When Things Are Meant To Be … Or Not To Be

... A poet out standing in this new field ...

… Shakespeare ~ a poet out standing in his new field …

~*~

It’s been nearly two weeks since Bear and I started a new chapter in our life together. I’m pleased to say the first few paragraphs have been incredibly fun. 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve known for some time that we needed a change. What I’ve learned from this experience, however, is that when change (or opportunity if you prefer to look at it that way) is ready for you, it comes knocking. The important thing is to be aware and listen for that first gentle rap at the door so we can usher change in quietly and methodically. It’s when we haven’t been paying attention and change starts banging the door down that problems arise. From past experience I know this to be true.

If I thought about it too much I might kick myself for not having made this move sooner. The fact is, though, the timing was not right until now. Opportunity was biding its time waiting for Bear and me (mostly me, sadly) to be ready. I’d looked at potential new homes for Bear before, but not found the right fit. And then, one day last November during an online search I found this barn which, as it happened, had only one stall open. I paid the barn a visit and, after due consideration, made the decision to let change, and opportunity lead us through the door.

The rest you know.

So, I don’t beat myself up over something I wish I’d done years ago. It’s a moot point. Everything unfolds as it should, and when you follow your heart things do, inevitably, fall into place at exactly the right time. No regrets. No mourning for the past. Just a much clearer vision of the future and a toe-hold closer to a dream.

The recent hard blast of winter has been both a curse and a blessing. A curse, of course, in that conditions have been unbearably cold and not suited to riding. A blessing because the extra down time has given Bear and I a chance to acclimate to our new surroundings. He hangs out with his new friends and I hang out with mine. And when it comes to his exercise, because it’s been so quiet at the barn we’ve had free access to the arena. This means we’ve been able to play at will, which is great because it gets him used to the quirks and creaks of his new working space without me on his back.

It’s been a rather smooth transition, all in all. This tells me it was meant to be. 😉

Forsooth, a few words from the poet equine …

~*~

Sonnet XXIV

No way there is to know what life shall bring;

What storms shall pass or sunny days shall hold.

The best advantage is a heart that sings

So through the best and worst one might be bold.

As winter hath its fury bourn this way

And havoc wreaked for all within its path

The choice, per chance, to mope or, rather, play;

Be beaten not by Mother Nature’s wrath.

*

What change the winds hath wrought, what change indeed

As to a new life I am surely born.

And yet, all things that matter, all I need,

Hath followed me; for nothing do I mourn.

Thus, change hath done me good, I’m bound to say,

For happy heart of yore’s more glad today.

~*~

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

A Chapter Ends; Another Begins

Happy New Year, everyone!!!

It’s January 1 and today is traditionally the day when millions of people all over the world set down appropriate (and some inappropriate) resolutions and goals for the year to come.

Have you set yours? If so, something wonderful, I hope. Something that takes you toward a bigger dream and helps you to realize your heart’s desire.

For this is what I have done.

Yesterday, I closed a chapter on my life, and began another.

I could almost feel the page turn as I loaded Bear onto the trailer and drove the 10 minutes to his new home.

Our world is expanding. I’m a step closer to my dressage dreams. I’m getting a peek at our potential and we haven’t even had a lesson with our new coach yet! It’s so exciting!!!

And perhaps Bear can sense it too. He was such a good boy throughout the entire shipping process. (My thanks to Rick Lehman for his calm and gentle manner with my horse).

At the new barn, after an initial survey of his new stall and a little snorting and blowing at the unfamiliar pelleted bedding, Bear settled right in. No drama or hysteria. He immediately felt at home.

I groomed and fussed over him as I would normally so the routine felt familiar, and he was his usual sociable self.

The barn manager made us both welcome and has been most supportive and accommodating as I’ve made the transition during the past couple of weeks.

When I could finally pull myself away and leave Bear to acclimate to his new digs on his own, I felt totally happy and at peace with my decision to move him.

And then, last evening while I was hunkered down to celebrate new years by myself (my social life has been non-existent this Christmas due to the adrenal fatigue) I received this lovely note by FB message:

BEAR says hi Mom!

I ate all of my dinner and licked my bowl clean. I really enjoyed the beet pulp. I slurped it and slurped it.

