Festival is just around the corner and there’s lots of excitement around here.

First, this is a first! Having my fine art photography recognized in this way is such an honour. The subject matter, the skilled empathic people (in this case women) who work quietly in the background of the horse industry to keep the engine humming, is one near and dear to my heart. Partially because I’ve been there.

When I was interning for my national coaching certification at a hunter/jumper show barn/riding school years ago it was a hard slog, long hours and exhausting on every level. I was in my mid-thirties trying to figure out the next phase of my life, struggling with personal battles in the pursuit of a dream that was barely formulated. Good people with a passion for horses and working behind the scenes in various aspects of the equine industry have inspiring stories, too, and I want to tell them.

2018 OFFICIAL FILM SELECTION LAUREL copySecond, how cool is it that Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry (see menu for YouTube link) has now been selected as a finalist for an EQUUS Film Festival WINNIE Award? I’m beyond speechless to have my work acknowledged in this way. We;ll find out Sunday evening if we’re bringing a little something special home.

Third, this is my first trip to New York City. Being a country girl now the thought of spending time in a large city for any length of time is a bit intimidating. I love the wide open spaces and the tranquility of rural life. Cities tend to overwhelm me. But I’m going to have fun and make the most of it. It’s my birthday weekend, too. I’ll be fine.

A year ago I submitted six photos for a Toronto exhibit and now they, and several more, are being acknowledged in a film festival in New York City. We never know where life is going to take us as long as we’re willing to dream.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

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

 

 

 

Let go, and let be …

~*~

In November 2017, I answered a call for submissions from the Urban Gallery in Toronto to participate in their “Women at Work” show lined up for the ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival the following May. Since I live on a horse farm and women work tirelessly in the barn I felt it would be perfect to pay tribute by shadowing them for a day to see what moments stirred my creative spirit. My thanks to Eira Engzell, a manager and trainer at Santerre Show Stables, and Courtney Dunkeld, her able right hand at the time, for giving me permission to do so.

The truth is my photography is more intuitive than technical so I’m never quite sure what will happen. Light and shadow and colour dazzle me and it’s really about capturing their impact in a moment; the dramatic contrast created in a delicious melange of three tasty ingredients. I don’t process much, only enough to draw out what drew me in. I was pleased to see that some fine images emerged, so took a chance and submitted them to the gallery just before the deadline. As fate would have it Calvin Holbrook, Gallery Manager, and his partner Allen Shugar, the Curator, loved what they saw and told me immediately that my work was in. It was my first such exhibit and I was so excited.

That weekend (November 18 & 19) brought a lot of soul searching as I processed this wonderful news. Shakespeare (Bear), my heart horse for almost 12 years, and I spent some quality time as per my equine experiential learning training. I needed his gentle spirit to help ground and guide me. In that session his distinct message to me was, “Let go, and let be.” It didn’t register right away what it meant, but I felt it was about releasing old patterns of self-denial and embracing this new truth of acknowledgement and celebration in my life. After all, what was there not to be happy about? Bear had brought so much wisdom before and this was another one of those nuggets I could add to my treasure chest that would help move my life forward.

Two days later, and after four hours of agonizing torsion colic, my heart horse was gone. Words cannot adequately describe the devastation I felt, and yet his admonition to “Let go, and let be” seemed to take on a whole new meaning and even offer some comfort. It became my new mantra. Bless his big heart, Bear had imparted this wisdom and prepared me for his imminent departure all in five little words.

For a while it was difficult to accept Bear’s sudden death and enjoy my small creative victory, and yet somehow I knew that he had opened a way. I vowed to honour his memory by embracing this new chapter in my life and keeping vibrant everything he had been, and was, to me.

Of course, the show in May was an exciting step forward in my creative journey. To see six of my images gracing the walls of the intimate gallery in downtown Toronto, along with the photographs of three other distinguished artists, was a thrill to say the least. I received wonderful, supportive feedback and felt entirely good about the experience. When the show was over I brought all of the images home and set them up in my studio so they could continue to inspire me. That’s right, none of them sold, however it didn’t seem to matter. Somehow I knew it was important for the exhibit to remain intact for another time.

