Learning Curve

Hill Top

~*~

We’re on a steep learning curve at the farm right now, and are so grateful for all the help and support we receive from those who work with us there to keep it going and beautiful.

The establishment of my equine experiential learning practice is taking longer than anticipated, and while this can be frustrating at times I realize that life unfolds as it should and we will get there in the end. (And if we’re not there, it isn’t the end …)

Many upgrades have had to be made to the facility from a safety and aesthetic point of view, and this takes time (and money) in unexpected quantities. The country life is desirable but it has its challenges and we are tested frequently. Still, Bear and Sophi continue to keep me grounded and inspired.

In short, Bear recently had a tooth extraction (a story for another day … soon) and is recovering and Sophi simply continues to emit a star quality that brings me much joy every time I’m with her. The yin and the yang of the equine experience is never too far away.

This past week I participated in a workshop with equine experiential learning pioneer and best-selling author, Linda Kohanov. The focus of the three-day session was based on her new book, The Five Roles of the Master Herder: A Revolutionary Model for Socially Intelligent Leadership. In a world where empathic leadership is sorely lacking, this is a seminal work and life altering in a profoundly positive way. I’m looking forward to offering leadership workshops based on this important work.

In the meantime, the journey continues …

If you’re interested in finding out more about Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL), please visit my website at http://www.corequus.com.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curve

Ice Storm Aftermath

 

 

Bear On Ice

Bear … my port in a storm …

Late last week the worst ice storm in recent memory rolled through our area about an hour northwest of Toronto. Downed power lines disrupted hydro service for several days to thousands of people in the local towns and on farms and other rural properties. Trees, large and small, succumbed to the 20mm of ice accretion that accumulated over a 36-hour period. The impact was nothing short of tornadic. 

What’s accretion, you may ask? Take a look …

Cherries Choked

It twinkles like tinsel in the sunlight and gives everything that sparkly Christmas card look, but its effects are deadly. Imagine trees and power lines straining under the enormous weight of cumulative ice over an extended period time until they finally reach a breaking point. Until temperatures rise again the world is a virtual skating rink.

Accretions

The meteorological masterminds warned on Wednesday that the storm was coming. Of course, all we in the valley hoped they were wrong … as they are so often. Alas …
Down

… as I understand it a Colorado low moved into southern Ontario on Wednesday and clashed with cold winds from the northwest. They butted heads the hardest on Thursday night into Friday which is when all frozen hell broke loose.

Red Wagon

 

Fortunately no people or horses were hurt on our farm, and there was no major structural damage. However, the stress of this brutal weather event played out in other ways. No power meant no water which, with a barn full of horses, is a bit of a problem. Only one water pump out by the paddocks was functional (by force of gravity, we figure), which meant that water had to be manually fetched by bucket for the duration. And not just for the barn, for the housing on the property, as well.

Tree debris was also a major problem. Volunteers, and paid help, came in to clear the high traffic areas cluttered with the fallen willows, maples, birches and pines that had met their icy match.

Words cannot express our gratitude to everyone who pitched in to get the farm through that first difficult day. Due to road closures and icy conditions for most of the day and the fact we live 45 minutes away we weren’t able to help. I would have been useless anyway, as I awoke that morning with a splitting headache which signalled a tipping point for a full-blown adrenal fatigue meltdown if I wasn’t careful.

Weeping Willow

A Long Walk

Saturday presented the first opportunity for my husband and I to walk the property and view the extent of the damage. It was quite disorienting to see the farm in such disarray. Numerous large trees had lost sturdy branches or were completely snapped in half. The hacking trail along the east side of the 20-acre woodland was impassable due to the number of trees that had fallen across the path and into the paddock fence.

One Big Tree

 

As we walked past the ice-laden woods the tinkling and crashing of icicles in frozen symphonic waves snapped, crackled and popped in the air. On every level the scene was so surreal. If ever there was an example of devastating beauty, this was it.

Broken Pine

As we investigated another paddock bordered by conifers the scent of distressed pine permeated the air. The fragrance of Christmas a strange counterpoint to a vision of random destruction.