I’ve been meeting my new friends and introducing myself. Some have really funny names and hard to pronounce … what does ZU ZU sound like

Love you

BEAR ♥♥

Well, I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive this thoughtful note. 🙂

And another:

Those people just came and fed us all again!!

I’m going to eat my late dinner and call it a night

It’s cold outside but snuggly and warm in here so I feel like I’m all set for a good night’s sleep

Gnight mom

XXOO

BEAR

We’re home … 🙂

Happy New Year … and may you realize your heart’s desire.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

The Gift

Winter hay

Perhaps I indulge the muse just little too much but, here again, a new inspiration from my darling Shakespeare ~ a poet out standing in his field.

I guess he knows something’s up … 😉

Enjoy!

~*~

Sonnet XXIII

‘Pon snowy mounds of white a glint of moon

As through the frigid night the light descends

And on the breeze a hint we’re moving soon;

A chapter new begins while this one ends.

The wind of winter change doth blow it seems

To lead us to a life that’s bright and new

So Mother dear can chase another dream

And I, perchance, can help that dream come true.

*

For what is life if not a chance to dream?

To seek our hearts desire and make it so.

A miracle that casts a vibrant beam

Into the hearts of those who dare to grow.

My gift to she who brightens up my day?

Is all my heart can give to light the way.

Shakespeare “The Equine”
December 2013

~*~

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

It’s Time To Dance …

Well, you may have noticed that my posts have been a bit sparse of late.

I’ve had a lot on my mind.

I’m moving Bear to another barn.

Something's Up

As any horse owner will tell you this can be a stressful change, especially if you’ve never done it before.

I’ve never done it before.

It’s been stressful. 😉

The years of our lives pass speedily by.

It seems just yesterday we brought Bear home. He is my first horse; a dream come true. I remember the joy; the excitement; the desire to make good decisions on his behalf that would benefit us both.

Flash forward almost eight years. We’ve coursed our hills and valleys together. Forged a strong, trust-based relationship. It’s been a journey wrought with trials and tribulations; joy and happiness.

But he is now 12 years old and in his prime, and I am … well … I am well into middle age.

I have felt, for several months now, maybe even the last couple of years, the urge to change things up. While I appreciate, and needed, all the remedial coaching I’ve received in the past few years, I feel ready to up the ante. To step boldly into the dream of the dance that is dressage.

Bear and I are ready. More confident; more relaxed than we were even a few months ago. Sure, there are plenty of kinks to work out yet, but it’s time for a new perspective.

A new perspective requires change

So, at the beginning of January, I’m moving Bear to another barn. A small, low-key, dressage-oriented barn just 10 minutes further away from home. Somewhere we can work with a new coach and a new vision of what’s possible.

It’s a decision made after a month of deliberation ~ of talking with people I trust; writing down and considering the pros and cons; cogitating; meditating and, yes at some level, praying.

And, while the new barn presents plenty of opportunity for me to delve into the culture of dressage and develop my skills, my primary focus must be the welfare of my horse.

Will he be happy? Will he make friends? Will he receive good care? Have plenty of turn-out? Eat well? Enjoy the atmosphere? Be safe?

I feel that he will. I’ve known the owner for a while now. She’s been in the business a long time and judging by the warm reception I’ve received by people who already board there it appears to be a happy place.

I’ve been to the barn a few times to get a feel for it. With only 12 horses boarded, it’s smaller than Bear’s current home. It’s also older and the arena is about half the size of the one we work in now, but it hardly matters. The barn is clean, and quiet, and friendly. As well, there’s access to 94 acres of hacking, including a complete cross-country course (which will be pleasant to look at ;- ) … ). There’s a proper dressage ring and a grass riding ring as well. More outdoor options. This is good.

Last week the owner gifted me a ride on Connor, her beautiful retired Prix St. George mount, so I could have a lesson with my potential new coach. He is a well-respected German master and member of the bronze-medal winning Canadian dressage team at the 1995 Pan Am Games. I wanted to see if I liked his teaching style.

Connor really tested my mettle and made me ride every step. The coach worked with me in every step. He has a reputation for being technical and thorough. I like that. The bottom line ~ I totally enjoyed the experience. It was the first time I’d ridden another horse since owning Bear, and it left me with more respect for my ability and a desire to see Bear and I reach our potential. A move to this new barn would present us with the chance to do so.

