The Cream-Coloured Pony

When I was 12 years old I wanted a cream-coloured pony.

In fact, the first horse I ever begged my mother to buy for me was a palomino named Cloud. He was the most beautiful pony I’d ever seen, with his flaxen mane and tail and rich golden coat, and though he also had the bumpiest and thus most uncomfortable trot to sit to he was still, in my pre-teen mind, the most perfect pony I could possibly imagine.

Like many horse-crazy city girls, I dreamt of bringing my favourite pony home, in my case to our 1920s bricks and mortar semi-detached house in North London.

I had it all planned out. The tool shed located on the edge of the carport and which barely held a wheel barrow and a few garden tools, would be his stall. The fact that it was too small was of no consequence. Somehow I would just make it work.

Grazing was a bit of an issue, as our little pie-shaped garden had only a small patch of grass that the dogs actually used for … you know … but this didn’t seem to matter either. Within five minutes walking distance of our house was a lovely big park. In my free imagination I would take him there where he could eat grass all day long under my careful supervision. (Not surprisingly school never seemed to interfere with my dream.) Then I would ride him around the perimeter of this large park named after a king, jumping the occasional bench or playground apparatus, and pole bending around the lines of ancient elms and oaks.

Then Cloud and I would walk the short distance home, along the main road and down the broken path to our street, and I’d put him comfortably away in his makeshift stall with a yummy meal of … well, I never actually got that far in my imaginary plan. It was enough just to know he was there and we were together.

Well, sadly, life with Cloud remained a figment of my imagination that faded with time. It was a sad day when he traveled down the lane in a horse box to his new home. I got over it, of course, but you know, girls and their dreams. They never really forget them … they just get stored away.

So, fast forward to this past March (um … many, many years later …. truthfully decades) when, to my total glee this lovely palomino boy arrived at our barn for a short-term stay. The little girl in me, complete with the Cloud file that had been stored in memory all these years, bubbled to life.

This five-year-old horse was Cloud all over again, and I was smitten.

But not without an undercurrent of guilt. Was I betraying my beautiful Bear while indulging in an old memory of the dream pony of my youth as awakened by this passing Cloud?

This may sound silly, but it’s important to note that horses do get jealous. Bear has chased his paddock buddy, Sam, away from my proximity on many occasions when I’ve visited them by the gate. He is jealous of my attention and doesn’t take kindly to interlopers.

So, yes, that I had given even a tiny speck of my heart to this dreamy, creamy phenomenon had left me feeling a little wanting, especially when I caught myself mindlessly conspiring how I might find the funds to purchase him and then convince the owner to sell him to me.

Evidently the 12-year-old is still alive and well and reeking imaginary havoc.

Then, one day, as was foretold, this golden boy moved to another barn, and with his departure my pre-occupation with an old dream dissolved into faded memory once more .

I don’t believe Bear ever caught wind of this brief flight of fancy, but who can say for sure. Horses know when they aren’t the centre of your world. I’m thinking he got his own back in July. That, however, is a story for another day.

Truth be told, I’ll keep my real-life beautiful bay over a cream-coloured pony dream any day.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2012

Playing Horse Games …

Playing horse games is not for the faint of heart.

Getting dumped, tossed, de-throned, ejected, launched — take your pick — is one of the hazards of borrowing time on the back of a prey animal. It’s right up there with getting bitten, kicked or stomped on. If you’re not paying attention, you’re bound to get hurt.

Anyone wishing to weather the storms of the mercurial equine spirit is best advised to batten down the hatches. Time with a horse can be as unpredictable as anything else you might imagine … and perhaps more so.

To the horse-besotted, however, it’s all part of a thrilling but dangerous game that changes every day.

I suspect this is why some might consider horse people, like me, to be one toon short of a looney. After all, I have been bitten, kicked, stomped on and thrown at various times throughout my equestrian life and still my passion for horses persists. Why would any otherwise rational person put his or herself within stomping distance of a four-hooved flight animal anyway?

