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

 

Daybreak

The furnace kicked in for the first time this morning. Hard to believe the summer is pretty much behind us, though I’m happy to be free of the heat and humidity. Hard to get anything done in a furnace.

It’s hard on the horses at this time of year, too. Their winter coats are already coming in and as I’m not inclined to clip Sophi until late October I need to temper her activity in the heat. I just don’t like working her hard in it. She’s a trooper, make no mistake, and loves her work, but it’s a fine line between enough and too much. I prefer to err on the side of caution.

Besides, it’s been good to give her some time off. We’re starting to train fourth level dressage with its tempi changes and the like, and so starting refreshed suits us both.

And so as we move toward the autumn, my favourite time of year, I look forward to challenging ourselves toward new horizons.

I know Sophi is excited to show me all her tricks. She loves to fly at fourth.

Can’t wait!

 

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

 

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 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

Spr-inter Storm

Snow

It was a mess of weather all over the place its seems this past weekend, and this is what we had in our neck of the woods. Unrelenting ice pellets and snow with a smack or two of freezing rain and high winds.

We were really fortunate not to have sustained any damage to trees and property. As well, the hydro stayed on throughout. Others in our area were not so lucky.

Still, we were isolated for a couple of days. Access to our highland area was almost impossible as the gravel roads were skating rinks (I’m told as I haven’t left the farm since last Wednesday.) I’m sure happy I didn’t need to go anywhere. (And we were going to remove our snow tires last week! Hahahahahahaha!!!)

We subsisted on homemade soup to use up stuff in the fridge in case the power went out. Fortunately we have a gas stove so heating up food was not going to be a problem. And it wasn’t. The beef barley soup with dumplings was de-lish!

Since no one was able to get to the farm Monday morning I helped Eira with barn chores. Mucking stalls, turnout … that sort of thing. Trudging through the heavy snow to get the horses in and out, and digging a path to the manure spreader required heavy exertion. Been a long time since I worked in such conditions, and I really enjoyed it. It’s challenging, physical labour and immensely satisfying. Not something I can do all the time, mind you. Issues with adrenal fatigue continue to dog me, so after that kind of exertion I’m pretty much useless the next day. I need recovery time. It’s my woman-of-a-certain-age challenge and I manage my life around it. Somewhat limiting, to be sure, but to do otherwise would push me back into a debilitating state I’m unwilling to re-visit any time soon.  Today I can up the activity one more notch.

A Wagon LoadThe horses were, for the most part, pretty cooperative. They spent all weekend inside and were happy to stretch their legs in the snow once we were finally able to give them some turnout on Monday. We’re hoping for lots of sunshine, over the next little while, to dry things up suitably so our equine friends can enjoy the spring grass when it finally arrives. Paddock management is crucial this time of year.

Now I’m looking forward to seeing things green up. The buds are on the trees; the tulips were just poking through the ground before the storm hit. Spring is awaiting its turn with baited breath.

Nurture what you love,

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

 

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