So, this past weekend I made my decision. I’m trusting my heart and taking the stall.

Bear will have the same farrier, vet, dentist and chiropractor. Things will be the same, but different. A change will do us good. 🙂

For my birthday my husband gave me something I’ve wanted for a couple of years now … an Inuit soapstone carving of a dancing bear. He bought it this past summer, long before this move to a dressage barn full of “dancing”horses was even contemplated. Seems rather symbolic and meant to be, don’t you think? 😉

It’s time to dance.

Stay tuned …

Nurture what you love,

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Confessions of a Coaching Intern: The Buck Stops Here … Part II

The third instalment of  Confessions of a Coaching Intern. A series in which I re-visit my experiences as an equestrian coach-in-training, 1995-1997.

 Enjoy the ride!

Related:

Finding Clarity with a Pitch Fork and a Song (Freshly Pressed)

The Buck Stops Here … Part I

~*~

Buck

Buck

After granny’s passing I had the sense that her death meant a resurrection for me. Honouring her memory by doing something meaningful with my life, by doing something that would have made her proud, became really important.

I believed that she would have been pleased for me to start taking my life back. And I believed she would have been doubly-pleased for me to involve horses somehow. She’d loved horses.

My original intent was to apply to the agricultural college in Olds, Alberta.

However, as I was going through the motions toward this goal a conversation with a riding instructor at a barn where I found myself back in the saddle brought me to a different conclusion.

She advised that the infamous farm of my most recent riding past was under new management as a hunter/jumper show barn and riding school. She suggested I check with the new people to see if they were offering a coaching internship program.

This sounded interesting, so I soon made a phone call and set up an appointment. Within a week I was returned to the place of my former doom and telling the nice new people, with some emotion, my big plans.

They were, in fact, looking for interns and, after some discussion we reached an agreement. I would start my equestrian adventure in the fall after I’d wound up a few things, including my career in public relations.

Now, they may have looked at me sideways a bit as I was in my 30s and, perhaps, a little “old” for this kind of thing, but I was so excited I didn’t care what anyone thought. I’d always dreamed of working with horses and my dream was about to come true.

Doubtless my husband at the time questioned my sanity. Why did I want to quit a perfectly well-paying desk job to hang out in a barn all day?

It may sound awful, but what he thought became of no consequence to me. His was a short memory. He’d quit his job several years earlier, with my support, to get a Masters degree in Sports Administration (his dream) in the States. I was there for him 100 per cent, with a low Canadian dollar to boot. I’d also returned to live with my mother to make it all work.

In this instance, my schooling was 10 minutes from home and was going to cost us nothing (except the loss of a pay check, as I was often reminded). We were still living at my mother’s.  So, darn it, I was going to live my dream. It was my time.

While waiting for the internship to begin I returned to the barn of my former doom to get a feel for how it had changed under the new regime

The riding school was certainly more sophisticated. My new coach, J, was great and I really liked the horses I was riding, some of whom were still there from before.

As it got closer and closer to my internship start date, however, my husband began to throw obstacles in my path. He was desperate for me to change my mind.

To appease him I pushed the fall start back until after Christmas.

A Christmas start was then pushed back to February. With each delay I became more and more restless until finally, at the end of February and with my husband’s protests ever ringing in my ears, I made my stand, quit corporate life and, after a one-week break, launched full throttle into the internship and my journey to self-discovery.

I describe in some detail in Finding Clarity with a Pitchfork and a Song the slog and turmoil of the experience.

The fun part was riding twice a day ~ flatwork in the morning and jumping in the afternoon.

Over time each intern (there were four of us) paired off with an appropriately experienced school horse. What was considered appropriate? The horse had to be able to do a simple dressage test in frame and jump a course of 2’9″ fences. We were going for Canadian Coaching Level I here. It wasn’t complicated. By the end of my internship I’d be able to teach various levels in an equestrian centre setting. Achieving a higher coaching level to train athletes for competition was always going to be beyond my scope as I had no significant experience in the competition ring.