Let’s just say that where our passions, dreams and hearts are concerned I believe it’s safe to say we’ll endure almost anything just to be close to what calls to us. Think about what calls you. When you’ve got the bug, whatever it may be, it’s most certainly got you. 😉

But I digress …

Truthfully, I have experienced the unscheduled dismount more times than I can recall. The fault is always mine, though there have been freak incidents too. Maybe I’ll share one wih you one day. Horses are just being themselves when stuff happens. A person who chooses to play with them must accept the consequences, for good or ill.

Which is why it’s important to be in the moment while in the company of the equine.

So … to my story …

Thursday was another one of those sultry summer days punctuated by the wet, clinging kiss of humidity. After settling into the saddle I directed Bear around the perimeter of the outdoor sand ring and noted a lack of willing forward energy in his step. We skirted puddles, lingering evidence of the previous days’ heavy rain, and slopped through wet patches that couldn’t be avoided. The footing was a little heavier than usual … I knew he wasn’t lame so wondered if, perhaps, this was contributing to Bear’s apparent sloth.

After several minutes, and with a squeeze of my lower leg, I nudged Bear into a trot. Again, his gait felt laboured; unwilling, and it took some effort and coaxing between seat and leg to get him more responsive. At one point it occurred to me that Bear might be feeling slow after his day off. But this is twisted logic really, because after a rest day shouldn’t he be feeling more frisky?

… Hold that thought …

We trotted about the ring, leg yielding into corners and doing 20 metre circles to create bend and flexibility. Then, following a brief rest we worked transitions between gaits to get Bear’s back and hind quarters more engaged. This sort of exercise helps to fire up the ol’ engine, as it were.

In the meantime, in the background the routine clatter of buckets and splashing of water emanated in fits and starts through the open door of the wash stall located in the corner of the adjacent barn. Usually the horses, including Bear are indifferent to this noisy distraction. It’s just part of the barn routine. But there are days …

Now, it’s important to note that when riding I do tend to zone out from the world-at-large and focus intently on my connection with Bear. It’s part of the therapy of riding. There is no welcome mat for outside thought.

I was thus engaged when, as we approached the open wash stall door and were about 10 metres away, Bear took exception to the aural assault of banging buckets and, before I knew it, had leapt violently sideways away from the noise, partially unseating me in the process.

The world whirled around me as Bear spun out in panic. I held onto the reins for dear life and grabbed at his mane trying to use momentum to hoist myself back into the tack. Time seemed to slow though everything was unfolding so quickly. Surely I could pull myself back up before … .

However, it was no use. I toppled to the wet, sandy ground (not a hard fall) and landed solidly on my left buttock, reins still in-hand so Bear wouldn’t get loose. But then he lurched backward and, to my dismay, yanked the reins from my grasp.

To his credit, he stayed with me (it’s rather an insult if your horse runs away after dumping you), his now cool, quizzical look seemingly inquiring, “What on earth are you doing down there?”

I tell you, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

“Oh, Bear!”

Somewhat stiff, annoyed, but unhurt, I hauled myself up and brushed myself off.

My “tired” horse had faked me out. He’d sucked me into his game and worse … I’d bought into it.

Well, his little demonstration showed me, of course, that there was more fire in the belly than I’d been lead to believe, and I was going to call him on it.

So, I remounted and with leg, seat and voice got after him so there’d be no question in his mind what I expected. I figured that if he had the energy to leap sideways he certainly had it to go forward.

(I’ll note here that I do not use spurs and the dressage whip I carry is used only lightly to back up my leg aid when necessary.)

He heard my message loud and clear and responded immediately with a magnificent, floating trot! Hallelujah!

Still, he toyed with me occasionally, throwing in little leaps and semi-spooks to test my will, and authority.

“Are you up to being alpha?” he demanded.

“Better believe it!” I asserted. 

By the time our game was over, about 20 minutes later, he was putty in my hands … and I was happy and pleasantly exhausted. We’d played fair and square … and both won!

Who knows why horses do what they do. Bear was possibly bored with our routine and used outside stimuli to up the ante.

Which only serves to remind me that, if I’m going to play horse games, I better spare a thought for the ever-changing horse rules … 😉

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2012

Catch Me If You Can!

I know I posted this photo a few weeks ago for Bear’s birthday, but here it is again to illustrate the hairy eyeball I received yesterday when I went to fetch him from the paddock.

