©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018
©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018
I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating ~ when in the middle of a significant life experience I tend not to disturb the process by writing about it. A play-by-play of my life (with horses) is not the purpose of this blog. Rather, I prefer to review things after the dust has settled … and muse.
One of the things I’ve observed lately is the amount of change going on around me. So much change, for so many, all in the same window of time.
This is true in my life also. In many ways it has been a summer of positive personal upheaval. I feel blessed and grateful and, perhaps, slightly overwhelmed by the incredible journey that lies ahead. However, I trust the path to which my husband and I have been guided because of all the signs along the way that have pointed us in this new direction. I also take lots of deep breaths and endeavour to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. I feel like I’m stepping into my purpose. My comfort zone expanding in momentarily uncomfortable, but important, ways that will define a new way of being as I go forward.
A quick-ish update …
It’s been five weeks since Sophi (aka Sophia Loren) sashayed into the barn for the first time and turned our lives upside down. She’s a starlet in her own mind … and she knows her own mind.
For instance, it wasn’t by accident I learned she loves to play with the water nozzle when being bathed. She told me. I was hosing her down after our first training session, spraying cool water at her chest, when she started dipping and bobbing her head up and down trying to reach for the nozzle. I got the hint and pointed the gentle spray at her lips, whereupon she grabbed the nozzle and drank from it as it if were a straw. This went on for about a minute. It was a hot day and she was thirsty, and what struck me immediately is that she knew how to take care of herself.
Then, as I rinsed her off with a bucket of diluted anti-fungal liniment she kept reaching around as if she wanted to drink from it. I cautioned her and yet she persisted. She wanted to drink from the bucket as well. So, I stopped what I was doing, grabbed her little red bucket and promptly filled it with water. When I offered it to her she emptied the bucket almost to the bottom and then grabbed the edge nearest her and attempted to throw what was left in my direction. I guess she figured I needed cooling off, too.
As you might imagine, she has trained me well and this is now part of our daily ritual (as long as the weather stays reasonably warm.)
Another pet peeve for our resident Italianate prima donna is the surfeit of biting flies. This I discovered the hard way when I was bringing her in from the paddock one day soon after she arrived.
It was one of those hot, humid, sticky days and the flies, as annoying as any paparazzi, were swarming and stinging. In her distress Ms. Sophi bumped the metal gate as I was leading her out of the paddock. The gate, in turn, bumped hard into the bridge of my nose. (Expletive!) After I let go of the lead rope she ran back into the paddock leaving me stomping and wandering around the path to the gate in an excruciating daze and feeling my nose to ensure it wasn’t broken. Having established it was still in one piece, I was able to pull myself together and make a second attempt at bringing in my stomping starlet.
Once she was safely in her stall I grabbed an ice pack from the freezer and spent much of the afternoon and evening with it perched on my nose. A visit to the chiropractor on my way home helped, too. Perhaps it was this that saved my face from extensive bruising. I was lucky. A few inches lower and the gate would have knocked out my front teeth!
It wasn’t Sophi’s fault. I was distracted by the flies as well and ought to have been paying keener attention. Since then I’ve been careful to ensure Sophi’s turned out damp after bathing her so she can roll in her favourite dirt spot and create her own fly defence. I must take care of my little starlet … and my nose. 😉
Meanwhile, Bear (aka Shakespeare), a one-horse-show for the past nine years until Miss Sophi entered and took centre stage, has made it clear he will play second fiddle to no one.
Sophi and Bear were originally turned out in adjacent paddocks. This had to stop day one when I made the mistake of attempting to bring Sophi into the barn first. Witnessing my error in judgement from his paddock gate next door, Bear went all medieval, bucking and leaping as if I had slighted him in the worst way possible. Naturally, I was concerned that he would re-injure that healing hind suspensory ligament, so I had to abandon my original plan and bring him in first.
Who says horses don’t get jealous?
To alleviate this being a “thing” every time I want to bring one of them in, they are separated by at least one other paddock, this way neither is any the wiser when I bring the other in.