I staked my claim on a young, dark bay thoroughbred mare, Feebie. She was a lovely mover with a terrible stubborn streak. When she was good she was really good, and when she was having a bad day you may as well forget about it. This left me plenty frustrated, but it was part of my challenge to work it through before exam time.

It was a tough and happy 18 months of training. Of course, spending so much time together Feebie and I bonded. She was like my own horse. We managed our good and bad days together. I was having marital woes and found consolation and release working through my challenges at the barn. Spending time with Feebs allowed me to forget my troubles at home and experience some joy.

I felt like a kid again, having fun improving my riding and general horsemanship skills while working toward a worthy goal. I was participating in exercises I would teach; understanding the different challenges riders would face with each exercise, and learning techniques to help riders work through these challenges while overcoming their fears.

And while I was learning I was growing, becoming more confident, understanding myself a little better and exploring my creativity.

While learning to nurture others through teaching (and we’ll get to that in a future instalment) I was learning what it meant to nurture myself. It was so win/win!

And, of course, an important part of nurturing is issuing suitable challenges to expand the comfort zone in ways that increase confidence.

One of the most fun ~ and challenging ~ exercises I encountered was the gymnastic grid

A gymnastic grid is a series of obstacles (see diagram) designed to focus on pace, straightness, balance and coordination, and test the connection between the rider and horse. The obstacles gradually increase in size and this is determined by the riding level being taught. In our case the final obstacle was usually set around 2′ 3″. They don’t have to be huge jumps. That’s not the point. The point is to be able to create the desired form and maintain it for the duration of the prescribed exercise.

The exercise is made all the more exciting when the coach injects the additional challenge of negotiating the grid with no stirrups, no reins and, if they’re feeling particularly testy, with eyes closed while singing Twinkle, twinkle little star.

Knowing I could do it gave me the confidence to teach it.

~*~

After 18 months it was time to take part in the preliminary coaching exams. This would determine whether or not I was properly prepared for the finals which were to follow a month later.

It didn’t go so well. I was nervous and Feebie wasn’t that cooperative. After talking with the examiner and my coach it was agreed I would wait another six months to do the finals. During that time I would continue to work with Feebie to see if we could sort this out.

Naturally I was disappointed by this turn of events but decided to make the most of it. Que sera sera. My new mantra, right?

Still, regardless of my new go-with-the-flow mentality I was not prepared for the shock that was to follow.

About six weeks before the final exam Feebie, now deemed unsuitable, was removed from the coaching program.

What was I going to do?

There was only one option open to me ~ an option I had strenuously avoided never mind considered.

Buck.

If you haven’t read the last instalment of this story you won’t know that my previously harrowing experience with Buck some six years earlier was the reason I’d stopped riding in the first place. And now he was going to be my exam partner?

What cruel twist of fate was this?

Even as this terrible news was being delivered I could feel the colour draining from my face; a knot forming in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t understand what was happening.

Surely there was another suitable horse?

No. All were spoken for. Buck was next on the list. Buck with his knobbly knees, weak caboose and bad attitude. Buck my nemesis. I could hardly believe it. How was this horrible challenge, at this late stage, going to increase my chances of passing that exam?

Next post: Heaven help me, I think I’m going to die …

~*~

Bear Smiles

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

 

Forward with Forgiveness

Handsome

A quick post, off the top of my head, as a thought occurred to me today in the middle of my coaching session.

Bear’s had a quiet week. I wasn’t well for a couple of days so he got to enjoy life as a muddy pasture ornament with his buddy, Sam. Didn’t need to answer about anything. Just got to be a horse. Which is fine.

Today I was back in the saddle after an episode of adrenal fatigue on Tuesday, and feeling my way into the work again. Curled up in a ball, as I was, in my recliner in the living room for a day or so, it was a challenge to get the old body to open back up.

Of course, horses demand that we be open. If we close down, they close down. It’s really simple body language.

At any rate, it took me a little longer to get in the groove today and Bear, feeling his outdoor privilege and, likely, rather bummed at having to work again, was being particularly ornery. Or perhaps, and rather more likely, he was simply taking advantage of me.

As well, since getting home from our 18-day trip it’s been a challenge to get back into the great work ethic we had going before I left. Everything we had before is there, it’s just taking longer to find it, and Bear isn’t giving anything away for free.