It was raining and much cooler than in recent weeks and he, and his buddy Sam, decided it would be fun to run circles around me, literally, while I stood there feeling inert. There’s not much to be done when the lunatics run the show. 😉

Well, basically, I couldn’t even get near Bear, mostly because Sam, who’s a great disturber, kept putting himself between us. However, Bear was no saint either. Occasionally he’d stop and allow me to come within a couple of feet of him and then blow by me as I tried to clip the lead shank to his halter.

“Catch me if you can!” he’d taunt.

In truth, to be caught in the swirl of equine mayhem can be quite mesmerizing.

Eventually the barn manager came to my rescue, distracting Sam so I could finally catch Bear and bring him inside.

Needless to say, with Bear feeling his oats like that he spent several minutes in the arena on the other end of a lunge line, cantering circles around me that I had some say in. I wasn’t going to ride a horse who’d momentarily pled insanity.

Within a few minutes he was mellow yellow and wondering what all the fuss was about.

That’s a horse for you …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2012

More thoughts on flies … straight from the horse’s mouth …

I know … you haven’t heard from me for weeks and here I am posting for the second day in a row. Well, there are going to be a few changes around here and this is one of them … cross-promoting my blogs. It’s either that or get rid of a couple, and I’m not prepared to do that  … yet. In fact, I’m thinking of launching a couple more or amalgamating the ones I have … or both. It’s open to debate. The creative juices are trickling again. 😉

So, following up on yesterday’s post, Shakespeare “The Equine” (aka Bear) has an opinion of his own to offer on the subject of flies. (Written in sonnet form, of course.)

What else would you expect from a horse named Shakespeare?

Please enjoy Sonnet XV … “Fly, away!”

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012

Cleanliness is Next to Impossible …

The weather was stiflingly hot on Thursday. Not even a light breeze could assuage the humidity, stickiness and over-heating that is unavoidably the result of training under such unyielding conditions, no matter the sport. When you’re sitting atop a sweaty horse, it can be doubly taxing. Hot air rises, you know …

The coaching session went very well. Elements of our training we’ve been working on for months are finally falling into place. Now we’re integrating new challenges. We spent much of the time working out issues at the canter, and while the breeze blowing through our mutual manes (okay, I was wearing a helmet) was refreshing, as soon as we stopped moving we felt toasted … and done.

The best way to revive after such an intense workout in the summer is a nice, refreshing bath. Technically it’s Bear who gets bathed. However I, in the process of bathing him, am also thoroughly doused. It’s unavoidable really. Still, it feels good on a hot, humid day.

Herewith a quasi play-by-play of the summer wash cycle, complete with colour commentary from Thursday’s experience …

1) Peel off tack … at the end of a sweaty training session, the saddle pad and leg bandages are pretty damp. Even the leather of the bridle leaves sweat marks on Bear’s face. Peeling off might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m sure you know what it’s like to remove clothing after a good sweat.

2) Lead horse to water … Into the wash stall we go. Bear is very good about standing still and accepting the gush of water from the hose on his body. Of course, I do my best to ensure the water temperature is neither too hot nor too cold. He’s a sensitive boy, after all.

3) Get soapy … While setting the water temperature I prepare a bucket of soapy water using only specially formulated equine shampoo … Bear’s is perfumed with roses.

4) Pre-rinse … On Thursday I was not only offering Bear relief from a hot, sweaty training session but also washing off a winter’s worth of accumulated dirt captured under his new spring coat. Recently I purchased a rubber mitt with a special bumpily surface to help massage the dirt and the last of his winter coat from his body. As I was pulling the mitt onto my hand Bear, experiencing a momentary lapse of reason, buckled a hind leg in response to the squeaking sound it made. (This might be equated to how I respond to banging cutlery in the cutlery drawer … ouch!)  A look of terror popped from his big, brown eyes and I knew it was pointless to continue with the mitt. I donated the offending grooming tool to the barn’s communal cleaning bucket and used my bare hands instead to massage the moistened dirt from his coat. … What a boy …

5) Soap cycle … next I grab the bucket full of soapy water and a big sponge and go to town, massaging the soap and water into his coat, mane, tail, etc. … Bear likes this …

6) Rinse … again with water from the hose. … Bear gave me the fuzzy eyeball a couple of times, as if wondering why we were going through this again. “Gotta rinse out the soap suds, buddy.” He seemed to except that explanation. He especially liked it when I rubbed his face with a soft, damp cloth. Some horses don’t like their heads being fussed with, but Bear is not one of those horses. He loves the attention even if, with a curled upper lip, he offers an opinion from time to time. Mostly it relaxes him.

