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

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

Life Unfolds

The Indignity

~*~

Life unfolds, yes it does.

I haven’t written much lately as there’s just been so much to integrate. Often when we’re in the middle of a shift there’s just no point in writing about it. We need to experience it without the burden of recording it. I often have dreams where I see an incredible vista and and reach for my camera so I can capture it, but my camera doesn’t work. I’ve taken this to mean that sometimes life just needs to be savoured, in the moment, and that’s just how I’m kind of looking at things right now. For no matter how I plan ~ to take a vacation or whatever ~ nothing seems to be falling into place. The shutter won’t work. So, I observe the unfolding of life.

With Bear all I can do is my best to keep him comfortable and happy. Fortunately, as I’ve noted before, he is a sensible soul and is taking his confinement, due to a suspensory ligament injury, remarkably well. In fact, Wendy made the comment the other day that he’s the best rehab horse, in terms of his behaviour, that she’s ever come across ~ and she’s known and cared for many. So, I have this for which to be grateful. Bear is doing his bit to get well again.

Still, the end result is uncertain and a long way away.

He had his two-month ultrasound check-up last Friday. This was an opportunity for Dr. Maggie to see how well the injury is healing. The good news is that the lateral suspensory desmitis is looking better than it was two months ago. The lesions in the affected tissue are reducing in size and the prognosis seems favourable for a reasonably full recovery. I qualify that to mirror the words the good doc shared with me in conjunction with this ~ because of Bear’s already dropped suspensory ligaments in both hind legs it is unlikely he’ll ever be back in full work again, i.e. no more dressage training. He’ll be a lovely hack horse ~ one with whom I can do some light work and go for rides on the trails ~ but that’s about it.

If I hadn’t been through the last two months of hand walking and meditating and soul searching with Bear this might have been difficult news to take. But the fact is, I more or less came to the conclusion some time ago that Bear’s destiny is to be numero uno in my emerging therapy herd.

When I consider the sensitive soul he is and the stress he endured as I was managing both menopause and adrenal fatigue in those years when we should have been focusing on his training; and I consider the anxiety and panic and fear (mine and others’) he was exposed to and which coloured everything we did, and what a good boy he was under those circumstances, I feel he’s done enough. At this age and stage of his life it would be unfair of me to burden him with my dressage dream. Besides, his beautiful body is not designed to be the dressage horse I have in mind ~ he’s weak where he needs to be strong, and I don’t want to exacerbate his physiological problems by pushing him into work for which he is obviously not suited.

So, my kind-hearted, sensitive and funny boy is destined for life as a healer and that’s okay by me … and him, as it happens. He loves to make people happy. In the meantime, we focus on healing this injury as best we can and continue to deepen our connection as we move forward toward the next chapter of our lives together.

The dressage dreams still live …

Having said all that, my dressage dreams still live. I may be in my early 50s, and I may be experiencing the dreaded gravitational slide into old(er) age, but riding is still important to me, and as long as there is air to breathe and I have a pulse, I’m going to ride. And not just riding for the sake of it ~ I want to challenge myself to a higher level of performance.

I’ve never been in a position to really test myself with the support of good people around me who understand and care about my dreams. Now is my time. As I mentioned to Wendy the other day, it’s time for me to find out what I’m really made of as a rider. I have the coach and a good support system around me. Is it possible to draw from a life time of accumulated riding experience and skill the horsewoman I’ve always dreamed of being?

I hope so. And to this end I’ve begun the search for another suitable horse, either to lease or buy. This may take a long time … and it may not. It’s a matter of being open and aware and of knowing exactly what I want. And I want a horse properly trained in classical dressage with a few miles under his/her belt. I’m not interested in training a youngster. I want the stability of a horse who knows the work and is happy to do it. It’s early days yet, but I have no doubt when the timing is right life will unfold and he, or she, will trot onto the radar. (She may have already …)

Still, I’m not rushing into anything. Bear is my first priority, and he knows what’s up because I’ve told him. And I dare say, given his relaxed and happy attitude while he’s healing, he has no problem handing over the reins to another horse who really enjoys the work and is more physically capable to do the kind of dressage training I have set my heart on.