At one point during canter work he had a hissy fit, unexpectedly leaping to the left in response to nothing in particular. I corrected the situation and got him going again, but felt he was being rather mischievous and unforgiving.

I happened to mention this to Coach.

He said, “Bear’s a warmblood. They’re notorious for not wanting to go forward and will find excuses to give you a hard time about it.”

Coach helped me manage my way through this hiccup. I worked at opening my position to invite Bear to move forward more fluidly. Things were starting to go well again.

And then it hit me …

I had accused my horse of being unforgiving when, in fact, that finger was pointing right back at me. Not about forgiving Bear, or anything like that. Forgiving people. People in my life who have unwittingly put stumbling blocks in my path that prevent me from going forward. But it’s not the stumbling blocks that are preventing me from going forward anymore. It’s my own lack of forgiveness for the people who put them there in the first place.

I have been in my own way. Bear telling me to get out of his way was a way of letting me know how much of an obstacle I present to myself and my ability to move forward with my own life.

On the surface I’m all “oh, that doesn’t bother me anymore.” But down deep, I can feel it, niggling. And every once in a while I’ll feel or say something that stokes those damning fires of resentment, which in turn blocks my path forward to the better way of being I have for so long strived.

That light bulb moment on the back of my horse was a revelation. Not only was I seeing with my mind the incredible boob I’d been recently harbouring all that resentment, but on the flip side of that my body was releasing the negative tension attached to it. This was allowing Bear to open up his stride and really swing through his body into a lovely forward canter.

To some this might sound farfetched, but to me it’s terribly real. It has lead me to the conclusion that as long as we carry resentment, jealousy and hurt feelings with us on our journey we are in danger of not being able to move forward toward our goals and dreams as we’d like.

The fact that certain people in my life have hurt me has not changed. What has changed is my perception of their deeds and my willingness to move on from the pain of it. To go forward in self-awareness along my healing path with a forgiving heart is what matters now.

And I have my horse to thank for that.

Thank you, Bear …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2103

Confessions of a Coaching Intern: Finding Clarity with a Pitch Fork and a Song …

Horse Lover

This is the first in a series of intermittent posts about my experience as a coaching intern, 1995-1997. The memories will flow as they may so events are not likely to be in chronological order … but they will be fun to re-live. And we may actually learn something along the way … 😉

*

It wasn’t so long ago (okay, more than a decade but who’s keeping track … ) that I was a lost and confused early 30-something.

With a failing first marriage and tenuous hold on a career path through the jungles of corporate communications, I was feeling unhinged. When my maternal grandmother, with whom I had a somewhat conflicted relationship, died in 1994 I was forced to take stock. I quickly realized my life was broken and needed to be fixed.

Within months my world turned upside-down.

A trip to the Calgary Stampede soon after the funeral (because we’d already bought the tickets) convinced me that all I wanted to do was work with horses. Much to the chagrin of my husband I left my corporate gig eight months later and became a barn hand and coaching intern at a local hunter/jumper barn/riding school. My big idea was to get my coaching certification. It was a somewhat strange notion given that just four years earlier I’d abandoned my love of horses as a childish pursuit and moved on … to nothing.

But somehow our passion always finds us …

As we often do when change presents itself I approached this fork in the road with much enthusiasm, little realizing the many pot holes that lay ahead.

After only a few days I was appalled to realize how little I knew about horses, this despite a life time love of them and trips to the barn every week to ride. Where had I gone wrong?

And I was doubly appalled to learn, over time, just how little I knew about myself.

I went in a a marshmallow and came out toasted …

The two years spent in this school of hard knocks provided plenty of opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth. It was the first step to exposing the cankers in my way of being and beginning the healing process.

Only I didn’t know this at the time.

Since, like me, my then husband couldn’t see the bigger picture his support of my “crazy” endeavour was reluctant at best. His main concern was the loss of a second income ~ this in spite of the fact that with my sole income I’d enthusiastically supported him through his expensive Master’s degree in Sports Administration at a U.S. university. My foray into self-education was costing us nothing, and as we had no children and were living at my mother’s at the time we weren’t risking much. For me the timing could not have been better, whether he supported me or not. I pressed on.