7) Final rinse … I fill the bucket with fresh water infused with anti-bacterial/anti-fungal rinse agent to remove the last of the soap and prevent bacteria and fungus from finding a cosy home on his body. … Again some eyeballing, but Bear seemed to appreciate the extra attention. The repeat of the soft cloth treatment on his face appeased him somewhat.

8) Drying … This is the part Bear enjoys most. I take him outside to dry off in the sun, and while I stand around holding the lead rope with him on the other end happily grazing I get to admire my handiwork.

9) Turnout and final cycle … Once he’s dry and I’ve finished the rest of his ablutions, i.e. cleaning his feet, brushing him, lavender aromatherapy facial (a topic for another day), etc., I turn him out into his paddock for our daily ritual apple bobbing at the water trough. When we’re done he turns to leave and does the inevitable — roams over to his favourite dirt patch. He sniffs at it, his long neck extended and swinging his head back and forth as he blows at the dirt through his nostrils. It’s as if he’s looking for something. And then, I guess, he finds it because the next thing I know he drops to the ground with a groan … and rolls.

With this dirt bath the wash cycle is complete. It is a moment we horse moms dread but learn to accept with resignation.

Where horses are concerned cleanliness is, indeed, next to impossible …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

P.S. If you haven’t already, please participate in my one-question poll from two posts ago. Thanks!

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

Hey Boo-Boo!

So, Mr. Bear has a new nickname … Boo-Boo.

It’s spring. The weather is changeable. Bear and Sam romp roughly in the paddock and, as with any skirmish in the fields there are the inevitable boo-boos. Bear now has his share.

I’m not usually at the barn when the boys are turned out in the morning. Still, I can well imagine the kicks and bucks and snorts and squeals and head-twirling, tail-wringing, teeth-baring advance and retreat that goes on. It’s particularly animated, apparently, if a turkey vulture or some other unidentified (flying) object is spotted wandering at any distance away in the adjacent hay field. Ah, the danger that lurks …

In fact, one of my own more graphic experiences with their manic response to irrelevant stimuli came one day last summer when I entered the paddock to fetch Bear. I started walking to where he was grazing, of course at the very far end of their sizeable field, and was no more than 20 steps in from the gate when I-don’t-know-what spooked the hairy pair causing them to bolt — bucking and snorting and galloping at high velocity in mesmerizing whirling zig zags back and forth across the paddock in front of me.

It’s difficult to describe how it feels to see two 1,200 lb equine out-of-control torpedoes barrelling down on you. (It’s possible they were racing to see who could get to me first, or simply entertaining me … or themselves … or all three … .)

Yelling “Whoa, boys!” at the top of my lungs was about all I could do while standing my ground and acting like everything was normal.

Of course, I knew they weren’t going to run into me and, indeed, they came to a dead stop within 20 feet of my adrenalin-beseiged position. They then sidled their way over to me as if nothing had happened and blew inquiringly into my hands in search of their much-adored carrots.

These are creatures that live in the moment … And I must too.

So, getting back to Boo-Boo.

Imagine that kind of energy directed into horse play. There are bound to be a few boo-boos.

Sam, being the “in-your-face” kind of horse he is, has a knack for leaving dental imprints on my horse’s neck and face. Poor Bear! And then one day this week I entered the barn and out of nowhere greeted him with “Hey, Boo-Boo!”

This made me chuckle.

Why?

Well, it brought back memories. Memories of when I was a little girl who loved Hanna-Barbera cartoons, particularly the adventures of Yogi Bear and his sidekick, Boo-Boo. Remember Jellystone Park?

In case you aren’t familiar with these two whimsical characters, here’s an episode (seven minutes in length), just for fun. Why not grab a drink and a biscuit and share a moment of my childhood …

 “Genial Genie”

As well, my most treasured stuffed animal was a Boo-Boo bear. He proved a great comfort to me at times of great personal upheaval and family crisis. I was moved around a lot in my early years and Boo-Boo went everywhere with me. I hugged him until he was threadbare and optically-challenged. His life as my security blanket came to a sad and abrupt end when I was about 10 years old, courtesy of the family dog.

