Soar

In Flight

~*~

When I was younger and bolder I used to enjoy the thrill of jumping a simple course of fences with a trusted, and trusting, equine partner.

It’s been about 15 years since a freak accident put an end to this pastime. Frankly, I don’t even care to work over ground poles anymore. Having said that, I can still remember and appreciate the precision, timing, coordination, balance, athleticism, and sheer joy of soaring over a jump. It is a unique and amazing feeling, indeed, to sit astride a horse who loves their work.

Horses, like people, are individuals with different characters, talents and enthusiasms. A skilled trainer can identify what makes a particular horse tick and create a training program that allows it to blossom in a discipline for which they demonstrate a clear talent and enjoyment. Training a horse to race when they clearly have no aptitude for it is like pressing a child to run a marathon when they’d rather throw javelin. They simply will not thrive in, or enjoy, the experience. So, like the attentive parent who thoughtfully nurtures a child’s obvious interest in, for instance, horses, a good trainer will notice when a horse demonstrates an obvious talent and enthusiasm for jumping or running and guide their development accordingly, being careful not to overwhelm mind, body and spirit in the process.

I once worked with a well-regarded trainer who, when asked a general question about horse training, always answered, “It depends on the horse.” What works for one horse, will not necessarily work for another. It depends on their history, temperament, talent. The ability to be sensitive to the needs of each individual horse is the mark of a good trainer. One-size-fits-all has no place in the training of  horses.

My three-year journey with Sophi in the discipline of dressage has been slow. At the beginning we worked with a trainer who appeared to show no interest in moving us beyond first level, even though Sophi’s previous experience and training had been more advanced. Did this coach demonstrate a lack of belief in my ability to ride my dressage horse at a higher level? Yes. So, I let this coach go and enlisted another who came highly recommended and  brought new eyes and understanding to our training. She immediately saw Sophi’s talent and acknowledged that with some polishing I had the skills to ride more advanced tests. Within six months Sophi and I were showing second level. This year we’ve nailed our third level movements and now we’re adding in more complex fourth level “tricks” that Sophi not only loves to do, but already does reasonably well. This is an exciting time for both us, and I’m so looking forward to watching her (and I) soar under the watchful eye of our amazing trainer.

We all need a chance to blossom and soar. Surrounding ourselves with appropriate, supportive people and being in an environment where we are encouraged to thrive and grow will give us, and our horses, the best chance to do this.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

Amrhan

Amrhan

~*~

Handsome Amrhan is a six-year-old Irish Draught stallion who’s just starting to make a name for himself in the stud books. Among his many virtues he’s athletic and has a wonderful temperament. No doubt he will produce many great sport horses.

Who couldn’t love that face?

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

Willow and Juliette’s First Horse Show

It’s always a big deal in the barn when a little horse crazy girl and her pony enter their first Lead Line class at the horse show.

And so it was on July 14 when the wee Juliette and her fair steed, the proud Willow, made their debut at the Lord Simcoe Hunter/Jumper Show at the Essa Agriplex just outside of Barrie. Just had to bring my camera and go to town.

Cuteness overload, wouldn’t you agree?

Let the story begin … Click on the image for commentary.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

Sweet Relief

Weather Vane

Every season poses it’s own special challenges. Last week, heat and humidity dogged us for an extended, uncomfortable period. Too hot to do too much. No riding. Lots of hosing off horses hot from standing in the sun all day. On Thursday stormy chaos was followed by sweet relief. And then, as always, the promise of better things to come.

The next day was better. Fresh air; fresh outlook; fresh vitality. The horses were almost nuts with it.

Sophi and I had our first outing since Tuesday. With the temps having dropped substantially, and blustery winds blowing about bringing in all the nice, new, fresh air, it wasn’t surprising that my darling girl had springs in her toes. The muggy malaise a distant memory. She, like I, was ready to work again. But she was twitchy. Cracking and rustling noises in the woods beside the sand ring where we were communicated the presence of monsters. After about 10 minutes and one breaking branch too many Sophi spun out. Unable to grab a piece of mane fast enough, I had an unscheduled dismount.

Over the Valley

No harm done. I stood up, brushed off the sand and walked over to Sophi who was standing some 20 feet away patiently waiting for me to collect her. After reassuring her that everything was okay we walked together to the arena. I hopped on and for 45 minutes we trained our third level test movements. If she had wind in her sails we had to ride it out. Safely inside and protected from the woodland gremlins she was happy to oblige.