If they’re in the barn at the same time I am careful to ensure they receive equal treat distribution. However, there is one ritual I’ve reserved for Bear alone.
Banana time is his thing. Sophi can have everything else ~ Bear shares his carrots, his apples (yes, he’s been weaned back onto apples), his crunchy treats, his fly spray. He even, in a fit of pique one night, remodelled his fly mask for her. But I have promised him that he will never have to share his banana.
He’s good with that.
“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ”
William Shakespeare (Henry V)
Riding Sophi has proven to be a revelation.
She is everything I hoped for in a new dressage partner. She’s finely trained; forward and forgiving. My coach says we’re a good match. We still have a long way to go to find our synchronicity, but the foundation is already there. Every time we work together, on the ground and under saddle, our connection and understanding improve. Sophi moves correctly which has underscored my own lack of alignment. Now I’m on a mission ~ through massage, chiropractic, Pilates and conscious awareness ~ to re-align my hips toward straightness so she and I can work correctly together. A tall order at this age and stage of my life, perhaps, but I’ll do my best.
Meanwhile, my intention for Bear is to put the saddle on and take him out for micro hacks. Five minutes to begin and gradually working our way to longer outings. I’ve come to this decision because ever since Sophi’s arrival Bear’s showing me he wants to do more than just hand walk. It’s as if he’s trying to prove to me that he’s quite capable of doing much more than my imagination will allow. So, soon I will take him out for that first short, slow spin. We’ll both enjoy that.
We have spent the summer preparing to move the horses to a new farm, which is part of the reason my posts have been so sparse of late. Energy can only be divided so many ways.
The move finally took placed September 10, and I’ll have plenty to say about that in my next post which, I hope, will be more timely.
Last, but certainly not least on the subject of change, we find ourselves moving on to this next chapter in our lives one dog short.
A couple of posts ago I mentioned our old collie, Sass, was on her last legs. Well, on August 14 we finally had to let her go. She was failing. Her quality of life much compromised by the ravages of old age. At 13 years she’d lived a long and happy life, and we wanted to remember her that way. So, with heavy hearts we released our dear Sass, knowing it would be the last act of kindness we’d ever do for her.
Sassy was our sweet girlie and we miss her terribly. Visit my blog Eyes to Heart for a short tribute.
So, as another chapter closes it’s time to contemplate and move on to the next. A lot of change lends itself to a lot of musing.
It was ever thus.
Nurture what you love …
©Dorothy Chiotti 2015
Time flies. I can hardly believe how quickly a month has gone by since my last post.
Bear continues to recover and is enjoying basking in the sun whilst on restricted turn out, (i.e. he hangs out in the round pen, not a paddock, lest he re-injure himself galloping around like a wildebeest.) He’s still bananas for bananas, and having fun just being himself and making people smile.
He’ll be a great therapy horse.
Meanwhile, the dressage horse search continues.
It’s more challenging than you might imagine. Sure, there are lots of horses needing homes, just like there are lots of single people wanting partners. But finding a suitable horse is as difficult as finding a suitable mate ~ it takes time and you don’t want to appear too desperate lest you make an inappropriate choice. 😉 Horse and rider matchmaking is a serious and time-consuming business.
I’ve walked away from two promising horses because of navicular issues. I already have a high maintenance horse, and while I’m all for rescuing and rehabbing horses, it’s not the route I wish to take with my next riding horse. So, I’ll just persevere in my search and at some point, when the stars are aligned and all the cosmic tumblers have fallen into place, the “right horse” will walk into my life and wonder what took me so long.
Timing is everything, of course. There have been other things going on in the background which have monopolized my energies, which is one of the reasons my posts here have been non-existent of late. There’s only so much time in a day, and since I’ve learned there’s just no point in stressing over the dynamics of life beyond our control, I simply go with what is.