Boo-Boo was laid to rest. I was devastated. 😦

Still, life goes on and here I am, decades later, recalling something I hadn’t thought of for ages simply because my beautiful horse named “Bear” has sustained a few boo-boos!

Funny, that.

Now, it wouldn’t do to leave you with the impression that Bear doesn’t stick up for himself. On the contrary …

Last week after a ride I put Bear into his paddock for some turnout time. Sam was already there. As usual, after I’ve closed the gate I pulled up clumps of long, luscious grass, complete with dandelions, that Bear can’t reach and gave it to him through the fence as a special treat. Usually if Sam’s in the vicinity I’ll give him some too, but on this occasion he was off grazing in the distance. My attention was solely on Bear and he was lapping it up.

When Sam caught sight of our one-on-one time he trotted up and shoved his way in on the action. This precipitated an unexpected response in Bear. He pinned his ears, spun on his back heels and aggressively lunged at Sam with teeth bared to chase him away. He wanted the grass (and me 🙂 ) all to himself.

The boys do have a friendly rivalry, and most of the time they just hang out eating grass, but occasionally they will have a set-to to re-establish boundaries. Sam can be pushy, but Bear can certainly hold his own. There are welt marks on Sam’s back to prove it.

All this leads me to say that none of us get through life without the odd small skirmish and boo-boo. We live in a society that seems to want to protect us and, more specifically, our children, from everything that builds character, fortitude, faith, et al, lest we get hurt.

Speaking as a survivor, the fact is if we don’t learn from an early age how to manage life’s small skirmishes, how will we ever cope with the larger personal battles we must all face as we get older?

To prevent Bear from getting boo-boos I’d have to ask the barn owners to separate him from Sam. This would not be fair, nor would it be constructive. My horse is a very social creature and needs the stimulation of companionship or he gets lonely and anxious. Better that he should live with a few physical boo-boos than suffer the anguish of separation.

Boo-boo or no boo-boo, Bear is still the most beautiful horse in the world to me.

Our boo-boos, physical or otherwise, serve as markers reminding us of what we’ve tackled and how we’ve survived. They represent the stories that give us character and the moments that show us how to thrive if we learn their lessons well.

And, if we’re lucky, there’ll be someone who really cares standing by the gate with carrots in one hand and a jar of salve in the other prepared to help us along the way.

*

This has been a bit of a long meander. I hope it’s taken you somewhere worthwhile.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

… and this is Bear …

I love to admire my handsome Bear. In person or by image, his incredible beauty in body and spirit always brightens my day. He is the perfect panacea when I’m feeling blue.

And, as far as I’m concerned, he is the most beautiful horse in the whole world. (Every horse mom thinks their equine baby is the most beautiful in the world … ) And why not? He is, after all, my de facto “child” — the recipient of the tender ministrations my own children might have received had I been able to have any.

As the proud Mama Bear (I just made that up! Ha! 🙂 ) of this 10-year-old, 16.3 hand, dark bay Hanoverian boy of superior handsomeness, I naturally feel compelled, on occasion, to whip out the old (well, new) Nikon D7000 and photograph him ad nauseam. And, as any proud parent would I share, and gush, over the images with my friends and family, whether they want to see them or not.

In the spirit of the proud parent, today’s post is a quasi photo album of Bear’s Wednesday training session with my friend Christine in the saddle.

A quiet and gifted rider, Christine occasionally babysits and rides Bear for me when my health or travels won’t permit. Bear adores her, which pleases me, for as every parent knows … it’s important to have a reliable and trustworthy baby sitter.

