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

 

 

Welcome Reilly …

Reilly Roo

~*~

It’s been several months since my last post. There are a variety of reasons for this I won’t get into right now. One ray of sunshine during my absence from this blog was welcoming this beautiful boy into our family.

Reilly was born July 4, 2016, and came home at the end of August. He is sable merle in colour and his left eye is blue. He’s a sweet, happy dog bringing us immense joy.

Another soul to nurture. Another soul to love.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2017

 

Learning Curve

Hill Top

~*~

We’re on a steep learning curve at the farm right now, and are so grateful for all the help and support we receive from those who work with us there to keep it going and beautiful.

The establishment of my equine experiential learning practice is taking longer than anticipated, and while this can be frustrating at times I realize that life unfolds as it should and we will get there in the end. (And if we’re not there, it isn’t the end …)

Many upgrades have had to be made to the facility from a safety and aesthetic point of view, and this takes time (and money) in unexpected quantities. The country life is desirable but it has its challenges and we are tested frequently. Still, Bear and Sophi continue to keep me grounded and inspired.

In short, Bear recently had a tooth extraction (a story for another day … soon) and is recovering and Sophi simply continues to emit a star quality that brings me much joy every time I’m with her. The yin and the yang of the equine experience is never too far away.

This past week I participated in a workshop with equine experiential learning pioneer and best-selling author, Linda Kohanov. The focus of the three-day session was based on her new book, The Five Roles of the Master Herder: A Revolutionary Model for Socially Intelligent Leadership. In a world where empathic leadership is sorely lacking, this is a seminal work and life altering in a profoundly positive way. I’m looking forward to offering leadership workshops based on this important work.

In the meantime, the journey continues …

If you’re interested in finding out more about Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL), please visit my website at http://www.corequus.com.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curve

Ice Storm Aftermath

 

 

Bear On Ice

Bear … my port in a storm …

Late last week the worst ice storm in recent memory rolled through our area about an hour northwest of Toronto. Downed power lines disrupted hydro service for several days to thousands of people in the local towns and on farms and other rural properties. Trees, large and small, succumbed to the 20mm of ice accretion that accumulated over a 36-hour period. The impact was nothing short of tornadic. 

What’s accretion, you may ask? Take a look …

Cherries Choked

It twinkles like tinsel in the sunlight and gives everything that sparkly Christmas card look, but its effects are deadly. Imagine trees and power lines straining under the enormous weight of cumulative ice over an extended period time until they finally reach a breaking point. Until temperatures rise again the world is a virtual skating rink.

Accretions

The meteorological masterminds warned on Wednesday that the storm was coming. Of course, all we in the valley hoped they were wrong … as they are so often. Alas …
Down

… as I understand it a Colorado low moved into southern Ontario on Wednesday and clashed with cold winds from the northwest. They butted heads the hardest on Thursday night into Friday which is when all frozen hell broke loose.

Red Wagon

 

Fortunately no people or horses were hurt on our farm, and there was no major structural damage. However, the stress of this brutal weather event played out in other ways. No power meant no water which, with a barn full of horses, is a bit of a problem. Only one water pump out by the paddocks was functional (by force of gravity, we figure), which meant that water had to be manually fetched by bucket for the duration. And not just for the barn, for the housing on the property, as well.

Tree debris was also a major problem. Volunteers, and paid help, came in to clear the high traffic areas cluttered with the fallen willows, maples, birches and pines that had met their icy match.

Words cannot express our gratitude to everyone who pitched in to get the farm through that first difficult day. Due to road closures and icy conditions for most of the day and the fact we live 45 minutes away we weren’t able to help. I would have been useless anyway, as I awoke that morning with a splitting headache which signalled a tipping point for a full-blown adrenal fatigue meltdown if I wasn’t careful.

Weeping Willow

A Long Walk

Saturday presented the first opportunity for my husband and I to walk the property and view the extent of the damage. It was quite disorienting to see the farm in such disarray. Numerous large trees had lost sturdy branches or were completely snapped in half. The hacking trail along the east side of the 20-acre woodland was impassable due to the number of trees that had fallen across the path and into the paddock fence.

One Big Tree

 

As we walked past the ice-laden woods the tinkling and crashing of icicles in frozen symphonic waves snapped, crackled and popped in the air. On every level the scene was so surreal. If ever there was an example of devastating beauty, this was it.

Broken Pine

As we investigated another paddock bordered by conifers the scent of distressed pine permeated the air. The fragrance of Christmas a strange counterpoint to a vision of random destruction.

Crushed

This small garden shed, and a car, took direct hits. Neither were seriously damaged.

Frosted

Living the Dream

Farm ownership is new to us, and I don’t mind telling you that since we took possession of this beautiful property last August it has come with a steep, and expensive, learning curve. We knew the facility had good bones when we bought it, and the grounds appeared, on the surface, to be well kept. However we have since realized that neither was terribly well maintained and we’ve had to invest heavily in repairs and renovations and excavations. Some of this we knew going in. But in the heat of August you don’t expect to find out in a November cold snap that the heating system doesn’t work. And in the dog days of summer you don’t anticipate the barn is going to get flooded in the heavy rains of autumn.

Buyer beware, I suppose. On the one hand I look at these unexpected obstacles as opportunities to get to know the property better while I work to build my equine experiential learning practice. On the other, I just shake my head in wonder.