The potential for falling of a horse is part of the risk of riding. Getting back in the saddle is one of those personal triumphs that can’t be over-stressed, especially as we age. For me, like most dedicated horse people, it’s an automatic impulse. Unless you’re sporting some kind of prohibitive injury, back on the horse you get.

Still, riding creates wear and tear on the hips, back and knees even under the best of circumstances, and a good maintenance program, as I’ve discovered, is a must. Fortunately, my regularly scheduled fortnightly visit with the chiropractor is today.

Sweet relief after my own moment of stormy chaos.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

Beat the Heat

 

MultitaskingThis multi-tasking groom-in-training already knows it’s really important to keep your pony cool in the summer heat.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

 

The Ducks Went Marching …

Duck Duo

When we took possession of the farm three years ago we inherited a couple of old ducks. They’d been a fixture at the pond for many years, as I understand it, happily swimming, eating, snoozing, waddling and quacking.

Occasionally they liked to make a great escape by ducking under the fence or gate when no one was looking. Oh yes, they knew they were not supposed to leave their enclosure. I believe the white one, Huey, was the prime instigator as he was often the one in the lead as I tried to corral them back into their enclosure. I could almost hear him quacking marching orders to his accomplice as they scurried back to the pond with me in slow pursuit. Sometimes they would re-enter the way they got out and I could fill in that hole in the hopes that would be the end to their wanderings. Somehow they always found another way.

Escapees

However, lately things had changed. They were escaping more often. The last time I saw it happen they squeezed between the slats at the bottom of the gate. (Shakes her head.) And, strangely, they stopped being able to find their way back in through their chosen escape route. So, lately there’s been a lot of “Keep your eyes on the ducks!” and hoping we could catch up to them before they got into trouble.

It seemed to me as I watched them one morning (they were usually waddling about early morning but lately any time of day was a concern) that they had a death wish. They were old. Perhaps, like the mother dog who instinctively smothers a sick newborn puppy, the ducks had an instinct that their time had come, for they would not be contained. If you search for death eventually it will find you. There are several packs of coyotes in the area, and raccoons and other menacing creatures. An escaped duck that cannot fly is a  sitting duck.

Naughty ducksSo yesterday, while I was riding in the outdoor ring, my attention was caught by a glint of white just outside the pond. Feathers. My heart sank. I rode Sophi up to it and, sure enough, there lay Huey. Some time within the previous 18 hours he’d met his maker. As he lay there cushioned in soft down I wondered at his struggle. There was no blood. Whatever got him was not hungry. I felt angry and sad and … well, what can a person do but surrender to the process of nature?

And then I wondered about Lewey. What had happened to him? The two old boys were inseparable. They were a dynamic duck duo ~ Mutt and Jeff; Laurel and Hardy; Daffy and Donald. Had Lewey run off into the nearby woods in sheer terror? I examined the pond enclosure from where I sat and couldn’t see him. Only the three Muskovy ducks were there. Where was he?

I rode Sophi away and returned to the barn to cooled her down as it was a very hot, humid day. When I took her outside for a short hand graze I noticed on the other side of the driveway a patch of grass glinting in the sun. I knew immediately what it was. I put Sophi in the barn and went to check. Lewey lay there surrounded in a mass of green and grey Mallard feathers. Again, no blood. Just death. His location on the other side of the pond from his fallen brother. Somehow they had become separated. Divide and conquer. The predator’s play.

Pond III walked back to the barn and grabbed the wheelbarrow and a pitch fork. As I gently scooped up each little body and its feather bed and placed them in the barrow the Muskovys watched, following me from one side of the pond to the other. They were curious and, perhaps, a little traumatized. They seemed to be talking it out as I spent a little time with them. I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d witnessed the terrible event. I commiserated with them and assured them that as long as they stayed in the enclosure they would be safe. The poor things seemed quite confused.

The old boys were laid to rest at the back of the farm under a pile of manure where Mother Nature will nurture them to dust. The cycle of life.

The ducks went marching home. One way or another, it will happen to us all.

RIP boys …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

The Horse World’s Unsung Heroines

 

~*~

Women in the horse industry work very hard. I know because I’ve done it.