So, let’s get started …

So, here he is working at the trot. … Oh, what a handsome boy!! … And look how beautifully decked out he is in pale pink polo bandages to match Christine’s shirt! … Like me, Christine feels that colour co-ordination is important. I doubt that Bear cares one way or the other, but if I’m happy, he’s happy. … Besides looking smart the bandages actually serve as protection for his delicate lower legs where the hardworking tendons and ligaments hug the cannon bone just below the skin’s surface. Such fragile beasties …

… and this is Bear taking a break between exercises. Look at the blue highlights reflected in his coat. Just gorgeous! …

… and this is Bear and Christine executing a canter circle. See how all his weight (and Christine’s) is balanced momentarily on his left front foot? … His relaxed facial expression, softly swishing tail and expressive ears tell me he’s in the happy zone. What a good boy …

… and this is a partial view of Bear’s beautiful hind quarters. … So glad to have caught his lucky horse shoe … I spend more on his footwear than I do on my own! But he has a superior blacksmith and it’s worth every penny to know he’s soundly shod. … And look at that muscle tone! Like a rock! He’s just so athletic … I actually find it annoying when people make disparaging remarks involving the horse’s hind quarters. It’s a very powerful part of the equine anatomy and worthy of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Together with that shod hoof it can seriously maim or, with enough force, even kill! …

… and this is Bear at the end of the training session. He’s demonstrating his relaxed and submissive state by stretching through his back and continuing to reach for a connection with Christine even though she has released the tension on the reins. Happy boy, happy mom … 🙂

… and this is Bear’s foamy (like cappuccino froth) muzzle … more evidence that he was happy and relaxed in his work. Bear has a reputation at the barn for superior foaminess … That’s my boy! …

… and this is Bear giving me the wooly eyeball, wondering what the heck I’m doing. Love those blue overtones … so handsome! …

… and this is Bear fishing at Christine’s hand for a treat. He received plenty of love … and carrots. He’s such a good boy …

… and this is Bear enjoying a post-workout nosh. Sun, grass, dandelions … a happier horse you’ll never see!

*

There … my pride and joy … my beautiful boy.

Thanks for your time.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

Triggers … What sets you off?

This week I’ve been musing about triggers, mostly because I’ve been acutely aware of my own.

And I don’t mean the Roy Rogers kind of trigger (horse or gun). No, I’m talking about the kind we all experience in our own way — the ones that jump start an unpleasant and uncontrollable reaction to an outside stimuli … that is until we have become aware of, understood, and come to terms with the trigger’s origins.

On this intense journey of self-awareness I’ve been travelling the past while I’ve bumped up against many of my triggers. While this hasn’t necessarily been a pleasant experience it has, nevertheless, afforded an opportunity to get to the bottom of some negative behavioural patterns in my life. It has also allowed me an opportunity to learn how to recognize the triggers and pre-empt them to promote a more positive way of being.

My saving grace through all of this learning has been my loving partner, Lloyd, and an amazing support team (psychotherapist, hormone therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor, naturopath, riding coach, music coach, and last, but certainly not least, equine therapist). When I resolved, 12 years ago, to divest myself of a lifetime of unwanted emotional baggage little did I know just what that meant and how much help I would need.

Through it all I’ve been learning to step into a new way of being — an intense and exhausting exercise that’s well worth the price.

This year has offered a stark lesson on cause and effect, stemming from looking in the eye a life time lived with undiagnosed PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Pushing through life in survival mode finally came to stop when mid-life hormone changes offered a sharp reality check. One day just over two years ago, while riding Bear, I was struck with explicable and unnerving fluttering sensations in my chest and throat. Near panic attacks while astride a 1,200 lb bundle of nervous energy is a dangerous, and debilitating, thing. Something had to be done or I was heading for a serious fall, in more ways than one. Thankfully before this revelation I had learned to pay attention to wake-up calls which, to my way of thinking at least, are simply giant triggers signalling a time for major personal change.

Horses are wonderful teachers when it comes to learning about, and understanding, triggers.

Since horses are, as respected Canadian natural horsemanship trainer Chris Irwin notes, “victims waiting to happen,” they are easily triggered by unexpected exterior stimuli.

For instance, when Bear was younger the sight of a white plastic bag flapping in the breeze would be enough to send him into orbit. If I was riding him at the time the offending object came into view I was treated, at best, to a spooky side pass as he gave it the hairy eyeball. At worst, an irrational bolt at warp speed across the arena or an almighty buck would trigger my own panic button and might land me in the dirt. Unless you’re a rodeo rider or have a death wish this type of in-the-saddle experience is usually not recommended and best avoided.

