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

 

When Shakespeare Met Sophia Loren

Whoa baby!

~*~

Shakespeare: Who through yonder stable door doth pass this beauteous summer’s eve?

Sophia Loren: Buona sera, bello.

Shakespeare: More glorious a sight mine eyes hath never beheld!

Sophia Loren:  Dire qualcosa di poetico a me, Shakespeare.

Shakespeare: Fair maiden doth know my name!!!! How knowest she that I am a Muse of poetry?

Sophia Loren: Sembra che io vivrò nella stalla di fronte a voi.

Shakespeare: Be still my heart … she’s to live in the stall across from me. My knees are as jelly. I shall accomplish nothing.

Sophia Loren: Dire qualcosa di dolce per me, Shakespeare, per favore.

Shakespeare: She desireth poetry. O, resist, thou besotted fool! Resist! Alas, I cannot. Her wish is my command! … “Dearest Sophia, thine eyes are the pools of love in which my Scribe doth dip her pen.”

Sophia Loren: Oh, così bello, il mio amore. Penso che stare qui con te per sempre.

Shakespeare: Oh, how I have pleased her!! Sophia hath declared her eternal devotion to me.

Sophia Loren: Mi scusi, cara Shakespeare, ma come si fa a capire quello che sto dicendo a voi?

Shakespeare: She wonders at my language prowess. “O fair maiden, once thou hast wrapped the Scribe around thy dainty hoof all things are possible. In fairness, the Google Translator doth serve rather well.”

Sophia Loren:  Capisco completamente. Cura di unirsi a me per una carota?

Shakespeare: Oh, how the wheel of love doth spin! She shareth with me a fondness for orange root vegetables! … A carrot! A carrot! My kingdom for a carrot! … “Make haste, dearest Scribe, and render unto me and my fair maiden the source of our mutual affection!”

Sophia Loren: Grazie, bello Shakespeare.

Shakespeare: Neigh! Thank you!

Scribe: Oh, brother …

~*~

See what I’m up against now? The creative Muse gone wild!!!

Remember that silver lining I mentioned months ago in the depths of winter after the sad diagnosis of Bear’s career-ending suspensory ligament injury?

Well, after the better part of seven months searching for my next dressage partner here she is … Sophia Loren (Sophi) ~ a 10-year-old Hanoverian mare by Schwarzenegger out of Alwine.

Sophia Loren

Sophi arrived Wednesday, July 22, and has proven to be as much a character as my boy, Shakespeare. Not only does she share his good looks (in a supremely girly way), she has demonstrated a flare for the flamboyant gesture as well. When I bathe her (it’s been really hot the past few days) she drinks straight from the hose and demands … yes, demands … some play time with water in the little red bucket I bought especially for her. She loves all treats and is as adept at getting what she wants as any Hollywood starlet. And yet, she’s so classy about it. So, Sophia Loren.

Sophi

So, the search is over and I find myself with two larger-than-life equine personalities named after a bard and an actress. I dare say we will be in for the occasional animated dialogue.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Bear and Sophi sitting up a tree … 😉

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Life Is What Happens …

Old Home

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

John Lennon

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

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

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

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

What a star!

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

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

Remember to nurture what you love.

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Time Flies

Bear

~*~

Time flies. I can hardly believe how quickly a month has gone by since my last post.

Bear continues to recover and is enjoying basking in the sun whilst on restricted turn out, (i.e. he hangs out in the round pen, not a paddock, lest he re-injure himself galloping around like a wildebeest.) He’s still bananas for bananas, and having fun just being himself and making people smile.

He’ll be a great therapy horse.

Meanwhile, the dressage horse search continues.

It’s more challenging than you might imagine. Sure, there are lots of horses needing homes, just like there are lots of single people wanting partners. But finding a suitable horse is as difficult as finding a suitable mate ~ it takes time and you don’t want to appear too desperate lest you make an inappropriate choice. 😉 Horse and rider matchmaking is a serious and time-consuming business.

I’ve walked away from two promising horses because of navicular issues. I already have a high maintenance horse, and while I’m all for rescuing and rehabbing horses, it’s not the route I wish to take with my next riding horse. So, I’ll just persevere in my search and at some point, when the stars are aligned and all the cosmic tumblers have fallen into place, the “right horse” will walk into my life and wonder what took me so long.