Crushed

This small garden shed, and a car, took direct hits. Neither were seriously damaged.

Frosted

Living the Dream

Farm ownership is new to us, and I don’t mind telling you that since we took possession of this beautiful property last August it has come with a steep, and expensive, learning curve. We knew the facility had good bones when we bought it, and the grounds appeared, on the surface, to be well kept. However we have since realized that neither was terribly well maintained and we’ve had to invest heavily in repairs and renovations and excavations. Some of this we knew going in. But in the heat of August you don’t expect to find out in a November cold snap that the heating system doesn’t work. And in the dog days of summer you don’t anticipate the barn is going to get flooded in the heavy rains of autumn.

Buyer beware, I suppose. On the one hand I look at these unexpected obstacles as opportunities to get to know the property better while I work to build my equine experiential learning practice. On the other, I just shake my head in wonder.

Acquiring the farm required an enormous leap of faith and was the culmination of a mutual life-long dream to have a place in the country and build a custom home. We are in love with the land and its rolling hills, its lovely woodland, the wildlife and the spiritual peace we feel there. We want to be good stewards of the land; to share it with others who will truly appreciate its beauty, and honour its healing sanctuary. Still, even dreams shape-shift ~ the winds of change blow through offering fresh and unexpected perspective. The challenge is to rise to the occasion and give ourselves permission to see with new eyes. To move beyond the initial disorientation, and locate the silver lining.

Even now as I process our losses and the implications the clean up will have on our budget, I am searching for that silver lining. This requires an open heart and mind, as well as a good deal of faith and patience. I need to continue to live in the moment without being distracted by the drama around me. I need to accept the unexpected and roll with the punches, believing that “everything will be alright in the end ~ and if it isn’t alright it isn’t yet the end.” (Thank you Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for that great quote.)

Frosted Fenceline

 

The Crooked, Old Maple

To finish, an anecdote …

Yesterday, Abbey and I took a short walk to visit the stumpy remains of a crooked, old maple of which I had become rather fond over the months. I wanted a closer look at it as we’ve been thinking about getting a local wood carver to sculpt new life into it.  A sort of memorial, I suppose ~ perhaps a rearing horse to symbolize our rising up to meet the challenge of this new path.

As I stood beside the tree stump, which stopped about two feet above my head, I had the urge to hug it. (Yes, I hug trees.) As I held on tightly, I felt droplets of water falling on my face. I looked up to the hovering branches of the surrounding trees, but there was no moisture there. And then I took a closer look at the torn open trunk above my head. Tears of maple sap were trickling down its craggy bark, as if it was weeping. My eyes welled up as I realized this perfectly healthy tree, so cruelly cut down, was still reaching out for life.

I wiped away one of its sugar tears with my hand, and tasted it, its subtle sweetness bringing both joy and sadness. Suddenly the tree’s fate as a wood carving didn’t feel so certain. What could be done to help this traumatized old soul?

The Crooked Maple

Before … the crooked old tree is second on the left

Broken Maple

After … the crooked old tree is gone …

A friend has suggested that if the root system is healthy (which it probably is) it may be worth trimming and sealing the tree so it can find its way back. I notice there are some remaining shoots on the trunk higher up which might flourish under the right conditions. I’ll consult an arborist. If in the end our efforts fail we will, at least, know that we gave the crooked old maple a fighting chance.

Unknown-1

Call me a sentimental old fool, if you will, but I have a soft spot for the tall, leafy things. The extensive variety of trees was one of the reasons we fell in love with the property in the first place. I hugged that tree yesterday out of a sense of despair, and yet in its traumatic state it ushered in me a sense of hope and healing. I feel I must do what I can to help it.

In the meantime, we begin the clean up. No small task as we have to hire a tree removal service to help and get the insurance company involved. Fallen branches will become wood chips (which, ironically enough, I was sourcing through a third-party last week) for trail paths and my work pen. Fallen trunks will become firewood. Maybe we can save a maple trunk for a harvest table down the road. Or use the larger trunks for some other creative purpose. Who knows?