Bear’s brain farts have taught me, however, to be vigilant when it comes to recognizing what is, in his mind, imminent “danger.” This way I can pre-empt his need to have such an explosive reaction in the first place.

In effect, my powers of observation must become even greater than his own. I must remain at least one step ahead at all times and recognize “danger” before he does. I must perceive like a horse and respond as an aware human being.

Distracting him from whatever might offend is as easy as directing his mind and body into a different movement or exercise that keeps him in the moment with me. Doing this gives him a reason to trust I will keep him from harm’s way which, besides a constant supply of food and a safe place to sleep, is all a horse really wants anyway. Horses will do pretty much anything for people they trust.

But he needs help to learn a new way of being around flapping white plastic objects. Left to his own devices he might terrorized by them for the rest of his life.

I am his help.

As Bear has matured and I have been consistent in his training his mind has settled and his reactions to unexpected stimuli have become less severe. Nevertheless, as his trainer (and mom) I need to stay one step ahead at all times to ensure his happy mind and relaxed state.

Which makes my own situation all the more interesting.

The very state of being I have been working to instil in my horse is the state of being I’m working to instil in my self. With the help of my “trainers” I am reconditioning my own way of being and to do this I must address my triggers.

I’m learning to understand what is to me now a very obvious mind/body/emotion connection. Lately my reactions to certain people and situations have been incredibly visceral to the point, at times, of feeling totally and inexplicably overwhelmed such that my body shuts down and all I can do is rest and recover. It has been my challenge, again with help, to understand the origin of what triggers these unpleasant reactions and then find a constructive way to manage them.

What I’ve learned is that if we don’t take the time and make the effort to understand why we react irrationally to certain stimuli, this stimuli will continue to trigger reactions and manipulate us for the rest of our lives. From my experience these emotional/mental outbursts produce their own debilitating physical symptoms that further torment, and it just becomes a vicious cycle until we stand up and take action to change.

I am no expert on mental health, or medicine, but I am becoming an expert on addressing my own triggers. I also know that I’m not the only person in the world who experiences seemingly irrational reactions to outside stimuli. Far from it. We hear and read of people every day in our own circles and in the world-at-large whose irrational and frequently violent actions are triggered by seemingly irrational impulses. These actions invariably hurt others. And we on the outside looking in ask “I wonder what set them off?”

I would like to suggest that if we all asked this question honestly of ourselves, sought the help we needed to answer it and changed our lives accordingly, we could possibly live more harmoniously and the peace for which we are all seeking might be found.

Sadly, fear of the unknown will prevent most people from stepping into the dark abyss of the soul to seek the source of their angst. For me, not stepping in was a guarantee of a life lived in continuous fear. And that, dear reader, is no life for me.

This subject is open to debate. Please feel free to comment.

Nurture what you love … that includes you!

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

The Test …

While I was rewriting my bio for this blog the other day I couldn’t help but recall a moment early in my life that tested the depth of my passion for, and commitment to, the horse.

It’s difficult to identify exactly when the clip clop of hoof beats began to echo in my heart. It would be easier to say, perhaps, that this passion was branded irrevocably into my DNA for, try as I might, I have not been able to shake its magical power. (And I have tried. … But that’s a story for another day.)

I grew up loving western stories and movies. And long before I’d even ridden a horse I had pictures pinned to my bedroom walls and horse books stocking my shelves. To me the horse was everything, even though I’d rarely been in contact with one.

The “test” of my obsession came many, many years ago — during my ninth summer, in fact — while visiting my father in Toronto.

Giving in to my relentless pleas for him to take my brother and I horse back riding dad, who fancied himself a cowboy with his sh**kickers and string tie (had he not had some kind of personal interest in this activity I doubt it would have happened) arranged a two-hour trail ride at a stable in the Rouge Valley east of the city.

Thus, one hot, humid day we bundled into the car and drove to the Rouge to spend some time with the horses.

I was so excited. A city girl by default, even at that tender age I knew all I wanted was to be in the country with the ponies. So, the crude timber barn with its plethora of varie-coloured ponies hitched to the post; their snorts and whinnies; the fragrance of dust and horse hair and leather and, yes, manure, all mixed into one great ambient melange, captivated my senses. It was this little girl’s idea of heaven.