Bear continues to set the example for me of patience, and while it is difficult to see the end from the beginning sometimes, I have faith that life will unfold as it should and we will enjoy the next stage of our journey together in an even more meaningful way.

And on that note I doubt I need to remind you to … nurture what you love.

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©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

 

 

When Life Takes Us Full Circle

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the past several years it’s not to judge the process.

When we launch into something we often have a pre-c0nceived notion of how things are supposed to unfold.

It’s simple, right? Have a dream; set a goal; plan a destination and that should be enough to get us on our way.

Well, it is, and it isn’t.

John Lennon famously said that “life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” Often what we don’t understand is that life, no matter how topsy turvy and mettle testing it is at the time, is unfolding as part of the plan to reach our dream. It’s why it’s so important to acknowledge the journey and be immersed in it wherever it takes us. We may reach, or even exceed, our dreams if we just hold on tight and don’t let go.

Good things comeThis is all very philosophical and a round about way of getting to my point …

Eight years ago, after reading “Riding Between the Worlds” by Linda Kohanov, I had a dream to acquire the training I needed to help people heal through the way of the horse. I was already a nationally certified equestrian coach so this would be a natural extension of what I was already doing. In my innocence (or ignorance) I thought achieving the dream would be a simple case of signing up for Linda’s course in Arizona and, once completed, setting up my shingle somewhere here in southern Ontario.

Nothing could have been further from the truth … because I was disconnected from my truth. At the time I was in my early 40s and struggling with life on so many levels, looking for escape. My focus was on running away rather than walking steadfastly toward something.

The dream identified, life unfolded ~ a veritable roller coaster ride:

Down ~ Within months of formulating this dream I was restructured from my job as an advertising copywriter and went into a depression.

Down ~ Six months later the horse I’d been part-boarding for two years died of cancer.

Up ~ Four months later, after a relatively easy search, by all accounts, Bear cantered into my life.

Up ~ One month later training began with Chris Irwin ~ my introduction to healing with horses through his Train the Trainer program and Equine-Assisted Personal Development. This was when I started to realize how broken I was and led to eighteen months of art therapy.

Up ~ In the meantime my partner (now husband) and I enjoyed four years of twice yearly world travel to places I’d never imagined going. (2008 to 2012)

Down ~ A trip to beautiful, battle-scarred Sarajevo in 2009 sent me into five years (and counting) of psychotherapy ~ my own life battle scars screaming for attention.

Down ~ Then early-onset menopause and all the joy that brings took its toll. (2010)

Down ~ Adrenal fatigue and its bitter anti-social pill insisted I shut down my life and focus on healing. (2010 to present)

Down ~ No more public singing performances (my adrenal health couldn’t support it) (2011)

Down ~ The attempted suicide of a family member and resultant trauma threw another curve. (2012)

Up ~ Our beautiful wedding brought immense joy. (2013)

Up ~ A barn change signalled a new beginning for Bear and I. (2013)

Up and down and up ~ The death of old friendships and the birth of new ones tested my emotional resiliency in ways I had not expected.

Yes, life happened; demanded I pay attention; tested my resolve, strength and commitment to the ups and down; the highs and lows of the healing process. Could I weather the storms I was intending to help others with through healing with horses?

It was an honest enough question. How could I facilitate in others what I had not experienced for myself?

These experiences have, indeed, brought me full circle to the point at which I am happy to announce that I have registered in a six-month Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) certification program which begins at the end of June. It’s a program based on the teachings of Linda Kohanov and, as luck would have it, the sessions take place just a half hour away from home.

It’s a big decision made after much considered thought and meditation. However, I feel that it is the right move for me as I continue along my own healing journey. I am confident this course will teach me much about how I relate to the world and will help to heal aspects of my inner world still requiring attention. And, of course, it will take me another purposeful step closer to realizing my dream of helping people heal through the way of the horse.