All I know for certain is that one of the most important things we can do in life is nurture what we love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

Ten Years … A Journey

The Kiss

~*~

It started with a wake-up call, as many important personal journeys do. One morning I was writing advertising copy for a legal publisher and by 3 p.m. that afternoon I was restructured out of a job.

Devastated does not begin to describe how I felt. For five years I’d been a dedicated employee invested emotionally in my creative work for the company. And just before they released me I’d been agitating for more responsibility. However, I was at the top of my pay scale and the easy out for them was to cut me loose under the guise of “restructuring” and hire someone starting at the bottom.

Do I sound bitter? Well, I’m not. That day in March, 2005 was the day my old life ended and a new one began, but like all major shifts it was tumultuous. Change is hard. Unexpected change is even harder.

The experience was buffered somewhat by a lovely Mediterranean cruise in late summer ~ a cruise we’d been planning for several months. So, while I was still sorting out what direction my life might take I had this lovely distraction to help me find my bearings.

When we returned after two weeks of travel bliss, things went down hill again. Murphy, the horse I had been part-boarding for two years and who kept me anchored to some semblance of sanity, was ill with an unexplained edema in the girth area. She was also rapidly losing weight. Her owner shipped her to the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph for specialist care. Within days she was dead. Cancer of the peritoneum (lining of the heart.) Essentially a broken heart.

I felt devastated again. Another area of my life with no trajectory. Murphy’s demise a reflection of my breaking heart.

I continued to ride, but my heart wasn’t in it. Schoolies are lovely horses, but I’d been there, done that all my life, and had looked at Murphy as my first step to horse ownership.

And as it turned out, she was that.

running

A couple of months after Murphy’s death my partner (now husband) suggested that it was perhaps time to think about getting a horse of my own ~ the longed for dream of my childhood. I was 43, out of work, aimless and suffering from an acute lack of worthiness, and here was this wonderful man offering to help me make a dream come true. I had to think about it ~ pinch myself. Was this turnabout really happening?

I didn’t have to think about it that long, to be truthful, still the search was a hollow experience for me. Horse shopping is a rough road. I didn’t want to waste time tire kicking. I relied on the expertise of others to help guide me as, despite my many years involved with horses, I didn’t have the slightest clue about buying one.

By horse shopping standards the search did not take long, but I honestly feel it’s because Shakespeare found me. I’d looked at three horses, none of them promising candidates, and then one night at my dressage group’s board meeting I got into a conversation with a woman, a horse breeder, I hadn’t met before. She was aware of a horse that fit my check list (yes, every single item) and said she was going down to the farm where he was to see another horse. Would I like her to check him out for me? Sure, why not.

lines

Later the next day she called and said, “Don’t look at anything else until you’ve seen this horse.”

Two days later, on February 4, 2006, I was in southwestern Ontario enjoying my  introduction to Shakespeare … and that was it. Our fate was sealed.

I say he found me because that’s exactly how it feels 10 years on. All the cosmic tumblers fell into place ~ he was everything I’d ever dreamed, we met through a complete stranger and he came to me with the name Shakespeare. Apart from the magnificent riding horse I wanted, he was to be my Muse, my teacher and a catalyst for profound change in my life.

Going Home

Shakespeare comes homes … March 17, 2006

He arrived home March 17, 2006 ~ almost a year to the day I was “restructured” from what I can now look back on and see was a personal hell. Together Shakespeare and I have survived many trials and tribulations, including poor early training support, my three-year battle with adrenal fatigue, and his suspensory injury of last year. We’ve shared many wonderful moments, too, just being in each others’ company and surrounding ourselves with people who care. Because of Shakespeare I was introduced to the natural horsemanship training of Chris Irwin and the equine experiential learning work of Linda Kohanov, both of which inspired me to follow a healing path. Naturally, Shakespeare inspired my creativity. Anything you see on any of my blogs (see menu) is because of this horse who helped me find the courage to unveil and share my heart ~ a heart so beaten up by early childhood trauma and ensuing Complex-PTSD that I didn’t know my truth and didn’t trust anyone to help me find it.