Timing is everything, of course. There have been other things going on in the background which have monopolized my energies, which is one of the reasons my posts here have been non-existent of late. There’s only so much time in a day, and since I’ve learned there’s just no point in stressing over the dynamics of life beyond our control, I simply go with what is.

On another note … our 13-year-old rough collie, Sass, is fading and this brings much sadness. It’s as if a whole chapter of our lives will soon come to a close. We expect her departure during the summer. The heat is just too menacing and her steps falter by the day. Lately she has won the heart of a three-year-old girl, Gabby, who lives a few doors down. Together, with her grandmother, we go for short walks and Gabby gives Sass lots of hugs and merrily holds the leash as we walk. Sass enjoys this attention as her new friend walks only as fast as she does, which is slow. I’m so happy our old girl has felt the unfettered joy of the love of a child before she leaves us.

I mention this simply to re-iterate the obvious ~ nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Silver Lining Redux

Hello, down there ...

~*~

It’s been a while since my last post. There’s a lot going on around here right now.

First and foremost there’s good news …

Bear’s injury has been given the all clear.

In his most recent ultrasound taken just about 10 days ago, the vet gave the injured bilateral suspensory ligament in his right hind leg a clean bill of health. The swelling is reduced to almost nothing (the vet said there’ll always be a bit of inflammation due to the nature of the injury), and the lesions in the ligament tissue have practically disappeared.

Needless to say I’m thrilled. Between the services of a good vet, an attentive barn manager, my rudimentary nursing skills and Bear’s good behaviour he is made well again. Now our focus, with Wendy’s help, turns to getting him used to going outside again. Starting with short excursions in a modified round pen made small enough for him to get a turn outside without, hopefully, getting into too much trouble. The last thing we want is for him to re-injure himself.

Over time we’ll increase his turnout and when he’s a little fitter I’ll start riding him again.

Not that he’ll be doing anything too strenuous. With his dropped hind suspensories he’s destined for a life as special companion, happy hack horse and equine therapist. At this rate our first outing, with clearance from the vet ~ a prescribed 10 minutes of walk ~ will be in about two weeks. But first, I want to give him a bath. Now that the warmer weather is upon us I feel a keen desire to wash the winter stink out of Bear’s coat. The usually divine Eau d’Equine is particularly pungent right now after a long winter cooped up inside. Time for a new spring fragrance courtesy of a rose-scented equine shampoo. He may not know the difference, but I sure will.

With Bear’s 120-day treatment all but complete I filed the insurance claim earlier this week. It looks like most of the major vet care expenses (approx. $2,500) will be covered. The insurance premium won’t go up, but the right hind leg will no longer be covered. Another good reason for Bear not to re-injure it.

As we go forward there are some maintenance issues to keep in mind. From now on Bear’s hind legs will always be wrapped to give the suspensory ligaments the extra support they need to maintain stability. As well, he’ll be on additional supplements to help maintain healthy joints and sinews, and his monthly massage treatments will be ongoing.

Bananas for bananas

While on theme of how spoiled he is, Bear was recently introduced to the banana. Honestly, with all the eye bulging, nostril flaring, tooth grinning going on while indulging in this new pleasure you’d think he’d died and gone to heaven. I believe it can safely be said Bear’s bananas for bananas. His daily ration is one-third of a banana, but I’m sure if you asked him he’d tell you it’s not enough. Such a character.

Speaking of characters, I’m still shopping for the next member of my herd.

It is a slow process. While there are lots of horses out there looking for forever homes, I am only in a position, at this point, to take on something very specific to my dressage dreams. Thus, I have found it fairly easy not to get emotionally involved in the process. So far I’ve looked at two nice warmbloods, but neither has, for one reason or another, worked out. There are other horses on the horizon, so we’ll just see what happens. It will likely be the summer before I find what I’m looking for, and while I certainly miss my time in the saddle I feel that this riding break puts me in a good position to develop new habits once I start up again, having not been able to practice the old ones for a while.

It’s like starting over. What a wonderful gift to have another chance to succeed at something I love.

There’s that silver lining again. 😉

Nurture what you love,

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

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

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