Let go, and let be …

~*~

In November 2017, I answered a call for submissions from the Urban Gallery in Toronto to participate in their “Women at Work” show lined up for the ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival the following May. Since I live on a horse farm and women work tirelessly in the barn I felt it would be perfect to pay tribute by shadowing them for a day to see what moments stirred my creative spirit. My thanks to Eira Engzell, a manager and trainer at Santerre Show Stables, and Courtney Dunkeld, her able right hand at the time, for giving me permission to do so.

The truth is my photography is more intuitive than technical so I’m never quite sure what will happen. Light and shadow and colour dazzle me and it’s really about capturing their impact in a moment; the dramatic contrast created in a delicious melange of three tasty ingredients. I don’t process much, only enough to draw out what drew me in. I was pleased to see that some fine images emerged, so took a chance and submitted them to the gallery just before the deadline. As fate would have it Calvin Holbrook, Gallery Manager, and his partner Allen Shugar, the Curator, loved what they saw and told me immediately that my work was in. It was my first such exhibit and I was so excited.

That weekend (November 18 & 19) brought a lot of soul searching as I processed this wonderful news. Shakespeare (Bear), my heart horse for almost 12 years, and I spent some quality time as per my equine experiential learning training. I needed his gentle spirit to help ground and guide me. In that session his distinct message to me was, “Let go, and let be.” It didn’t register right away what it meant, but I felt it was about releasing old patterns of self-denial and embracing this new truth of acknowledgement and celebration in my life. After all, what was there not to be happy about? Bear had brought so much wisdom before and this was another one of those nuggets I could add to my treasure chest that would help move my life forward.

Two days later, and after four hours of agonizing torsion colic, my heart horse was gone. Words cannot adequately describe the devastation I felt, and yet his admonition to “Let go, and let be” seemed to take on a whole new meaning and even offer some comfort. It became my new mantra. Bless his big heart, Bear had imparted this wisdom and prepared me for his imminent departure all in five little words.

For a while it was difficult to accept Bear’s sudden death and enjoy my small creative victory, and yet somehow I knew that he had opened a way. I vowed to honour his memory by embracing this new chapter in my life and keeping vibrant everything he had been, and was, to me.

Of course, the show in May was an exciting step forward in my creative journey. To see six of my images gracing the walls of the intimate gallery in downtown Toronto, along with the photographs of three other distinguished artists, was a thrill to say the least. I received wonderful, supportive feedback and felt entirely good about the experience. When the show was over I brought all of the images home and set them up in my studio so they could continue to inspire me. That’s right, none of them sold, however it didn’t seem to matter. Somehow I knew it was important for the exhibit to remain intact for another time.

The show must go on …

Riding the wave of grief for some weeks, I began to prepare my exhibit for the show. I called it Barn Mavens. One of the images I selected (above) is the last ever taken of Bear, just four days before he died. He looked right at me and snorted as I captured the moment. He made me laugh. Oh, how he loved to ham for the camera. A warm, enduring memory.

In June I caught wind of the EQUUS Film Festival coming to the Hills of Headwaters, where I live, and through an acquaintance who had organized the event was connected to the founder of the festival, Lisa Diersen. I threw caution to the wind. Was there some way my images might find a platform through the festival? I knew nothing about anything. Putting my creative works out beyond blogs and websites was a new experience, but what the heck, my beautiful images are of no value to anyone hidden deep in my computer archive.

Lisa suggested I put together a video photo journal of my images, an emerging way for photographers to get some traction. I knew nothing (and I mean nothing!) about making video. iMovie existed on my computer, but I’d never brought it to life. Oh dear, what was I to do? Again, I threw caution to the wind and gave it a go. I had lots of images beyond the original six to play with. I consulted a friend who had some experience making video, and while I cursed and struggled I grew modestly in film making enlightenment and produced my first short, short video, complete with a soundtrack through www.bensound.com. When I was more or less happy with it, I re-named the project Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry to be more inclusive and, after spending hours figuring out how to upload it to YouTube, sent it on to Lisa. Her response was highly encouraging, and she suggested I submit it to the EQUUS Film Festival.

What? Really? After picking my jaw up off the floor, I threw caution to the wind again and got myself signed up on FilmFreeway, the online portal to film festivals everywhere. I made my submission to the category “Equestrian Photo Journal ~ English”; paid my fee and forgot all about it until I received word in October that Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry had been officially selected for EQUUS Film Festival 2018 in New York City.

And so, here we are. What happens next, I don’t know, but I’ll continue to throw caution out the door and live the moment as fully as I can. If there’s one thing Bear taught me it’s to be in the now. Let go of what no longer serves and let be that which comes in its place. There is a lesson to be learned in each experience; there’s a silver lining to every cloud. I never thought that part of mine would be seeing my fine art photography on a silver screen.

Let go, and let be … and nurture what you love,

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

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

The Sky’s the Limit

Nancy and Sophi

Attentive ears. Relaxed and swishy tail. Soft eye.

Sophi was in her element at the dressage clinic with Diane Creech on Saturday. Nancy, my coach, did an amazing job riding her and I could not have been happier for my girl.

Diane called her a “super mare” many times, and said that we’re really only tapping into 40 per cent of Sophi’s potential. So, I guess that means there’s lots of room for her to grow into fourth level/Prix St. George dressage, and as long as she stays healthy, enjoys the work and has fun, the sky’s the limit.

We will invite Sophi to take the next step and see how far she wants to go.

So excited for my sweet girl.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

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

Sophia

Sophi study

Sophia is stepping up to fourth level dressage movements and will dance with my coach, Nancy Smart, at the Diane Creech clinic today. Diane is a Pan Am Games silver medalist and the trainer who started my beautiful Shakespeare many, many moons ago.

Looking forward to seeing her again and watching my sweet Sophia practice her dance steps.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

 

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

“Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry” at Equus Film Festival 2018

2018 OFFICIAL FILM SELECTION LAUREL copy

 

Exciting news!

I’m thrilled to announce that my photojournalism mini doc, Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry, is a selection for this year’s Equus Film Festival in New York City .

If you haven’t seen it yet, click here!

If you’d like some backstory on this project, check out The Horse World’s Unsung Heroines, posted to this blog April 28, 2018.

Enjoy!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

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