Shakespeare gave me the greatest gift of all ~ my Self.

Connection

This is what our dreams can do for us, if we just give ourselves permission to embrace them and everything they can be. Our dreams speak the language that our hearts understand will reveal our truth and and bring us peace. There are as many dreams as there are people in the world ~ we all must find our own way.

My dream ~ my way to self-actualization and personal truth ~ just happens to be through the way of the horse. I don’t know why, and I’ve stopped asking. It doesn’t matter. All I know is that on this day, 10 years ago, a horse named Shakespeare arrived as my dream dressage mount and turned into the equine teacher who changed my life.

With his injury last year Shakespeare showed me that he couldn’t do it all, and so we welcomed the lovely Sophia Loren (Sophi), another beautiful Hanoverian who loves to strut her dressage stuff, to join our small herd.

Sophi

The lovely Sophi …

Shakespeare has given me my heart … Sophia has given me my wings.

It started with a wake-up call, as many important personal journeys do.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Bear SmilesFortunately for me, Shakespeare is the comic, rather than tragic, player, which is totally fitting for St. Patrick’s Day. Hope yours is a happy one.

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

 

 

 

 

A Gift of Sunshine

Tunnel vision

~*~

Spring has sprung here in Southern Ontario, and while we are seeing the light at the end of winter’s dark tunnel it’s premature to believe we’re completely through the other side of it to spring. We had snow flurries two days ago and temps are still hovering around the zero celsius mark. It’s also been terribly damp, to the point of being bone-chilling, so too early to put the woolies away yet.

Brrrrrrr …..

Still, this too shall pass.

We have been granted the occasional teaser warm day with bright sunshine, which has melted the ice and dried the ground enough for me to be able to take Bear outside for his daily amble (when their isn’t a stiff nor’wester blowing, of course).

How amazing to finally be able to engage with Bear in the sunshine. A blessing, to be sure.

Hay manEven though he’s been stuck indoors for weeks and weeks Bear’s demonstrated such poise on his first outings outside. A nice alert, flat-footed walk around the dirt parking lot for several minutes; his ears perked; eyes big and curious about who’s in which paddock. The occasional stop to test, with practiced lips, the browned grass for the much longed for fresh shoots that are just beginning to poke through the thawing earth.

As a special treat he has permission to feast at a hay buffet courtesy of an open round bale. Such bliss to stand in the early spring sunshine with Bear as he seeks to satisfy his endless appetite.

Watching Bear revel in this small change of routine makes me happy. He’s been a model rehab patient during his long confinement, so to be able to give him the gift of blue skies and sunshine makes me feel like I’m doing something positive. It was a cold, bleak winter and it feels so good to be out from under that cloud.

Better by the day

With respect to Bear’s recovery, he’s getting better by the day. Things haven’t changed much since his last ultrasound of three weeks ago, except that as of last weekend I no longer apply a sweat to the injured fetlock. The inflammation there has decreased such that a simple stable wrap will do. He lives in them (I still wrap the supporting leg as well) 24/7 except when I hand walk him. This is when he wears Back on Track therapeutic polo bandages to give his lower legs the support they need while exercising, such as it is at present.

Fun with food

Our friend Sarah capture Bear’s “fun with food” moment the other day. His nibble net is supposed to be inside his stall and in this image he has successfully manoeuvred it otherwise. His own definition for “throwing hay.” 😉

Bear’s spirits are good. He’s spoiled with attention, and treats, and loves to entertain whoever chooses to stop long enough outside his stall to indulge his flights of fancy.

Last Monday he had his monthly massage. Evidently he gets tight on the right side from standing around, so the therapist has given me a few gentle techniques to use on him to help keep those localized spots a little more limber.

