A Horse is Never “Just a Horse”

 Weekly Writing Challenge: Student, Teacher


Bear Boy



As a writer I know I share at least one thing in common with anyone who puts pen to paper or finger tips to keyboard ~ we want to move people in some way.

Move them to think; to act; to change; to believe; to hope; to aspire; to learn; to grow.

Perhaps there are some with other more nefarious objectives but my goal, particularly with this blog, has always been to inspire, and perhaps teach, through the way of the horse … okay, my horse.

The lessons I’ve learned in the past eight years with this incredible equine companion have altered me in so many amazing ways I cannot even begin to number them.

Bear is among the kindest of souls and endears, with his gentle and comic personality, all who meet him.

Perhaps the most important lesson he has taught me (so far) is the importance of self-awareness; to be in the moment. To wrap myself in the now and be fully present in every experience, even the ones I don’t enjoy so much.

As one who has lived most of my life in a disassociated state this has been, as you might imagine, a most valuable and, at times, uncomfortable, lesson. A lesson I have explored both on the ground and in the saddle and thoroughly reviewed and attempted to integrate every week, for the past five years, in the therapist’s chair.

Reclaiming Self is a serious business.

When I go to the barn and look in Bear’s big baby browns, and he curls his lip in greeting and nickers for his carrots, I feel invited into, and an important part of, his world.

Being disassociated means not feeling safe, never mind special, in anyone’s world, not even your own. The only way to survive is to create distance; to be there, but not be there. To trust no one, often not even yourself. The flight/fright hormone is engaged all the time.

Horses will not tolerate this dysfunction in anyone since it triggers their own primal instincts to flee, i.e  disassociate. It’s why horses are wonderful mirrors during the healing process. It is possible to know almost immediately how well you are doing by the response of the horse sharing your space ~ that is as long as you are aware of the impact you’re having on them in that moment.

I’ve been around horses most of my life but Bear is the one who has shown me who I am and helped me recover my life.

He’s been the equine therapist and a valuable teacher to this soul long lost, and I am blessed.

Equine-assisted therapy has, in recent years, become widely accepted as a recognized healing practice

My introduction to equine-assisted therapy came in 2006 at an Equine-Assisted Personal Development workshop with noted Canadian horse trainer, Chris Irwin. During the four-day closed session 10 of us participated in a variety of exercises designed to promote self-awareness ~ the horses engaged as remarkable catalysts for personal growth and learning. All exercises took place on the ground and within the safety of the round pen. To interact with the horse in this new way changed my life. It was the true beginning of my journey to healing and it made my interactions with Bear, who was new to me at the time, all the more meaningful.

I’ve also had the privilege of attending a workshop conducted by Linda Kohanov ~ internationally-recognized as the innovator of Equine Experiential Learning and author of four powerful books on the journey of healing with horses ~ “Riding Between the Worlds,” “The Tao of Equus,” “Way of the Horse” and “The Power of the Herd.”

Both Chris and Linda have been developing global networks of qualified equine-assisted personal development/therapy practitioners. Naturally, I cannot recommend one over another, but if you are interested in exploring equine-assisted therapy as a healing option or you have a background with horses or in psychotherapy and would like to familiarize yourself with this work I recommend a visit to their websites to get started.

Certainly there are other practitioners in the emerging field of therapeutic healing with horses. Many programs are adapted to provide specialized leadership training, while others are tailored to help troubled youth and prison inmates, and still others are designed to address issues of abuse. For many years special “riding for the disabled programs” have been integral to helping the physically-challenged gain a sense and awareness of their own bodies in a way that conventional physical therapy cannot.

Dorothy and BearOver the years horses have evolved from farm and war machines to recreational and healing partners. All the better for them ~ and us ~ as long as we proceed with awareness and don’t abuse this privilege.

I’m presently contemplating taking my journey of awareness to the next level by working with a qualified equine therapy practitioner in my area to address some lingering post-traumatic stress issues. This came at the recommendation of my new GP who practices Integrative Medicine. I just about fell out of my chair when she suggested, during our first meeting last fall, that I explore this healing option.

Life is an ongoing journey and for years I believed my survival depended on me going it alone.

The horse ~ my horse ~ and the amazing people drawn into my life because of him, have taught me to believe otherwise.

A horse is never “just a horse.”


If you’re interested in learning more about the magic of healing with horses, check out the links below and other resources on the internet.

Further Resources

Horse Therapy Helps People Surmount Personal Obstacles (Toronto Star)


National Association for Equine Facilitated Wellness (Canada)

PATH International

FEEL Alumni




And now for something completely different …


onelovelyblogawardMy thanks to Ivy of Ivy_Mosquito|Love is free for nominating “Musings of a Horse Mom” for the One Lovely Blog Award. Ivy is a more recent follower of my horse mom musings and I’m touched that she has been so quick to pin a  ribbon to my wall. Thank you, Ivy.