I’m ready for this new step but am not kidding myself ~ it will be another intense period of growth bringing with it the inevitable roller coaster of emotion.

Still, I’m game.

What’s another roller coaster on the circle of life when it takes us closer to our dreams?

I firmly believe our heartfelt dreams never die. When a dream is meant to be it seems that life provides the experiences we need to create the environment the dream needs to come true. It’s why we must never judge the process or how long it takes … or quit.

Hold fast to your dream. It may be closer than you think.

~*~

I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks. When I return my plan is to post regular updates as I proceed through the FEEL certification program and, of course, share the cheeky shenanigans of my beautiful Bear.

Of course, life unfolds as it should. 😉

Always remember to nurture what you love … and that includes you.

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gentleman’s Club

Managing the herd dynamic is one of the top priorities at any barn. Horses, like people, are predisposed to like and dislike others according to their own personality and character.

While horses will identify their own pecking order, it is important for the barn owner to understand their horses well enough to know who should and shouldn’t be turned out together and encouraged to mix. Ensuring the horses are grazing among others of like mind and character is key to reducing the risk of injury and possible upset among the herd.

Bear, as we’ve discovered, is the horse-about-town type. He wants to, and does, get along with everyone. It makes him a natural leader. His experience with Zu Zu is a case in point. Now that she has left, however, we’ve had to find him other friends that share his particular easy-going life philosophy.

For the past three weeks or so he’s been enjoying the company of old campaigner Konnor, and a young FEI dressage prospect, Dream. They’ve been getting along famously. In fact, Dream and Bear are often to be found playing and grazing together as if they’ve been friends for life, while Konnor hovers in the background ready to mediate if needed. He likes the ex officio role ~ doesn’t need to be in charge all the time, but will step in if required.

Bear and Dream share a tender morsel ...

Bear and Dream share a tender morsel …

 

They’re such a polite trio I’ve dubbed them “The Gentleman’s Club.”

Last week a new horse moved into the barn.  Midas, at age 19, is an older fellow and another retired dressage horse. The day after his arrival I was approached  about introducing Midas to our gentlemanly herd. We discussed the proposed change at some length. We knew the established herd was functioning well together, but wondered what would happen if we introduced someone new. Would it alter the dynamic? Would it be a good fit?

Every herd introduction is a social experiment. While J had her own concerns because of past injuries Midas had experienced, she assured us he was a peace-loving horse and, if anything, preferred to keep to himself. Her main concern was that he be in with a quiet group who wouldn’t bully or chase him around.

The facts were this: Konnor is 20 and the paddock peace keeper. Dream is eight and, having had two colic surgeries of his own, needs quiet companionship and civilized play as well as all-day turnout. Bear is 12 and just wants to be everyone’s friend. Taking all of this into consideration, a well as Midas’ disposition, we agreed there was little harm in seeing if they would get along. After all, you don’t know if something is going to work until you give it a go. So, Midas was introduced into The Gentleman’s Club.

As Bear was still enjoying his after-ride grooming session, Midas met the other two members first.

It is normal, when introducing horses to each other for the first time, to witness a cacophony of squeals and grunts and screams as necks arch and noses touch in greeting. It’s all part of the initial interview. There’s the occasional pawing at the ground and some ear pinning too but, if all goes well, this is the extent of the discussion.

By the time I lead Bear to the paddock it was apparent that Midas had passed muster. But Bear and Midas still had to meet.

While Bear was  lead into the paddock I grabbed my camera and documented his interaction with the potential new club member.

Herewith my interpretation, in words and pictures, of Midas’ admission interview with Bear.

 ~*~

Hello, Midas. My name is Shakespeare, but you can call me Bear ...

“Hello, Midas. My name is Shakespeare, but you can call me Bear …”

~*~

Now, then ... let's get a closer look at you ...

“Now, then … let’s get a closer look at you …”

 ~*~

Now, the other side, if you please ...

“That’s good. Now, the other side, if you please …”

~*~

 

(I like him so far, mom ...)

(So far so good, mom …)

~*~

 

Here, let me show you the water barrel ...