The Worst Kind of Crap Shoot

In the meantime, I have been starting to shop for another horse, and horse shopping, as pretty much anyone who’s engaged in it will tell you, can be the worst kind of crap shoot, especially without good guidance. There are so many variables; so many things to consider that if you don’t know specifically what kind of horse you’re looking for and keep the emotional component in check you could end up on an expensive and discouraging wild goose chase.

Since my goal with a new dressage horse is to be able to see myself start to ride to my highest potential, I need one with three good gaits (walk, trot, canter) and that is well schooled in the German training system. As my coach put it to me the other day, we want a horse that allows me to develop my riding ability without having to address huge holes in his training. I don’t mind the challenges that will arise as I push myself to a higher plateau of horsemanship, but I don’t want to have to deal with the arguments presented as a result of someone else’s poor horse training.

My coach is in agreement with this.

So, we’re on the look out for a warmblood around eight years old, with good solid gaits and training, a sound temperament and at least 16.2 hands in height ~ in a price range, of course, we can afford. In other words … a needle in a haystack. Still, that’s okay. I’m a firm believer that life unfolds as it should. I have good support and guidance around me, so when the right horse comes along he/she should be fairly easy to spot. At least I’m optimistic.

As always my primary concern, beyond my own safety, is the welfare of the horse, and so I want to ensure that whatever horse enters the picture will be appropriate for, and comfortable with, the kind of training I have in mind under the expert guidance of my coach. Horses are not one size fits all, so being as mindful of their individual needs and limitations is as important as being mindful of my own.

Of course, I am ever mindful that Bear is the one who has put me on this path. From the moment he stepped into my life nine years ago he has walked the bumpy road of healing with me, opening my heart and my mind to new and wonderful possibilities. He’s helped me attract into my life, when I was ready, the circumstances and people who have helped me along the path of personal growth during the past several years, and as such has placed himself at the heart of my healing program and my dreams of one day having my own equine experiential learning practice. With his good looks and charm, funny disposition and open heart he is a gift of sunshine that I’m really looking forward to sharing with those who are ready when the timing is right ~ for me … and him. 😉

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Life Unfolds

The Indignity

~*~

Life unfolds, yes it does.

I haven’t written much lately as there’s just been so much to integrate. Often when we’re in the middle of a shift there’s just no point in writing about it. We need to experience it without the burden of recording it. I often have dreams where I see an incredible vista and and reach for my camera so I can capture it, but my camera doesn’t work. I’ve taken this to mean that sometimes life just needs to be savoured, in the moment, and that’s just how I’m kind of looking at things right now. For no matter how I plan ~ to take a vacation or whatever ~ nothing seems to be falling into place. The shutter won’t work. So, I observe the unfolding of life.

With Bear all I can do is my best to keep him comfortable and happy. Fortunately, as I’ve noted before, he is a sensible soul and is taking his confinement, due to a suspensory ligament injury, remarkably well. In fact, Wendy made the comment the other day that he’s the best rehab horse, in terms of his behaviour, that she’s ever come across ~ and she’s known and cared for many. So, I have this for which to be grateful. Bear is doing his bit to get well again.

Still, the end result is uncertain and a long way away.

He had his two-month ultrasound check-up last Friday. This was an opportunity for Dr. Maggie to see how well the injury is healing. The good news is that the lateral suspensory desmitis is looking better than it was two months ago. The lesions in the affected tissue are reducing in size and the prognosis seems favourable for a reasonably full recovery. I qualify that to mirror the words the good doc shared with me in conjunction with this ~ because of Bear’s already dropped suspensory ligaments in both hind legs it is unlikely he’ll ever be back in full work again, i.e. no more dressage training. He’ll be a lovely hack horse ~ one with whom I can do some light work and go for rides on the trails ~ but that’s about it.

If I hadn’t been through the last two months of hand walking and meditating and soul searching with Bear this might have been difficult news to take. But the fact is, I more or less came to the conclusion some time ago that Bear’s destiny is to be numero uno in my emerging therapy herd.