Seven things you won’t know about me (and Bear):

  1. Bear receives a lavender aromatherapy facial massage at the end of every grooming session. Yeah, okay, I spoil him rotten. The fact is it’s a habit I started the first day he became mine. I wanted him always to be able to associate me with a pleasant experience, no matter what. He really enjoys it. 😉
  2. Bear’s bridle and dressage saddle are both Canadian-made by master craftsman Martin York of York Saddlery and Harness. I can highly recommend his incredible work.
  3. I’m OCD about Bear’s polo bandages and my shirt matching or at least complimenting each other. Coordination is king!
  4. Bear’s bit is a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra Loose Ring Snaffle. I’ve used nothing else and he loves chewing on it.
  5. Bear has no vices … okay, he may enjoy his carrots just a little too much. 😉
  6. I always wear a helmet when I ride. My preferred brand is Charles Owen.
  7. Hat hair is the bane of my existence, but I’d rather be safe than sport the perfect coif. 😉

Here are seven lovely blogs I nominate for the One Lovely Blog award.

 Apronhead Lilly

Living Soulful

Building a Life of Hope

Capital Cowgirl

Crazy Train to Tinky Town

Horse Listening

Virginia Views

Thank you to all who follow and “like” this blog. It means a lot to me that I can touch souls through my musings about life with my horse and beyond.

Nurture what you love and enjoy the ride!

Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014






Thrilled to be Freshly Pressed …

Life is what happens when you’re doing whatever.

That’s my variation on John Lennon’s immortal “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

It was early Tuesday afternoon and I wasn’t planning anything, I guess, except to return home after a lovely few hours spent at the barn with Bear. As I parked myself in the driver’s seat of my car and checked my iPhone for emails before heading out, there it was … a message from Michelle at WordPress.

How appropriate. I was at the barn when I learned that my post Confessions of a Coaching Intern: Finding Clarity with a Pitchfork and a Song was going to be Freshly Pressed.

I am beyond thrilled by this tremendous honour.

My sincerest desire when writing for any of my blogs is that what pours from my heart by way of my writing will touch the hearts of those who stop by to read it.

Shakespeare and I have travelled a bumpy road over the past several years, but an illuminating and fulfilling one as well. It’s done my heart good to share our stories, and I will continue to do so as we continue our journey together.

My thanks to WordPress.com for the Freshly Pressed recognition, and to everyone who has in anyway supported my efforts here by reading, liking, commenting and following what goes on in my little equestrian world.

A kiss

To finish, a brief word about my closing line “Nurture what you love …”

On this journey called life, with the help of my beautiful horse, my husband and a good therapist, I have learned that it is not enough to say you love. The word is dead without deed; without nurturing.

Lots of people said they loved me, when I was a little girl, but life and family circumstances left me un-nurtured*; unable to see my Self and horribly traumatized. In fact, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was my constant companion for most of my life without me realizing it.

A series of wake-up calls, including the one highlighted in my Freshly Pressed post noted above, started showing me there was a different way of being.

In fact, horses have been among my greatest teachers.

Horses demand that we be authentic, connected in self-awareness just as they are …and they call us on it when we are not. They walk on egg shells for no one and will keep offering up the same lessons to us until we figure it out. Often these lessons are not pretty. I know. I’ve been on the receiving end of many in my life as an equestrian.

Horses have taught me to address my anger, bitterness, disappointments, misery in my own time and not bring it to the barn. When I do this the barn becomes a place of nurturing, of healing. When I project a nurturing attitude toward Bear, he reflects it back to me. He is therapy for me only in as much as I am self-aware enough to receive the lessons he teaches.

Many horses (you can insert children, animals, people, etc. here as well) are abused by people who pay lip service to the word “love.”

To say we love is not enough. Love is just an empty, and abused, word without the actions to back it up.

So, nurture what you love … and that means you, too.

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

* Since I’m being so open with you, I will clarify here that I am aware that my mother, a single parent pursuing a career in show business at the time, did her best to provide the necessities of life and to make sure that my brother and I knew we were loved. However, exhausted from her operatic endeavours, and managing a home and family with no financial or emotional support of any kind from our dead-beat father, and thousands of miles away from any extended family who might have been able to pick up some slack, there was simply not enough nurturing energy available to her to fill the word love. This is where I fell through the cracks.