Have I mentioned it was hard work?

This was no ordinary equestrian centre. It was the largest in the area, set on at least 100 acres with three massive indoor riding arenas, barns for 200 horses, several groomed outdoor riding rings and lovely hacking trails. It was the venue for many local and national shows and was thus, for many years, the hub of the horse world in the Greater Toronto Area.

Me with Buck, my nemesis and the subject of a future post. He may look like Bear but my Bear he wasn't.

Me with Buck, my nemesis and coaching exam horse. Our experience will be the focus of a future post. … Photo taken in 1997.

The riding school, where I worked at first, had 32 horses. Rain, snow or shine I, little Ms Corporate now liberated from the dress suits and high heels I’d sported for most of my working life, eagerly arrived at 7 a.m. to help feed and turn out the horses into their respective paddocks.

The labour intensive task of mucking stalls tested my fabric. On good days there were four of us to do this dirty work ~ that’s eight stalls each. On many days there were just two of us. Our goal was to be done by 9:30. No mean feat.

Following a short break I, with my fellow interns, headed to theory and then rode. Then lunch; teaching theory; more riding practical; distributing hay; bringing the horses in; feeding … and whatever else remained to be done until I could leave at 5:30 p.m.

It was a tough slog for this former girl-about-town …

I worked 10 hours a day six days a week. Within days of starting my internship I came down with the worst cold of my life. But I still had to work. No sick days. No time off. No sympathy.

I lost weight. At one point my soft hands, whose toughest task until that point had been to pluck words out of a computer keyboard, became so mangled by the manual labour I couldn’t wrap either of them around a door handle or hold a pen.

At day’s end, exhausted from a surplus of fresh air and exercise, I was in bed by 9 p.m. and slept dog-like until 5:30 a.m. when it was time to begin all over again.

Above and beyond this I continued my weekly singing commitment in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. I couldn’t imagine my life without music. On performance weeks with extra rehearsals I burned the candle at both ends. Exhaustion became my middle name.

Still, I had to keep up. I wasn’t old but I had to use almost twice as much energy as the early 20-somethings around me to achieve the same results. I look back now and wonder how I did it.

I might add, however, that I was no saint. I whined … a lot. When the school barn manager had had enough of my complaining (This is hard; I don’t understand; Why this? Why that? Why? Why? Why? etc.) she arranged for my transfer to the show barn. This, she hinted not so subtly, would really give me something to whine about.

Life got bigger …

The show barn was across the parking lot and an industrial complex by comparison. It was amazing, actually. (I say was because at the end of my internship the whole farm was razed for commercial/industrial property development. 😦 ) The barn housed an Olympic-sized indoor arena where shows were often held and had attached to it an enormous warm-up ring, also indoor. Between the two buildings were enclosed aisles of 50 large box stalls each. One wing was completely occupied. The other was saved for show stabling.

Big stalls house big horses and there were a few of those. Whether by design or chance I was assigned the stalls with the behemoth horses. My daily quota was 12-15 stalls. The riding school was paradise by comparison.

Apollo, an impressive grey, 18-hh show jumper, was the largest horse in the barn with the messiest stall. Mucking it was an exercise in unfettered misery for me until one forbiddingly hot day in July (at 8 a.m. it was already in the high 20s with humidity) and a moment of clarity.

It happened while I was in the throes of pitching hooey onto the conveyor rolling beneath the open trap door in front of his stall.

Beads of sweat trickled mercilessly down my forehead and pooled in my eyes while particles of pine shavings floated in rogue waves through the sunbeams, landing as a scratchy film on my damp flesh and drifting up my nostrils.

I had for some time felt the whole situation to be absurd, even surreal, wondering what on earth I was doing at my age and stage of life, shovelling horse hooey and wishing for a career with horses. I felt invisible; invalid; small. I felt I had somehow let myself down. My dream of horse ownership so buried in disappointment I had no idea where to search for it.

Why had I allowed my promising career in corporate communications be derailed so unceremoniously? Why was my marriage failing so miserably? Why was I feeling so aimless? Why?

Relief came by way of a song …

Because music lives so deeply in me I have a wealth of songs stored who-knows-where that pop into my head and onto my lips in moments of stress. Interestingly, the songs usually reflect my state of mind or emotion at the time without me realizing it.