“Now, if you’ll come this way, I’ll show you the club’s water barrel …”

~*~

Uh huh, you're good over here too ...

“Just so you know, it’s first come, first serve after me, buddy …”

~*~

Now, over here is club hay ...

“And over here we have some of the club’s select hay. Over here, I said …”

~*~

Good, good ... I like what I'm seeing. Your patience shall be rewarded ...

“Thanks for waiting. Your manners are excellent. I like that …”

~*~

Please ... help yourself ...

“Please, try some for yourself. Do note its superior quality …”

~*~

Here ... let me help you ...

“Here, let me help you with that …”

~*~

"Thank you," says Midas ...

“No need to thank me just yet … “

~*~

"I like him, boys, what do you think?"

“I like him, boys, what do you think?”

~*~

Admission granted ...

Admission granted …

~*~

The interview took all of 10 minutes and we watched in awe as it all unfolded. J said she’d never seen Midas relax so quickly into a group.

Well, it is The Gentleman’s Club after all. 😉

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

Waking Up Is Hard To Do …

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

~Albert Einstein.

~*~

Just over three months ago Bear and I made a major change in our lives by moving to another barn.

The shift in awareness for us both has been dramatic. It’s almost as if we are awakening, finally getting to see our truth in the light of day. In fact, I even joked the other day that Bear is coming out of hibernation!

And I feel like Sleeping Beauty kissed awake into a new realm of magical possibility.

All the romance aside, waking up is hard to do. Life can be so overwhelming for many of us that we learn to numb ourselves to the day-to-day adopting, however unwittingly, a disassociated state just to get by. As a result we don’t feel present in our experiences and our lives,  and when we look back all we see is a blur. I know this to be true, for it is my experience.

To be awakened, no matter how gently, has the potential to wreak inner havoc. However, if we are to be free of the over-shadowed life we must wake up and step into the light, even though it’s bound to be a bit disorienting for a while.

Wake up! Wake up!

The real life metaphor of this for me was watching a “broken” horse find his spirit again in the training theatre of Canadian natural horsemanship trainer, Chris Irwin.

The beautiful quarter horse palomino was docile and well-mannered. Ground tie him, i.e. attach a rope to his halter and just let it drop to the ground, and he’d stand there quietly, unmoving and disinterested in the world around him, just waiting for whatever was to happen next. He’d been so well “broken” that the light in his eyes had all but disappeared. The equine equivalent of a human zombie, I’d say. His owners, who’d recently purchased him and were concerned about his malaise, had brought him to the training session to see if the light could be restored to those big brown eyes. They wanted to give the poor animal a chance to feel like a horse again.

Cream-Coloured Pony

Be the free spirit you were born to be …

Witnessing the transformation in this horse over the three-day session was awe inspiring. Through measured and controlled groundwork and round-pen exercises Chris, and those of us who had an opportunity to work with the horse under his supervision, was able to help awaken the horse to a more authentic way of being. It was one of the most miraculous things I witnessed while training with this great horseman.

The journey to awareness for that horse was not easy, however. Even under these protective and nurturing circumstances the horse was confused and acted out. The notion of “awakening” was a scary prospect. However, by the end of the three-day experience obvious gains had been made. The horse was more animated and more engaged with the world around him.

The interesting thing for me was that as I observed the transformation in this beautiful golden horse I recognized the need for such a change in my own life. It’s when I began to realize the depth of my own broken spirit. It was another sign it was time for me to seek help and step into my own light.

Changing is never easy. It’s why most people choose to avoid it. But I believe that every time we resist the opportunity to heal and expand our lives in some way we entrap ourselves, and those with whom we interact on a daily basis, in an endless cycle of misery.

Waking up is hard to do, but it must be done if we are to realize, like the beautiful palomino, a chance to see ourselves, and the world, from the vantage point of our truth.

~*~

The Ultimate All-Terrain Vehicle

This week I unearthed an old project as I was cleaning out Bear’s file.