©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Another Ribbon for the Wall …

The other night, while entertaining the Muse with an episode of The Mentalist, I received notification from Hot Rod Cowgirl that my blog had been nominated for


The Wonderful Team Member Readership Award.

How lovely to be nominated as a blog reader!

When I started this blog almost two years ago I had no idea where it would take me. Nor had I any grasp of how much my world would expand by reading other blogs. And, for that matter, I didn’t appreciate the online camaraderie to be gained while musing into cyberspace.

As a blog reader I am grateful for how my understanding on many topics ~ from travel to trauma to photography to poetry ~ has been expanded.

Hot Rod Cowgirl touches the heart of my inner cowgirl. I love to read about her adventures on the ranch. Reminds me of times spent on a friend’s farm in Alberta when I was a teenager.

I’d like express my appreciation to everyone who regularly stops by this blog to read about my experiences in the horse world, in particular with Bear. Each like, comment, interaction waters the fertile soil of my mind and encourages me to keep writing about my passion for horses.

As the recipient of this award I have a few responsibilities:

1.The Nominee of the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award shall display the logo on his/her blog.

2.The Nominee shall nominate 14 readers they appreciate over a period of 7 days, all at once or little by little.

3.The Nominee shall name his/her Wonderful Team Member Readership Award nominees on a post or on posts during 7 days.

In consideration of their loyalty, I would like to nominate the following for The Wonderful Team Member Readership Award:

AngelineM’s Blog

Real Life Co.

Edith Levy Photography

Maleko’s Art

Nigel Borrington

The Fight of My Life



jay snaps

Inside the Mind of Isadora

Crazy Train to Tinky Town

Vastly Curious

Tools of the Trade

Virginia Views

A kiss

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom


©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Another Award for the Ribbon Wall

versatileblogger113Today Musings of a Horse Mom is a proud recipient of The Versatile Blogger Award, courtesy of a nomination by Shakespeare’s new friend, Gypsy, at Hooves and Claws.

Thank you, Gypsy!

With The Versatile Blogger Award comes the responsibility of sharing a little information about yourself and paying the award forward:

•Display the Award Certificate on your website

•Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented your award

•Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers

•Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post

•Post 7 interesting things about yourself

First things first …

Seven things to know about this Horse Mom:

1) Favourite childhood horse book … The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

2) Favourite breed … Hanoverian … (that’s my boy!)

3) I first started riding horses 40 years ago at Frith Manor Stables in North London, England. For four years or so it was my favourite place in the whole world.

4) I’m a bit obsessive about colour coordinating Bear’s exercise bandages (polos) and my outfit. It just feels better to be well turned out.

5)) I have my Bronze certification in the horse-friendly training methods of respected Canadian horse trainer, Chris Irwin

6)) I have been an Equine Canada certified level 1 coach since 1997

7) In 2008 I received a People Make A Difference Award from the Ontario Equestrian Federation for my volunteer efforts as President on behalf of Toronto CADORA, Canada’s longest-running dressage organization founded by eight-time Olympian, Christilot Boylen.

Now the fun part … blogs I nominate for The Versatile Blogger Award. I hope when you have a moment you’ll take an opportunity to pay them a visit. These blogs have moved and inspired me each in their own way, and while I’m not always able to visit on a regular basis to show my appreciation for their creative expression, passion and versatility, by this nomination I salute them.

In no particular order:

Scott Marshall Photography
World Via Standby
Photographs by Peter Knight
Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast
Canadian Hiking Photography
Where the Dolphins Swim
Inspire 1 Life Every Day
Photography Memoirs — Fine Art Landscape Photography
Confident Horsemanship
The Return of the Modern Philosopher
Fabulous 50s
Mabry Campbell Photography
Cheryl Andrews
The Fight of My Life: Living with TBI

A special shout out to J.G. Burdette who nominated my blog, Eyes to Heart for The Versatile Blogger Award in spring 2012. I don’t know if there’s a statute of limitations re: acceptance of these awards, but I hope to follow up on that one soon.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom


Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

… and this is Bear …

I love to admire my handsome Bear. In person or by image, his incredible beauty in body and spirit always brightens my day. He is the perfect panacea when I’m feeling blue.

And, as far as I’m concerned, he is the most beautiful horse in the whole world. (Every horse mom thinks their equine baby is the most beautiful in the world … ) And why not? He is, after all, my de facto “child” — the recipient of the tender ministrations my own children might have received had I been able to have any.

As the proud Mama Bear (I just made that up! Ha! 🙂 ) of this 10-year-old, 16.3 hand, dark bay Hanoverian boy of superior handsomeness, I naturally feel compelled, on occasion, to whip out the old (well, new) Nikon D7000 and photograph him ad nauseam. And, as any proud parent would I share, and gush, over the images with my friends and family, whether they want to see them or not.