And so it was between forkfuls in the midst of my mucking nightmare that these immortal words, made famous by the iconic Doris Day, tripped melodically from my lips:

When I was just a little girl I asked my mother what will I be. Will I be pretty? Will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me …

(Altogether now … )

Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera.

Once I really started listening to these simple words I somehow felt permission to let go of any worries about my future. A burdensome chore evolved into a mindful meditation. I became the rhythm of the pitching fork and learned to revel in the experience of “cleaning house.”

It was my first conscious lesson on the importance of expelling the detritus of life to make room for new growth.

The truth is, positive life changes require this of all of us. If we aren’t willing to fork over the hooey in our lives we are doomed to continue watching it pile up and then wallow in, and complain about, it.

From that moment of clarity forward my experience as an intern changed dramatically. My mind opened; I began to embrace the journey; … and I stopped whining.

Bird buddies

Fast forward 16 years …

So, the other day while at the barn visiting Bear and just 10 days after getting married, I grabbed a pitch fork and spent a few minutes tidying up his stall. I didn’t have to ~ the boarding agreement includes daily stall cleaning ~ but I wanted, needed some grounding.

With fork in hand I picked through his bedding, scooping up the missed poop balls. I dug out the ammonia-laden shavings in his pee spot, which sometimes gets missed, and banked the walls a little with a mix of old and new shavings. I smoothed and plumped up the bedding so it would cushion Bear easily when he slept at night and, just as in days gone by, sang Que Sera, Sera. … but not with angst of not knowing, you understand ~ with the conviction that life unfolds as it should.

ForksWe are the masters of our own destinies only in so much as we become awakened to our state of being, consciously aware of the choices we make, and grounded in the effort required to live the changes we seek. As well, we need to accept that at any time we could be unceremoniously dumped in a more challenging scenario which, though it’s painful at the time, might actually be the making of us.

My experience as a coaching intern rocked my world. And little did I know, as I was mired in the angst and confusion of the time, that it would open the door not just to my understanding of the world of the beautiful horse but to the amazing, complex and awe-filled world that resides in me.

For me clarity began with a pitch fork and a song.

What about you?

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

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Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

A Dream … Some Luck … and St. Patrick’s Day

I remember the moment I first saw Shakespeare.

Tall, dark, and handsome, he was standing quietly amidst a flurry of activity whilst being readied for our meeting.

The first thing I noticed was how much he seemed to love the attention.

I liked him immediately, but guardedly.

Buying a horse just because it tugs at your heart strings is never a good idea. Think with your head; go with your gut, but leave the heart out of it. At least at the beginning of the purchase process. Horse shopping requires due diligence.

As this was my first horse shopping experience, I was doubly cautious about keeping an emotional distance.

By the time I’d met Shakespeare I’d already looked at three horses. All disappointing in one way or another. Misrepresented mostly. That wasn’t their fault, of course.

Finding Shakespeare happened out-of-the-blue.

A fellow member of my dressage club, whom I’d never met, overheard at the club’s AGM that I was in the market for a horse. She entered the conversation and kindly suggested that I not look at anything else until I’d checked out this “beautiful boy” she and her daughter had just seen while on their own expedition in search of a brood mare.

She excitedly went on to describe him — dark bay, four-year-old, German-bred Hanoverian gelding by Shakespeare in Love. She emphasized that he was one of the sweetest horses she’d ever met, and gave me the contact information for the farm.

Three days later, after setting up at appointment, I made the two-hour drive to see Shakespeare.

I was cautiously optimistic. He sounded so lovely and he was named after one of my favourite writers. I’m a writer. Surely that was a sign!

Neverthless, the caution button was switched on. I was still dealing with the notion of horse ownership — something never to be taken lightly — and wanted to make a good decision based on facts, not fantasy. A horse to call my own had been a dream for so long tucked away that the dust of doubt had layered on pretty thick.

Was I really ready for such a commitment? For my dream to come true?

And why now?

One day, not long after the death of the horse I’d been part-boarding and while I was struggling with what to do next Lloyd, my loving partner, broached the subject with this statement:

“Perhaps it’s time you had your own horse.”