A few years ago I had a little fun with his official passport picture and created my take on the ultimate all-terrain vehicle. Sadly, the original image is not on this computer so I was reduced to photographing the printed copy with my iPhone and uploading it. The image is a bit fuzzy, but I hope you can get the gist of it. If you click on the image and enlarge it helps.

One Horsepower Has It All

One Horsepower Has It All

This leads me to share how Bear’s all-terrain capacity was put to the test earlier this week when we went hacking for the first time this year. After a grim winter riding in circles in the indoor arena it was, I hoped, to be a gentle awakening to a new experience.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve done plenty of hacking in my life but not much in recent years, and together Bear and I have certainly never done anything like this.

We accompanied a small group into the rolling back fields where a course of cross-country jumps resides. Before embarking on our new adventure, however, we worked in the arena for about 40 minutes to take the edge off.

I felt confident enough and figured if not now, when? Sooner or later Bear and I were going to need to expand our comfort zone. So, in single file with Bear the last in line, we headed downhill along a tree-lined lane way which passes by the old bank barn. In the summer months this is a really pretty spot of dappled sunlight. Right now, however, the lane is a mess of mud and melting snowy slush punctuated with tangled, fallen timber, remnants of December’s horrible ice storm.

Bear was a brave boy as he baby-stepped his way down the unfamiliar hill.  And, while he was attentive to me I hoped he would also feed off the confidence of the three horses ahead of us.

The lane to the pond lies to the left of the bank barn. A snow bank blocks the way. Jerome is in the paddock. This image taken in January.

The lane to the pond lies to the left of the bank barn. A snow bank blocks the way. Jerome is in the paddock. This image taken in January.

 

At the bottom of the hill and to the right of the path we passed a pond which is presently still frozen, and to the left an abandoned paddock awaiting its rebirth as a turnout space for retirees. The paddock fence ends at a river bank that cradles a small stream which, at present, is swollen with spring run-off.  This was all new to Bear. By his timid steps I could tell he was bravely facing his confusion. He wasn’t necessarily upset, but like anyone facing the unfamiliar, he was proceeding (as was I) with caution.

Then came a small wooden foot bridge that crosses the stream.

Bless him, Bear was not so sure about this. The other horses were already on the other side of it when we arrived. The combination of the snaking stream’s hissing, bubbling waters and the sound of hollow footfall over the wooden bridge was almost too much for my darling boy’s warmblood mind. He fretted, backing up and moving sideways, unable to compute the gentle aids I was using to ask him to keep moving forward. There was no point in getting angry or frustrated with him. I wanted this to be a good experience so he’d be happy to come here again. The barn manager called instruction from across the bridge but recognizing our predicament was only getting more stressful, she rode to our rescue so we could follow her over. Almost immediately Bear began to relax and was happy to bump hips with her horse across the bridge, snorting a sigh of relief when we reached the other side.

As we climbed the still snow-covered hill that led up from the stream, I was feeling somewhat intimidated by the soggy terrain. However, I reminded myself that Bear is designed to handle these conditions. All I really needed to do was put him in gear and stay out of his way so he could do what comes naturally … move.

We lagged behind our companions for most of the hack, but every so often someone would turn to see how we were doing and reassure with a smile.

Up and down small undulating hills we went and, at one point, into a little gully where water had pooled fetlock deep. Bear, whose all-season radials prefer drier conditions, put on a brave face and waded boldly through, even while his buddy, Dream, stopped in the middle and pawed and splashed like a happy child in a bath tub. Then, onward we went, past large, fixed obstacles, through the snow, slush, mud, and more big puddles. Bear was alert; curious, but he wasn’t afraid. He simply attuned to me and followed the others while quietly absorbing his surroundings.

Sure, he hesitated a few times while attempting to navigate around puddles and the the deeper snow, but I do believe that overall he rather enjoyed himself. He offered no indication that he was experiencing any undue stress. He was, it seemed to me, happy for the change of pace and scenery.

Soon it was time to turn around and head back to the barn. The hack was only meant to be a taste of what’s awaiting us as the season unfolds. Right now much of the property is still too snow- and ice-bound for exploration anyway.