In the spirit of the proud parent, today’s post is a quasi photo album of Bear’s Wednesday training session with my friend Christine in the saddle.

A quiet and gifted rider, Christine occasionally babysits and rides Bear for me when my health or travels won’t permit. Bear adores her, which pleases me, for as every parent knows … it’s important to have a reliable and trustworthy baby sitter.

So, let’s get started …

So, here he is working at the trot. … Oh, what a handsome boy!! … And look how beautifully decked out he is in pale pink polo bandages to match Christine’s shirt! … Like me, Christine feels that colour co-ordination is important. I doubt that Bear cares one way or the other, but if I’m happy, he’s happy. … Besides looking smart the bandages actually serve as protection for his delicate lower legs where the hardworking tendons and ligaments hug the cannon bone just below the skin’s surface. Such fragile beasties …

… and this is Bear taking a break between exercises. Look at the blue highlights reflected in his coat. Just gorgeous! …

… and this is Bear and Christine executing a canter circle. See how all his weight (and Christine’s) is balanced momentarily on his left front foot? … His relaxed facial expression, softly swishing tail and expressive ears tell me he’s in the happy zone. What a good boy …

… and this is a partial view of Bear’s beautiful hind quarters. … So glad to have caught his lucky horse shoe … I spend more on his footwear than I do on my own! But he has a superior blacksmith and it’s worth every penny to know he’s soundly shod. … And look at that muscle tone! Like a rock! He’s just so athletic … I actually find it annoying when people make disparaging remarks involving the horse’s hind quarters. It’s a very powerful part of the equine anatomy and worthy of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Together with that shod hoof it can seriously maim or, with enough force, even kill! …

… and this is Bear at the end of the training session. He’s demonstrating his relaxed and submissive state by stretching through his back and continuing to reach for a connection with Christine even though she has released the tension on the reins. Happy boy, happy mom … 🙂

… and this is Bear’s foamy (like cappuccino froth) muzzle … more evidence that he was happy and relaxed in his work. Bear has a reputation at the barn for superior foaminess … That’s my boy! …

… and this is Bear giving me the wooly eyeball, wondering what the heck I’m doing. Love those blue overtones … so handsome! …

… and this is Bear fishing at Christine’s hand for a treat. He received plenty of love … and carrots. He’s such a good boy …

… and this is Bear enjoying a post-workout nosh. Sun, grass, dandelions … a happier horse you’ll never see!


There … my pride and joy … my beautiful boy.

Thanks for your time.

Nurture what you love …

Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

Very Inspired Blogger Award

An award! For me? How wonderful!!!

Thank you, Michele Whitney, for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I feel most honoured. Your own musings of life inspire me, and how delighted I am to have found other bloggers, like you, with whom I seem to “click.” Reminds me that though we walk our individual paths alone we are all, nevertheless, sharing the journey of life (and healing, if we choose) and can inspire one another forward with each step. Thank you again, Michele.

Now, seven things you wouldn’t know about me … hmmm …

1) My favourite ice cream flavour is Baskin Robbins’ Chocolate Peanut Butter … Yum!

2) I’m working with a vocal coach to hone my jazz vocal technique

3) My favourite poet is Gerard Manley Hopkins … For his incredible use of imagery … (Shakespeare “The Equine” too, but that goes without saying … 😉 )

4) I have my green belt in Shotokan Karate (no longer practice for health reasons 😦 )

5) My favourite band is The Eagles and I’ve been fortunate to see them in concert twice …

6) In 2008 I was awarded the “People Make a Difference” Award by the Ontario Equestrian Federation for my efforts on behalf of local dressage

7) And last but not least … I make a mean homemade chicken soup …

Now … the bloggers that I nominate for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award:

1) http://www.jgburdette.wordpress.com/ … for inspiring me to pay attention to the lessons of history and reminding me that if we do not learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it …

2) http://www.patcegan.wordpress.com/ … for being an ongoing source of inspiration

3) http://www.palmbeachcountynaturally.wordpress.com/ … for inspiring me to more fully appreciate our avian friends

4) http://www.thechangeyourlifeblog.wordpress.com/ … for inspiring me to keep looking inside for the answers

5) http://www.knowthesphere.wordpress.com/ … for inspiring me to look beyond my sphere

6) http://www.resilientheart.wordpress.com/about/ … for inspiring me to be resilient

7) http://www.tracielouisephotography.net/blog/ … for inspiring me to see the beauty in all things …

Please visit, and enjoy, these inspired blogs.

Another “Musings of a Horse Mom” post will follow in the next few days.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012