Each day is a grind of activity that wears you out and wears you down. You work in all weathers; under all conditions. For good owners, and bad. With well-mannered horses, and with demons (largely a reflection of their owners either way.) You don’t call in sick, and if you’ve broken something in the line of duty, you work around it.

You muck, you sweep, you clean tack, you feed hay (and grain), you scrub toilets, you pick the s**t out of paddocks, you groom, you ride, you de-cobweb the barn, you dust, you clean the kitchen, you do first aid. In many barns you do your best to manage uncomfortable feelings caused by the disdain of those who look down upon you while you’re doing all you can to ensure their horse(s) are happy and healthy.

You must be vigilant; resilient; detail-oriented; take initiative; be observant; empathetic (difficult for some); patient; skilled at what you do and be quick at it. You get back on the horse if you fall off. The horse always comes first.

The Mane Tamer Marked

“The Mane Tamer” on display at the Urban Gallery, May 2018, for the ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival

At the end of the day you leave the barn filthy and saturated in Eau d’Equine. Exhausted and maybe even bruised or broken from an unfortunate altercation with one of your charges for which you are always to blame (always!). You stand in line at the grocery store to buy dinner, somewhat self-conscious of your malodorous presence, yet unable to motivate yourself to care too much because you don’t have the energy to go home and clean up first. Oh, and a social life outside of work? Good luck with that. Almost killed me to sing in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir during concert weeks after a 10-hour day at the barn.

For most who follow this path it is a labour of love. There is no glamour and certainly no big money to be made. The best you can hope for is an environment where you and your work are appreciated; where you can find your niche and from there build your life.

When I was interning at a hunter/jumper show barn in my mid 30s I was at a crossroads in my life, trying to figure out what’s next. And for some that’s exactly what working in a barn constitutes. It’s a weigh station for figuring out the next step. Some choose to pursue the equestrian path; others give thanks the equestrian path led them somewhere else. Those who are fortunate enough to have built successful careers from the ground up in the equestrian world have slogged in barns aplenty. This does not include the (very) few who are born into money and have it all handed to them on a silver platter. Most in the business have done the grunt work, and have a few tales to tell because of it.

To celebrate the unsung heroines of the equestrian world, six equestrian-themed images from my new series Barn Mavens will be on display in May at the Urban Gallery in Toronto. The gallery is one of 200 official venues in Toronto during the ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival.

The gallery theme for this exhibit is Women at Work, and in my showcase I’m pleased to feature two of the knowledgeable and hardworking horsewomen of Santerre Show Stables in Mono, Ontario.

The top images are not on show for this exhibit, but will feature in an expanded exhibit sometime in the future, or possibly even a photo book docu-tribute to women who work in the horse industry. In the meantime, it is an honour to have my work featured along with three other talented photographers at the Urban Gallery for this international event.

If you’re in the area feel free to check it out. Ten percent of the proceeds from all sales of  Barn Mavens series images will be donated to Whispering Hearts Horse Rescue in Hagarsville, Ontario.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Daily Prompt: Notable

The Ice Storm Cometh

Ascension

~*~

Got up at my usual early hour this morning and was privileged to watch the sun ascend on the other side of the valley. Always a thrill for me, as the vista is quite magnificent, however especially today as according to the weather prognosticators there’s no chance of sunshine in this area again until the middle of next week. Between now and then southern Ontario is expected to see a menacing ice storm which, as those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know, has the potential to wreak havoc. (See Ice Storm Aftermath, March 2016) So, I’m grateful to have had this moment today to commune with the great, and seemingly elusive, fireball in the sky.

So, ice storm. Our lives disrupted by Mother Nature’s need to vent. (Don’t blame her.) A check list of things to do to prepare in case we lose power for a few days. Firewood brought inside to dry. Water stored in containers. Bran muffins to be baked. Perhaps most importantly, breathe. It will be what it will be.

As for the horses, I am told by the lovely ladies holding down the fort at the barn that if the ground is not safe enough to escort grandma it’s not safe to turn the horses out in the paddocks either. So, when/if we get this ice storm the horses will be kept inside and ridden and hand-walked and free-lunged to get the bugs out. And then, when grandma feels it’s safe, our equine kids can go out again.

Spring on the farm can be quite the roller coaster ride.

Nurture what you love,

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiottii … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Daily Prompt: Disrupt