As we approached the bridge from the opposite direction I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Bear, but being the bright boy he is he took it in stride and happily followed the other horses over the swollen stream and ice-covered pond, up the steep, slushy hill and back to the comfort of the barn.

It was a proud moment for me. Bear stepped up to this new experience beautifully.

Waking up, and expanding our comfort zone, is hard to do. Still, when we land in an environment that promotes growth and surround ourselves with people who care a whole new world can open up for us. An expansion of mind, body and spirit takes place that leaves us feeling stronger, more confident and prepared to take those next defining steps in our lives.

This experience was a lovely, gentle wake up call for both Bear and I.

I love those the best.

 

 ~*~

In the Saddle“Neigh!” Quoth He …

 No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.

~Winston Churchill

 

~*~

Thanks for stopping by.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

A Happy St Patrick’s Day

A happy day indeed.

Here’s a trip down memory lane ~ my journal entry for the day a dream came true.

~*~

March 17, 2006

6:25 a.m.

It’s a beautiful day for bringing Shakespeare home. Not a cloud in the sky; not a hint of a breeze ~ just lovely …

Later the same day …

So, I have my horse!! My dream come true.

And he is the most beautiful boy both in looks and demeanour. I am greatly blessed.

He’s already endeared himself to a number of people, and his next door neighbour seems to like him too.

Shakespeare took everything in stride, even when he got tense in the trailer when he was first loaded. It wasn’t anything a little tranq couldn’t settle.

The traffic coming home was busy but not brutal. We took Hwy 4o1 and were fortunate to leave Hagarsville when we did ~ half an hour later and we would have been snarled in traffic due to a horrible accident that  occurred around 4 o’clock. We had just returned home about that time.

Yup, we had the luck of the Irish with us today.

When we got home Shakespeare stepped off the trailer a little groggy but none the worse for wear. Certainly, everyone who saw him was impressed by him. One thing that made a real impression was his pudginess. Yes, he is over weight but nothing that can’t be remedied. N says that when he loses the weight it’s going to be much easier for him to work ~ easier on his joints and legs.

After I walked him around the arena for a while I took him to his stall where he met his new barn mates, and then I spent a little time grooming him. He’s a sensitive guy. I had to nudge him firmly in the side when he got evasive to me holding up his left front foot. This really upset him ~ not in any angry way but more in a “why are you getting upset with me?” kind of way. He’s smart though. I had no trouble picking up his feet after that.

It was fun to spend time with him. He settled into his feed and hay without trouble and fluttered his nostrils at the shavings in his stall as he’d never seen such a thing before. (He’d been bedded on straw.)

He likes carrots, and he likes to be fussed over.

I think he’s going to fit in really well.

I had a rehearsal this evening so left the barn around 5:30 p.m. I’ll be back tomorrow to spend some time with him and will spend even more time with him on Sunday.

I am blessed.

Shakespeare comes homes ... March 17, 2006

Shakespeare, a strapping four-year-old, comes homes with me … March 17, 2006

~*~

As you might imagine, St. Patrick’s Day is a happy day for me.

Today Bear and I celebrate eight years together.

My plan was, of course, to spend time with him and spoil him rotten. Maybe even ride, if it wasn’t too cold.

However, the adrenal fatigue has caught up with me today and I’m confined to home.

I’m sad, but circumspect.

Life unfolds as it should.

We’ll both enjoy another day of rest and I can imagine him outside enjoying his new friendship with Dream.

How appropriate!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Where There’s A Will …

Connection

Change of any description, if it is to be undertaken with mindfulness, takes energy.

The move to a new barn at the beginning of the year has required a great (and positive) shift in the way I view the equestrian world and my place in it. It’s also invited me to step up to the challenge of beginning to live the dream I’ve had since childhood ~ of being a competent dressage rider.

It’s been a meandering road to get to this point, mostly due to my own lack of self-awareness and a life time spent in survival mode. And now that I am here, I’m learning to adapt to a new way of being while still negotiating the pitfalls of energy-depleting adrenal fatigue ~ one of the side effects of living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for so long.