When I consider the sensitive soul he is and the stress he endured as I was managing both menopause and adrenal fatigue in those years when we should have been focusing on his training; and I consider the anxiety and panic and fear (mine and others’) he was exposed to and which coloured everything we did, and what a good boy he was under those circumstances, I feel he’s done enough. At this age and stage of his life it would be unfair of me to burden him with my dressage dream. Besides, his beautiful body is not designed to be the dressage horse I have in mind ~ he’s weak where he needs to be strong, and I don’t want to exacerbate his physiological problems by pushing him into work for which he is obviously not suited.

So, my kind-hearted, sensitive and funny boy is destined for life as a healer and that’s okay by me … and him, as it happens. He loves to make people happy. In the meantime, we focus on healing this injury as best we can and continue to deepen our connection as we move forward toward the next chapter of our lives together.

The dressage dreams still live …

Having said all that, my dressage dreams still live. I may be in my early 50s, and I may be experiencing the dreaded gravitational slide into old(er) age, but riding is still important to me, and as long as there is air to breathe and I have a pulse, I’m going to ride. And not just riding for the sake of it ~ I want to challenge myself to a higher level of performance.

I’ve never been in a position to really test myself with the support of good people around me who understand and care about my dreams. Now is my time. As I mentioned to Wendy the other day, it’s time for me to find out what I’m really made of as a rider. I have the coach and a good support system around me. Is it possible to draw from a life time of accumulated riding experience and skill the horsewoman I’ve always dreamed of being?

I hope so. And to this end I’ve begun the search for another suitable horse, either to lease or buy. This may take a long time … and it may not. It’s a matter of being open and aware and of knowing exactly what I want. And I want a horse properly trained in classical dressage with a few miles under his/her belt. I’m not interested in training a youngster. I want the stability of a horse who knows the work and is happy to do it. It’s early days yet, but I have no doubt when the timing is right life will unfold and he, or she, will trot onto the radar. (She may have already …)

Still, I’m not rushing into anything. Bear is my first priority, and he knows what’s up because I’ve told him. And I dare say, given his relaxed and happy attitude while he’s healing, he has no problem handing over the reins to another horse who really enjoys the work and is more physically capable to do the kind of dressage training I have set my heart on.

Bear continues to set the example for me of patience, and while it is difficult to see the end from the beginning sometimes, I have faith that life will unfold as it should and we will enjoy the next stage of our journey together in an even more meaningful way.

Sad News …

This past Thursday afternoon Konnor, Wendy’s long-time and beloved equine companion, succumbed to a sudden heart attack by the gate in his paddock. He was a 21-year-old, retired Prix St. George dressage competitor with a noble spirit and a tender heart. A barn favourite, Konnor will be greatly missed.

RIP Konnor

Konnor

~*~

Yes, life unfolds and too soon it is the end. We must make the most of every moment, for we are not promised the next.

And on that note I doubt I need to remind you to … nurture what you love.

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

 

Why The Long Face?

 

The Long Face

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.
~ Hal Borland ~

~*~

Bear and I are so ready for spring.

Are you?

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Slow and Steady

snow day

~*~

The hibernation continues. Nothing is happening in a hurry. We’re not going anywhere soon.

It’s day 41/120 of Bear’s rehab and recovery and, with no time in the saddle, I’ve had lots of time to think, and write and even explore some art again. Everything, it seems, is a meditation to understand where the path is leading next.

While Bear’s initial treatment period is 120 days I’ve become well aware a full recovery will take a lot longer than that. It’s going to be about a year before he’s back to the fitness he had before the injury occurred, assuming he heals well. So, perhaps it would be more accurate to say we’re at day 41/365 (+/-). Either way you look at it, it’s a long road to wellness that lies ahead.

Things are progressing slowly, as well they might. Bear is showing no obvious signs of improvement, nor does his injury appear to be getting any worse. The only shift so far seems to be reduced swelling in his afflicted ankle. It looks tighter, and this is good. So, at least we know we’re on the right track. We won’t get a true sense of how things look until Bear’s next ultrasound which is scheduled three weeks from now. In the meantime, we maintain the status quo.