On another note … our 13-year-old rough collie, Sass, is fading and this brings much sadness. It’s as if a whole chapter of our lives will soon come to a close. We expect her departure during the summer. The heat is just too menacing and her steps falter by the day. Lately she has won the heart of a three-year-old girl, Gabby, who lives a few doors down. Together, with her grandmother, we go for short walks and Gabby gives Sass lots of hugs and merrily holds the leash as we walk. Sass enjoys this attention as her new friend walks only as fast as she does, which is slow. I’m so happy our old girl has felt the unfettered joy of the love of a child before she leaves us.
I mention this simply to re-iterate the obvious ~ nurture what you love …
It’s been just about a month since Bear’s injury diagnosis. Things are proceeding along much as one might expect. The journey toward wellness continues.
Bear’s spirits are good. For a horse on stall rest he’s bearing up well (ha!), content to play tug-of-war with the hay in his nibble net and indulge my own boredom-alleviating practice of teaching him tricks.
I miss riding.
This week he learned how to smile on command. Perhaps it would be more correct to say he developed an obsession for it. Why? Because now he smiles, whether I ask him to or not, for the explicit purpose of getting a carrot. Even if I simply stand in front of him and look like I might say “Smile!” he stretches his neck, tilts his head, rolls his eyes and grins at me expectantly. He’s such a ham.
I try not to encourage him too much. On the other hand, his cheerfulness leads me to believe that, in spite of his confinement, he’s a happy boy and pretty content with his lot as it stands.
This is such a relief. A lot of horses are not so sensible under such circumstances.
Still, Bear pushed his luck a bit last week.
Bear’s been good about following me around on our walkabouts in the arena lead-rope free. Turns out he lead me right into a false sense of security.
A week ago Friday a pall hung in the air with the news that Wendy, the barn manager, had been thrown from a horse the evening before and broken her wrist and fractured a bone in her pelvis. Such news is always disturbing. It’s a reminder that in spite of everything we might love about horses, there are inherent risks to being in their company ~ whether on the ground or in the saddle. Naturally, my thoughts were with her somewhat, leaving me feeling a little distracted.*
Still, I had Bear to think of too, so went about the business of bringing him into the arena for his walkabout. Just because of the unsettled nature of the day I decided to err on the side of caution and keep him on the lead rope while we walked around the cold arena.
As he was being sensible I decided to unhook him. He followed me around and, as usual, left a special delivery which I would need to pick up. While I walked to the far end of the arena to fetch the bucket and fork he wandered away by himself for a moment. No big deal. He was quiet and would, I knew, reconnect to supervise my cleaning efforts.
Usually he follows me and the bucket and fork back to the muck skip in the corner, but this time he wandered off again, sniffing at jumps or anything else that happened to capture his attention. Then, without warning, he dropped and rolled flopping back and forth and really grinding his day sheet into the sandy footing. This was accompanied by the obligatory grunts and squeals of delight which made me feel good for him. It had been weeks since he’d been able to give himself a good, self-administered back rub.
Of course, I watched admiringly and smiled as he launched back to his feet and gave himself a good shake. The next moment my look of admiration quickly changed to one of horror when, with a squeal and explosive expulsion of gas, Bear leapt into the air like a Lippizaner doing airs above the ground. I was even more horrified when he did it again … twice! He looked ever-so pleased with himself, snorting and blowing, ears pricked, eyes bulging, head periscoped and searching, I dare say, for the next opportunity to elevate my stress hormones.
“Bear! Stop!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. The vapours of my breath filtering through the freezing air; my heart racing. “Stop it, Bear … you’re not allowed to do that!”
He stood stock still. His majestic head held high; his nostrils snorting their own vapour in a kind of triumphant fanfare. Holy crap, what a magnificent animal. He turned and looked at me with the noncommittal air of someone consumed in their own moment. Concerned that he might try something stupid like that again I knew I had to do something to get his attention back on me and de-escalate his energy.