The show must go on …

Riding the wave of grief for some weeks, I began to prepare my exhibit for the show. I called it Barn Mavens. One of the images I selected (above) is the last ever taken of Bear, just four days before he died. He looked right at me and snorted as I captured the moment. He made me laugh. Oh, how he loved to ham for the camera. A warm, enduring memory.

In June I caught wind of the EQUUS Film Festival coming to the Hills of Headwaters, where I live, and through an acquaintance who had organized the event was connected to the founder of the festival, Lisa Diersen. I threw caution to the wind. Was there some way my images might find a platform through the festival? I knew nothing about anything. Putting my creative works out beyond blogs and websites was a new experience, but what the heck, my beautiful images are of no value to anyone hidden deep in my computer archive.

Lisa suggested I put together a video photo journal of my images, an emerging way for photographers to get some traction. I knew nothing (and I mean nothing!) about making video. iMovie existed on my computer, but I’d never brought it to life. Oh dear, what was I to do? Again, I threw caution to the wind and gave it a go. I had lots of images beyond the original six to play with. I consulted a friend who had some experience making video, and while I cursed and struggled I grew modestly in film making enlightenment and produced my first short, short video, complete with a soundtrack through www.bensound.com. When I was more or less happy with it, I re-named the project Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry to be more inclusive and, after spending hours figuring out how to upload it to YouTube, sent it on to Lisa. Her response was highly encouraging, and she suggested I submit it to the EQUUS Film Festival.

What? Really? After picking my jaw up off the floor, I threw caution to the wind again and got myself signed up on FilmFreeway, the online portal to film festivals everywhere. I made my submission to the category “Equestrian Photo Journal ~ English”; paid my fee and forgot all about it until I received word in October that Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry had been officially selected for EQUUS Film Festival 2018 in New York City.

And so, here we are. What happens next, I don’t know, but I’ll continue to throw caution out the door and live the moment as fully as I can. If there’s one thing Bear taught me it’s to be in the now. Let go of what no longer serves and let be that which comes in its place. There is a lesson to be learned in each experience; there’s a silver lining to every cloud. I never thought that part of mine would be seeing my fine art photography on a silver screen.

Let go, and let be … and nurture what you love,

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy E. 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

~*~

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered

 

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

 

 

Ten Years … A Journey

The Kiss

~*~

It started with a wake-up call, as many important personal journeys do. One morning I was writing advertising copy for a legal publisher and by 3 p.m. that afternoon I was restructured out of a job.

Devastated does not begin to describe how I felt. For five years I’d been a dedicated employee invested emotionally in my creative work for the company. And just before they released me I’d been agitating for more responsibility. However, I was at the top of my pay scale and the easy out for them was to cut me loose under the guise of “restructuring” and hire someone starting at the bottom.

Do I sound bitter? Well, I’m not. That day in March, 2005 was the day my old life ended and a new one began, but like all major shifts it was tumultuous. Change is hard. Unexpected change is even harder.

The experience was buffered somewhat by a lovely Mediterranean cruise in late summer ~ a cruise we’d been planning for several months. So, while I was still sorting out what direction my life might take I had this lovely distraction to help me find my bearings.

When we returned after two weeks of travel bliss, things went down hill again. Murphy, the horse I had been part-boarding for two years and who kept me anchored to some semblance of sanity, was ill with an unexplained edema in the girth area. She was also rapidly losing weight. Her owner shipped her to the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph for specialist care. Within days she was dead. Cancer of the peritoneum (lining of the heart.) Essentially a broken heart.

I felt devastated again. Another area of my life with no trajectory. Murphy’s demise a reflection of my breaking heart.

I continued to ride, but my heart wasn’t in it. Schoolies are lovely horses, but I’d been there, done that all my life, and had looked at Murphy as my first step to horse ownership.

And as it turned out, she was that.

running

A couple of months after Murphy’s death my partner (now husband) suggested that it was perhaps time to think about getting a horse of my own ~ the longed for dream of my childhood. I was 43, out of work, aimless and suffering from an acute lack of worthiness, and here was this wonderful man offering to help me make a dream come true. I had to think about it ~ pinch myself. Was this turnabout really happening?