Still, we’re on the right track now and it will take as long as it takes to evolve into the partnership I have dreamed of for Bear and I for so long.

Changes are already happening. I find it difficult to write about it while we’re in transition simply because there’s so much going on I don’t know where to start. And, I don’t want to exhaust myself in the attempt to do so.

Suffice to say that while I learn to ride Bear according to his training imprint he is gaining strength and stamina and is so much more relaxed. It’s almost as if he’s come “home” in himself somehow. No more arguments because my hands are so busy (because they aren’t anymore). No more miscommunication. As I begin to integrate the nuances of the new skills I’m learning Bear settles into a frame of mind that demonstrates to me I’m finally beginning to “get” it while he is more happily engaged in our work.

I cannot begin to tell you what a difference this has made to our relationship overall. Something has changed. A switch has gone on. Our bond is tighter. It’s as if as open as he was before he is even more so now simply because I’ve stepped deeper into his functionally imprinted world and left my own dysfunctionally imprinted one behind.

What a relief! What a gift! To see the world through his eyes and understand what it means to be “at home” at what you’re doing. The more at home he is, the more at home I am. It’s magic!

The elements of training that have brought us to this point involve a lot of technical explanation that I’m not going to get into, at least not at the moment. Suffice to say that working with a highly skilled dressage coach who has invested himself in Bear’s and my progress has made all the difference. In just five coaching sessions, and all the rides in between, Bear already feels like a completely different horse and I feel like a more competent rider. My default to hunter frame is a thing of the past.

Notwithstanding the obstacle of adrenal fatigue and the drain that is on my energy my dressage dreams live again.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

~*~

Speaking of wills …

Last year, as some of you know, I remarried. This has made it necessary to revisit and revise my Last Will and Testament to reflect my change of status. Of course, it’s important to adapt a Will according to any change in life circumstances. I’m no lawyer but I believe it’s safe to say that to file one once and never look at it again is probably not the smartest thing to do. Life circumstances change constantly and a Will, naturally, must reflect this.

As you can imagine, my horse figures into my Will, as he must. What is to happen to him (or any of my animal companions) should I make my grand exit from planet Earth before them?

“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed …”
Antoine de Saint-Exupèry

My arrangements in the past have been pretty loose, as far as Bear is concerned. Now that I’m revising my Will, I’m going to tighten things up and attach to it a Limited Power of Attorney outlining what I want done for Bear in my absence.

This idea was suggested by the owner of the barn where we are now and I think it’s a great one. This way even when Lloyd and I are away on vacation there is a written document which stipulates the steps to be taken in case of emergency, and it’s all been established ahead of time while cooler heads prevail. Beats a desperate phone call in the middle of the night while we’re half way around the world and I’m having a panic attack. 😉

When searching for a template online I came across this one from a fellow WordPress blogger at Capital Cowgirl. It’s most comprehensive and, as you can see, adaptable for equestrians and pet owners. I’m going to use this template for my other four-legged fuzzy companions as well.

If you are a horse owner and/or have pets as a part of your lifestyle, I suggest taking a few minutes to draw up a Limited Power of Attorney for each one and attaching them to your Will. As well, give copies to the caregivers in question so your instructions are readily available. This way you know you’ve done your due diligence with respect to the care of your animal companions while you are absent, for whatever reason, and the people to whom you have entrusted their care have a clear understanding of your wishes on the matter.

Bear is so important to me and, as you might imagine, I have given lots of thought as to what I’d like to happen should I pre-decease him. The option of the Limited Power of Attorney is sound and, attached to my Will, makes my wishes official.

And where there’s a Will … there’s peace of mind.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Nurture Your Dreams …

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess it’s love. 😉

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

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

It’s so refreshing to feel hope.

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

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

The key is to create more forward momentum.

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

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

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

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

Words cannot express how amazing this feels.

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

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

One brief comment about looking back.

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

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

Nurture your dreams. Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom 🙂

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014