As horses read, and respond to, the energy in their environment it was clear to me I needed to de-escalate my energy first. I started focusing on my breath, deeply inhaling and exhaling in a way that would allow him to sense the retreat of my own upset energy. I did this for several breaths and, while doing so, made a conscious effort to relax my whole body, softening my core so he could read my body language to say it’s okay to come down now.
His response was almost immediate. He soon lowered his head to level, indicating the intensity had passed, and began to lick and chew to demonstrate some relaxation.
“Good boy, … come on, Bear, come be with me,” I encouraged in a soft voice that reflected my more relaxed state. I continued to breathe audibly.
He began to amble in my direction.
“Good boy … nice and slowly now …”
He stopped and sniffed at the cavelletti some 10 feet from where I stood. While he was thus distracted I quietly walked over to him and stopped a few feet away to acknowledge his personal space. He stopped sniffing and turned to face me, acknowledging my presence. We honoured this reconnection together. It was a sweet moment.
Then, without any further effort on my part, Bear wandered over to me and put his muzzle against my chest as if to apologize for his lapse in judgement. I stroked his neck and attached the lead rope to his halter, and we started walking again. It was then that I had a good long talk with him about how inappropriate his actions had been, and impressed upon him that since I am not allowed to ride him right now he’s not allowed to go leaping around as if nothing is wrong with him. It sends the wrong message and, more importantly, it could set his recovery back weeks.
I couldn’t stay mad at him for long. Still, since then his walkabouts have been limited to the lead rope.
What a twerp!
There have been two snow days this week (including today) where I haven’t been able to get to the barn to see my boy. Lovely Sarah has been pampering Bear for me on these days which is amazing as this allows me to rest easy that he will be okay in my absence. 🙂
And this past Friday Bear had his third of three shockwave treatments. Now we have a month to wait until the next ultrasound which will tell us how the injury is healing. In the meantime, we simply keep on keeping on.
Nurture what you love …
*Wendy is on her own brand of stall rest right now, and appears to be doing well.
©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015
A quick update …
In spite of -20C temperatures Bear is settling in nicely at his new, cosy digs.
Perhaps the most astonishing development is how quickly he’s managed to make new friends.
Bear has a sociable nature, but never could I have imagined just how easy going he was going to be with this major transition in his life.
When introducing horses to each other for the first time it’s important to be mindful. Like people, horses either get along, or they don’t. When horses don’t get along it can be pretty distressing. So, that first morning, while figuring out what would work best for all concerned, Wendy held Bear back in the barn. Her first inclination, as is common practice, was to put him out in a small paddock by himself so he could get a sense of his surroundings. He would go out on second rotation and, in the meantime, keep her darling Konnor, who’s on stall rest and unhappy with a sore leg right now, some company.
But Bear wasn’t having it. He wanted to go out.
So, Wendy turned him out with two horses she’d been considering as companions for him. They just happen to be two of his closest neighbours in the barn so he would have had all that first night to start getting acquainted. Out in the paddock and after some initial squealing, which is typical of newly introduced horses, they were right as rain.
I could hardly believe it when she told me. Bear’s not even in the barn 24 hours and he’s already made friends.
His new paddock pals are lovely.
The first is ZuZu who, you may recall, was mentioned in my previous post. She’s a young mare of the Canadian breed. (Has Bear ever been turned out with a mare before? Certainly not while I’ve had him. Of course, there was his mother … ;-)) She’s a feisty, self-assured young lady quite able, it appears, to hold her own among the boys. Bear is mighty fond of her already, and looks for her when she isn’t nearby. I’ve also caught them making eyes at each other across the aisle.
Oh, my! My boy has a girlfriend!!!
He also has a new buddy.
Jerome is an international show jumper in early retirement due to injury, and has been ZuZu’s paddock pal for a while already. He’s a real sweetheart and it’s clear he simply wants to be Bear’s buddy. I spied them grooming each other as I drove by their paddock and into the farm that first day. A good sign.
Needless to say I am thrilled at how quickly Bear has settled in.
So, proud of my boy. 🙂
Nurture what you love …
©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014