I didn’t have to think about it that long, to be truthful, still the search was a hollow experience for me. Horse shopping is a rough road. I didn’t want to waste time tire kicking. I relied on the expertise of others to help guide me as, despite my many years involved with horses, I didn’t have the slightest clue about buying one.

By horse shopping standards the search did not take long, but I honestly feel it’s because Shakespeare found me. I’d looked at three horses, none of them promising candidates, and then one night at my dressage group’s board meeting I got into a conversation with a woman, a horse breeder, I hadn’t met before. She was aware of a horse that fit my check list (yes, every single item) and said she was going down to the farm where he was to see another horse. Would I like her to check him out for me? Sure, why not.

lines

Later the next day she called and said, “Don’t look at anything else until you’ve seen this horse.”

Two days later, on February 4, 2006, I was in southwestern Ontario enjoying my  introduction to Shakespeare … and that was it. Our fate was sealed.

I say he found me because that’s exactly how it feels 10 years on. All the cosmic tumblers fell into place ~ he was everything I’d ever dreamed, we met through a complete stranger and he came to me with the name Shakespeare. Apart from the magnificent riding horse I wanted, he was to be my Muse, my teacher and a catalyst for profound change in my life.

Going Home

Shakespeare comes homes … March 17, 2006

He arrived home March 17, 2006 ~ almost a year to the day I was “restructured” from what I can now look back on and see was a personal hell. Together Shakespeare and I have survived many trials and tribulations, including poor early training support, my three-year battle with adrenal fatigue, and his suspensory injury of last year. We’ve shared many wonderful moments, too, just being in each others’ company and surrounding ourselves with people who care. Because of Shakespeare I was introduced to the natural horsemanship training of Chris Irwin and the equine experiential learning work of Linda Kohanov, both of which inspired me to follow a healing path. Naturally, Shakespeare inspired my creativity. Anything you see on any of my blogs (see menu) is because of this horse who helped me find the courage to unveil and share my heart ~ a heart so beaten up by early childhood trauma and ensuing Complex-PTSD that I didn’t know my truth and didn’t trust anyone to help me find it.

Shakespeare gave me the greatest gift of all ~ my Self.

Connection

This is what our dreams can do for us, if we just give ourselves permission to embrace them and everything they can be. Our dreams speak the language that our hearts understand will reveal our truth and and bring us peace. There are as many dreams as there are people in the world ~ we all must find our own way.

My dream ~ my way to self-actualization and personal truth ~ just happens to be through the way of the horse. I don’t know why, and I’ve stopped asking. It doesn’t matter. All I know is that on this day, 10 years ago, a horse named Shakespeare arrived as my dream dressage mount and turned into the equine teacher who changed my life.

With his injury last year Shakespeare showed me that he couldn’t do it all, and so we welcomed the lovely Sophia Loren (Sophi), another beautiful Hanoverian who loves to strut her dressage stuff, to join our small herd.

Sophi

The lovely Sophi …

Shakespeare has given me my heart … Sophia has given me my wings.

It started with a wake-up call, as many important personal journeys do.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Bear SmilesFortunately for me, Shakespeare is the comic, rather than tragic, player, which is totally fitting for St. Patrick’s Day. Hope yours is a happy one.

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

 

 

 

 

A Gift of Sunshine

Tunnel vision

~*~

Spring has sprung here in Southern Ontario, and while we are seeing the light at the end of winter’s dark tunnel it’s premature to believe we’re completely through the other side of it to spring. We had snow flurries two days ago and temps are still hovering around the zero celsius mark. It’s also been terribly damp, to the point of being bone-chilling, so too early to put the woolies away yet.

Brrrrrrr …..

Still, this too shall pass.

We have been granted the occasional teaser warm day with bright sunshine, which has melted the ice and dried the ground enough for me to be able to take Bear outside for his daily amble (when their isn’t a stiff nor’wester blowing, of course).

How amazing to finally be able to engage with Bear in the sunshine. A blessing, to be sure.

Hay manEven though he’s been stuck indoors for weeks and weeks Bear’s demonstrated such poise on his first outings outside. A nice alert, flat-footed walk around the dirt parking lot for several minutes; his ears perked; eyes big and curious about who’s in which paddock. The occasional stop to test, with practiced lips, the browned grass for the much longed for fresh shoots that are just beginning to poke through the thawing earth.