A little chestnut mare called Candy was assigned to me and, of course, I was sure she had to be the most beautiful horse I’d ever seen. She definitely had the sweetest name. I learned that she’d had a foal earlier in the spring and was just coming back into work. I probably thought that was sweet too. But none of it really mattered. She was all mine for a two whole hours!

We mounted up.

I felt perfectly comfortable in that western saddle, like I was born to be there. Candy and I fell into order behind the lead horse and soon we, along with about eight other horses and riders, were trekking single-file down the steep, dapple-shaded dirt switchback headed toward the valley floor. I was so happy.

At the bottom of the hill the trail guide led us over to the river’s edge where we would wait for a few minutes as the rest of the horses and riders, caught up. The whole scene was idyllic. Birds chirping, flies buzzing, river gurgling, a light breeze wafting through the trees. I couldn’t have been any closer to heaven in my heart than I was in that moment.

That’s why what happened next was so totally unexpected.

With no apparent explanation Candy was suddenly up on her hind legs, screaming. I clung with both hands to the saddle horn in a desperate bid to hang on. The mare’s front feet fell back to earth but were almost instantly launched upward again, pawing at the air.

Somehow I managed to stay aboard, but this time to a different end. While high upon her hind legs Candy lost her balance and fell over backward, hitting the ground on her left side and pinning my left leg beneath her. She didn’t move. I was trapped.

A flurry of activity ensued around us. The trail guide and my father both jumped from their respective horses and bounded to my rescue. Together they pulled me free before Candy tried to get back on her feet.

Immediately I was rushed to hospital (though I have no idea how we got back to the car).

Fortunately my injuries were not serious — just bruising and muscle strain to my left leg that would confine me to crutches for a few days (though the range of motion in my left leg was affected for quite a while after that.) The doctor told us it could have been much worse. Had the horse tried to get up with me pinned underneath her my leg would have been crushed.

We never did find out why Candy reared, though I’d overheard in the commotion afterwards that it was uncharacteristic of her to do that. Was she stung by a wasp? Did she miss her foal? Did she just not like her job that day? Who knows? With horses you never can tell.

However, needless to say my experience with Candy left me undaunted and only deepened my devotion to the horse. Look what I’d done and survived!

When we returned to my mother in England the begging for riding lessons “so I will know how to manage this sort of thing in the future,” 😉 began. Within months I was back in the saddle.

I guess you could say I passed the test …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
“Horse Mom”

Ham Horse Gallery … Dissecting The Shakespearean Roll

I’m feeling a little lost for words this week. Lots on my mind and nothing particularly orderly.

So, I thought instead, to treat you to a little Shakespeare “The Equine.” Fresh from Poet’s Paddock and ready to roll (as it were …)

Please enjoy this play-by-play of one of Shakepeare’s aka Bear’s favourite paddock pastimes  — the Shakespearean role  roll.

The commentary is all his …

Greetings!

Scene I: … The key to an inspired Shakespearean roll beginneth with the stage. Seek the darkest and muckiest of spots, soft from early spring showers that refresheth. Yonder hay, though dry, may looketh inviting but is best left untouched. One must not play with one’s food. …

Scene II: … With the utmost delicacy and decorum drop gracefully to thy knees and grunt …

Scene III: … Silence, stillness doth punctuate the moment. Rest briefly to recoup thy dignity …

Scene IV: … At last, to collapse in Mother Earth’s sweet muddy embrace and delight in the warmth of Father Sun. … A part to be savoured. …

Scene V … Sustained, perchance another moment’s meditation before the next soliloquy …

Scene VI: … Wh … hoo!! …

7) … Tis a fact well known among this poet’s circle that only steeds of superior intellect, such as I, can rolleth all the way over and …

Scene VIII: … back again. …

Scene IX: … Ah! Of a certainty that feeleth much better …

Scene X: … This roll created for myself is well played! …

Scene XI: … but when it’s over, alas, tis over. … And yet, tis worth remembering … the play’s the thing … See you anon in Poet’s Paddock!

12) The End …

Nice play, Shakespeare!

Nurture what you love…

Dorothy
“Horse Mom”

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012