Acquiring the farm required an enormous leap of faith and was the culmination of a mutual life-long dream to have a place in the country and build a custom home. We are in love with the land and its rolling hills, its lovely woodland, the wildlife and the spiritual peace we feel there. We want to be good stewards of the land; to share it with others who will truly appreciate its beauty, and honour its healing sanctuary. Still, even dreams shape-shift ~ the winds of change blow through offering fresh and unexpected perspective. The challenge is to rise to the occasion and give ourselves permission to see with new eyes. To move beyond the initial disorientation, and locate the silver lining.

Even now as I process our losses and the implications the clean up will have on our budget, I am searching for that silver lining. This requires an open heart and mind, as well as a good deal of faith and patience. I need to continue to live in the moment without being distracted by the drama around me. I need to accept the unexpected and roll with the punches, believing that “everything will be alright in the end ~ and if it isn’t alright it isn’t yet the end.” (Thank you Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for that great quote.)

Frosted Fenceline

 

The Crooked, Old Maple

To finish, an anecdote …

Yesterday, Abbey and I took a short walk to visit the stumpy remains of a crooked, old maple of which I had become rather fond over the months. I wanted a closer look at it as we’ve been thinking about getting a local wood carver to sculpt new life into it.  A sort of memorial, I suppose ~ perhaps a rearing horse to symbolize our rising up to meet the challenge of this new path.

As I stood beside the tree stump, which stopped about two feet above my head, I had the urge to hug it. (Yes, I hug trees.) As I held on tightly, I felt droplets of water falling on my face. I looked up to the hovering branches of the surrounding trees, but there was no moisture there. And then I took a closer look at the torn open trunk above my head. Tears of maple sap were trickling down its craggy bark, as if it was weeping. My eyes welled up as I realized this perfectly healthy tree, so cruelly cut down, was still reaching out for life.

I wiped away one of its sugar tears with my hand, and tasted it, its subtle sweetness bringing both joy and sadness. Suddenly the tree’s fate as a wood carving didn’t feel so certain. What could be done to help this traumatized old soul?

The Crooked Maple

Before … the crooked old tree is second on the left

Broken Maple

After … the crooked old tree is gone …

A friend has suggested that if the root system is healthy (which it probably is) it may be worth trimming and sealing the tree so it can find its way back. I notice there are some remaining shoots on the trunk higher up which might flourish under the right conditions. I’ll consult an arborist. If in the end our efforts fail we will, at least, know that we gave the crooked old maple a fighting chance.

Unknown-1

Call me a sentimental old fool, if you will, but I have a soft spot for the tall, leafy things. The extensive variety of trees was one of the reasons we fell in love with the property in the first place. I hugged that tree yesterday out of a sense of despair, and yet in its traumatic state it ushered in me a sense of hope and healing. I feel I must do what I can to help it.

In the meantime, we begin the clean up. No small task as we have to hire a tree removal service to help and get the insurance company involved. Fallen branches will become wood chips (which, ironically enough, I was sourcing through a third-party last week) for trail paths and my work pen. Fallen trunks will become firewood. Maybe we can save a maple trunk for a harvest table down the road. Or use the larger trunks for some other creative purpose. Who knows?

All I know for certain is that one of the most important things we can do in life is nurture what we love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Essence of the Horse

 

One love

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Love

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.

from The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Author, Aviator, Philosopher

~*~

All my life I’ve had one love; one passion ~ the horse.

For a long time it was simply their outer beauty that captivated me.

In recent years, however, I’ve come to realize it’s the essence of the horse, their spirit, that has captured my imagination and healed my heart.

My beloved Shakespeare (aka Bear), the horse of my childhood dreams, has been the catalyst for this great awakening.

We have dreams for a reason … they speak the language that will heal us, if we just give them the chance.

Next week Bear and I celebrate 10 years.

Stay tuned …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

Out of the Blue

 

winter

It’s been a big year. So much  happening that I just haven’t been able to bring myself to write about it … yet. That’s why there’s been such a huge gap in this blog of late. We’re still processing the acquisition of our horse property this past August ~ a place where we can establish my Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) practice and, in time, build our dream home.

This major shift in our lives happened in a whirlwind … you know, the way things do out of the blue. I will write about it soon, when the dust has settled a little more.

Bear

In the meantime, I’m pleased to report that Bear has made a full recovery from his suspensory injury, and is out galloping and grazing the hills of his lovely big paddock with his new girlfriend, Galla. Next spring we’ll put the saddle on him again, just for fun, but in the meantime he can be a horse with a thick, fuzzy winter coat getting stronger day by day. I’m so pleased for him.

Sophi and I continue to bond. She’s given me my wings again. Excellent coaching helps too, of course. 😉

Wishing you all much peace and the best the New Year has to offer.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015

 

Canoodling

Together

Monochrome Madness 2-33

~*~

One day recently, when I was out and about on the farm with camera in hand, I happened by the paddock “condo” where Bear and his new girlfriend, Galla, were canoodling.

I love to see my beautiful boy so content.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015

My Happy Horse

Bear and his gal

BIG NEWS!

Following month’s of rehab to heal a hind leg suspensory injury, Bear’s finally on all-day turnout with a small herd.

He’s so happy, and I’m so happy for him.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015