As a special treat he has permission to feast at a hay buffet courtesy of an open round bale. Such bliss to stand in the early spring sunshine with Bear as he seeks to satisfy his endless appetite.

Watching Bear revel in this small change of routine makes me happy. He’s been a model rehab patient during his long confinement, so to be able to give him the gift of blue skies and sunshine makes me feel like I’m doing something positive. It was a cold, bleak winter and it feels so good to be out from under that cloud.

Better by the day

With respect to Bear’s recovery, he’s getting better by the day. Things haven’t changed much since his last ultrasound of three weeks ago, except that as of last weekend I no longer apply a sweat to the injured fetlock. The inflammation there has decreased such that a simple stable wrap will do. He lives in them (I still wrap the supporting leg as well) 24/7 except when I hand walk him. This is when he wears Back on Track therapeutic polo bandages to give his lower legs the support they need while exercising, such as it is at present.

Fun with food

Our friend Sarah capture Bear’s “fun with food” moment the other day. His nibble net is supposed to be inside his stall and in this image he has successfully manoeuvred it otherwise. His own definition for “throwing hay.” 😉

Bear’s spirits are good. He’s spoiled with attention, and treats, and loves to entertain whoever chooses to stop long enough outside his stall to indulge his flights of fancy.

Last Monday he had his monthly massage. Evidently he gets tight on the right side from standing around, so the therapist has given me a few gentle techniques to use on him to help keep those localized spots a little more limber.

The Worst Kind of Crap Shoot

In the meantime, I have been starting to shop for another horse, and horse shopping, as pretty much anyone who’s engaged in it will tell you, can be the worst kind of crap shoot, especially without good guidance. There are so many variables; so many things to consider that if you don’t know specifically what kind of horse you’re looking for and keep the emotional component in check you could end up on an expensive and discouraging wild goose chase.

Since my goal with a new dressage horse is to be able to see myself start to ride to my highest potential, I need one with three good gaits (walk, trot, canter) and that is well schooled in the German training system. As my coach put it to me the other day, we want a horse that allows me to develop my riding ability without having to address huge holes in his training. I don’t mind the challenges that will arise as I push myself to a higher plateau of horsemanship, but I don’t want to have to deal with the arguments presented as a result of someone else’s poor horse training.

My coach is in agreement with this.

So, we’re on the look out for a warmblood around eight years old, with good solid gaits and training, a sound temperament and at least 16.2 hands in height ~ in a price range, of course, we can afford. In other words … a needle in a haystack. Still, that’s okay. I’m a firm believer that life unfolds as it should. I have good support and guidance around me, so when the right horse comes along he/she should be fairly easy to spot. At least I’m optimistic.

As always my primary concern, beyond my own safety, is the welfare of the horse, and so I want to ensure that whatever horse enters the picture will be appropriate for, and comfortable with, the kind of training I have in mind under the expert guidance of my coach. Horses are not one size fits all, so being as mindful of their individual needs and limitations is as important as being mindful of my own.

Of course, I am ever mindful that Bear is the one who has put me on this path. From the moment he stepped into my life nine years ago he has walked the bumpy road of healing with me, opening my heart and my mind to new and wonderful possibilities. He’s helped me attract into my life, when I was ready, the circumstances and people who have helped me along the path of personal growth during the past several years, and as such has placed himself at the heart of my healing program and my dreams of one day having my own equine experiential learning practice. With his good looks and charm, funny disposition and open heart he is a gift of sunshine that I’m really looking forward to sharing with those who are ready when the timing is right ~ for me … and him. 😉

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Going With The Flow

 

Shadow~*~

It’s day 18/120.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Routine …

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

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

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

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

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

Not spoiled at all.

The Perfect Day … New Shoes and a Massage

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

Who indeed? (sigh …)

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

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

Egg-zactly what the doctor ordered …

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

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

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

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

… and a massage, just because …

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

spa time

 

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

Yes, indeed. What about it?

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

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

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

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

Nurture what you love,

Dorothy
Horse Mom

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

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

 

From Shock Waves to Opportunity

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

~*~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And how’s Bear doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015