I was sort of dumbstruck, at first. A horse to call my own? Was it possible that a dream I’d held since childhood could come true this far along the road (I was in my early 40s) of my life journey?

Six weeks later, I was standing next to that cute and chunky four-year-old, his big soft eyes and enormously expressive, floppy ears a sure sign that he was, overall, a happy horse. Did I dare to think this gorgeous creature might be “the one?”

I watched intently as he was put through his paces in the arena, warm breath streaming from his relaxed nostrils with every breath. His movement was sublime.

Worth noting is that he’d been trained by one of Canada’s top Grand Prix dressage riders. I thought of my own training and the fact that I was nowhere near Grand Prix level. Shakespeare was being sold as a good amateur prospect. Even so, would this talented horse prove too much for me? And, worst of all, deep down inside me a niggling voice taunted … “Are you even worthy?”

When it was my turn to climb into the saddle I did my best to push that negativity aside. I would never know until I tried Shakespeare on for size.

Holy horsefeathers!

Walk … trot … canter — forward and laterally he felt so powerful, fluid, engaged. So solid. I’d never ridden a horse like him. It already felt like a fit, so much so I didn’t want to get off!

It was while Shakespeare was being put away that my then coach mentioned a slight hitch in his stride coming from his left hind leg. My gleeful, yet still guarded, heart sank just a little as we lingered outside Shakespeare’s stall. He hung his head over the half door, pulling faces and looking for attention, as if he was part of the conversation. So calm and engaging. Yes, so sweet.

I secretly hoped there was nothing wrong with that leg.

At home, our barn manager, an excellent horse man and my current coach, studied the video of my ride. Something was going on with that left hind leg but nothing, he thought, too serious. I was to make another appointment to see the horse in 10 days, after he’d been rested. Maybe whatever it was ( he could have pulled a muscle tripping in the icy paddock) would be cleared up by then.

Ten days later, we returned. Shakespeare had been rested so the first order of business — to check his movement and get rid of some of that extra energy … was some free jumping.

This was fun to watch. Shakespeare floated about that arena with unfettered joy, guided through a chute of three or four small jumps made gradually bigger by one of the trainers as the exercise progressed.

He was clearly enjoying himself and such a show-off! … And, he was obviously sound. 🙂

After watching him go under saddle again, it was my turn to pop on. The time passed too quickly. … Oh, he was lovely.

So, with the soundness issue cleared up, it was time for a big decision. Was I interested enough in this horse to go to the expense of a full veterinary examination?

What do you think? 😉

The appointment was arranged for a week later. Since I was eager to see Shakespeare again and how he was under the stress of a close inspection, I went too.

For almost two hours he was poked and prodded, yet he couldn’t have cared less. No fuss. No muss. He actually seemed to enjoy the attention. Legs and feet x-rayed. Blood taken. Teeth checked. Eyes examined. Heart and breathing monitored. It was no big deal.

I could feel my heart beginning to open up, but I was still one “yay” or “nay” away from the “all clear.”

At home the wait was excruciating. I walked around numb inside for several days just waiting for the test results to come in.

It was while I was at the barn, one day, that the phone rang. I paid no attention until my then coach sought me out, threw her arms around me in a big hug and whispered in my ear:

“He’s yours.”

For a moment my head swam in disbelief. Could it be true? Was that beautiful horse really to be mine?

It took 24 hours for the wonderful news to find its rightful place in my heart. After that, it was all systems go as we prepared to bring Shakespeare home on the luckiest day of the year … St. Patrick’s Day!

Going Home

Our very first photo together, taken just before Bear was put on the trailer to come home. … What do you think? Do we look happy? 🙂

And here we are, seven years later, still learning, growing and having fun together.

As we mark St. Patrick’s Day, I’m reminded of the luck that brought Bear and I together — a chance conversation with someone I’d never met and have seen only a couple of times since.

Perhaps that’s what luck is …  a simple opening of the heart and mind and the ability to welcome the manifestation of the longed-for dream no matter how unusual the timing or unexpected the circumstances.

When it’s meant to be, it will be.

Believe in your dreams, no matter how far away they seem, and keep your heart and mind open.

But first of all … have a dream.

Happy Anniversary, Bear!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

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Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013