Bear continues to relish this forced R&R, and is being a good boy for the most part ~ that is with the exception of one little escapade this past week that had Wendy in giggles. I wasn’t there when it happened, still the story goes that one morning, while Wendy was picking out Bear’s stall with him in there, he snuck out through the open door and went for a saunter through the barn, landing at Sam’s stall three doors down. (Sam was outside at the time). There, he happily tucked into Sam’s hay.

Wendy says that when she caught up with the naughty escapee his eyes were shining with guilty pride. He just looked so darn pleased with himself. That’s my boy! If we know one thing for sure, Bear knows how to amuse himself.

In fact, Wendy’s concerned that Bear’s taking his confinement a little too well and may not take kindly to going back to work when the time comes.

I guess we shall have to wait and see.

Speaking of carrots …

Carrot monster … which, of course, I wasn’t but you had to know the subject was going to come up sooner or later … I got savvy this week and bought in bulk. Yes, Bear has a mega-bag of carrots all to himself ~ a whole week’s worth of orange root vegetables. (Lest you’re under the impression he’s the only horse in the barn spoiled this way, he is not. His buddy, Midas, gave me the idea.)

The carrot addiction runs rampant through the barn and often we run out on the weekend. The next delivery isn’t until Wednesday. So, rather than augment Bear’s supply at the scandalously expensive supermarket ($3/5lb bag, I think), I’ve opted instead to go with a 50lb bag wholesale ($8) from the carrot lady. (I don’t have a head for numbers, so these may not be completely accurate, but you get the picture.) It’s more cost effective to indulge Bear’s carrot habit this way and there will be no carrot shortage for the foreseeable future.

Walkabouts and Sun Dogs …

Walkabouts this week have been unimaginative as the weather has been miserably cold. Yesterday we had -25C with -42C wind chill, and today is hardly better. Brutal! The only good thing about the extreme cold is the sun dogs come out to play in the deep blue winter sky around mid- to late-afternoon. We’ve seen a lot of those lately.

sun dogI’ll be heading out to the barn shortly, and dare say the regular routine may be slightly modified to account for the frigid conditions. We’ll see how things are when I get there. In addition to walking with Bear I’ve been practicing the occasional Wu Wei session in his stall where it’s slightly warmer. (Body heat, and all that). Usually my observations are limited to watching him bat around the nibble net while he’s tugging on hay and giving me the wooly eyeball. At any rate, it’s an opportunity to be with him in the moment; to go with the flow and empty my mind of all unnecessary thought. Just being there … with Bear … watching him in all his glorious contentedness helps to keep me grounded in this current reality.

And so, we return to my thoughts …

My head is full of them and, for the most part, they are contemplative.

My intention at the moment is to expand my window of tolerance. Be able to take on more without feeling overwhelmed by it, or even the idea of it. On the one hand I want to jump head long into new adventures and opportunities, and on the other it all seems a little too intimidating right now. This old pattern of behaviour exacerbated by adrenal fatigue requires new programming.

To this end I’ve been reading a couple of helpful books spurred by my studies in Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning last year.

The first is Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping by Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky, a noted neuro-endocrinologist who’s undertaken considerable study on stress hormones and their impact on our lives. Reading this has certainly given me a better understanding of the parts stress and stress hormones have played in my evolution, and thus put me in a better position to manage it. As the title suggests it’s written in a language accessible even to the most non-scientific mind. (That would be me.) Now I have an even keener understanding of how my health deteriorated into adrenal fatigue; the hormones involved and why it has impacted my life the way it has, and what the ramifications would be if I don’t make adjustments to my lifestyle.

Well, as many of you will know, I’ve made plenty of adjustments to my life since the adrenal fatigue kicked in; surrounding myself with a great support team who’ve seen me through the worst and are helping me move into a life chapter where I feel stronger and healthier than ever. Still, the healing is ongoing. I have acquired a greater appreciation for my body and all that it’s been through over the years. This puts me in a more empowered position to be patient during the healing process, and helps me to appreciate even more the need for patience when it comes to helping Bear with his bum ankle.

Recovery takes time. I see that for myself, so I know it for Bear. I’m getting stronger in many ways. ~ the Pilates exercises I’m doing are more advanced than they were two years ago when I started, and my strength and stamina is getting better. Things will improve for Bear too, if we give the healing time.

The second book, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by psychiatrist and author, Dr. Dan Siegel, is another insightful text helping me along this healing journey. It’s designed to help the reader “make positive changes in your brain and in your life;” creating new neural pathways that promote a healthier way of being so that old, dysfunctional behaviour patterns no longer have hold their power.

I’m really enjoying reading this book, too. It’s an exciting prospect to feel I can live life more expansively than was programmed into me as a child. I’m doing my best to let go of the old limiting ways and adopt new ones. What I’ve learned so far allows me to view Bear’s situation in an even more open-minded and life-affirming way; an opportunity to focus on the glass filling up rather than running empty.

Happy PairReading the two books together is, I’m finding, really beneficial. Both, from their own perspective, talk about the complexity of the brain and how hormones and stress and early life programming help to shape who we are. They also guide us to understand how it’s possible to facilitate change that helps us to live fuller lives. It’s exciting stuff, but it doesn’t mean any of it is easy. Still, it eliminates the need for drama and puts the victim mentality firmly where it belongs ~ on the neural pathway of dead ends.

This in and of itself is a great blessing, not only for me but, of course, for Bear. The more positive I am and the less stress I put on him, the better his chance of healing and the happier he will be.

Slow and steady wins the race. 😉

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWork 2015

Keep on Keeping On

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.

Let me explain …

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!

End note …

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 …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

*Wendy is on her own brand of stall rest right now, and appears to be doing well.

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

 

 

Get Well Greetings from Spike Pearson … A Pictorial

Bear has received many greetings and warm wishes from concerned friends

This week, a special declaration of friendship from his buddy, Spike Pearson.

~*~

“Bear! Someone’s sent you a get well card!”

Good Penmanship

~*~

“For me?”

For Me?

~*~

“That’ right … Look!”

Compelling Reading

~*~

“What does it say?”

With Love

~*~

“Oh, how lovely! Look at all the carrots. Would you like one?”

Get Well Carrots

~*~

“That’s a silly question!”

Thank You, Spike

~*~

“What do you say?”

“Thank you, Spike Pearson! You’re the best!”

Spike Pearson

~*~

Bear is such a lucky boy to have such good friends.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Next update coming soon …

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Things Are Getting Silly Now … and a Sonnet

Meeting Lucky

Bear meets his lucky charm for the first time …

~*~

For good or ill things are getting silly now. Probably for good since a little bit of levity is a welcome change and living in the doldrums is no fun at all.

It’s week three ~ some 24 days into Bear’s treatment for an injured lateral suspensory ligament ~ and with the dust finally beginning to settle, finding stimulating ways to amuse ourselves in the depths of frigid winter is high on our list of priorities.

Thankfully, Bear continues to be cooperative and sensible during his convalescence, and the comic side of his character is once again taking centre stage. (Or perhaps I’m simply able to see it again. Amazing what happens when you open your eyes.)

During our most recent hand walking excursions, with the arena sound system set to the classical music station and Bear now on free walk (I believe the fact that his blanket stays on while we do our walkabout helps him to understand this is not an opportunity to go running off steam) he’s been following me around like a happy puppy dog. And, just like the proverbial hound out for a walk with his/her mistress, within minutes of our perambulation he leaves me a special delivery, which I then dutifully clean up under his expert supervision. After making a deposit in the bucket at Poo Corner, we continue our walkabout, and while I hum along to Mozart or Thomas Tallis or whoever, Bear ambles behind me, gently running his nose back and forth along the fake furry fringe of the hood on my winter overcoat. He’s ever so tactile.

Lately Bear’s been learning how to bow

Learning to bow has come about as a natural result of the carrot stretches I’ve been integrating into our daily walks to help keep him bendy.

Bear is a fast learner, so teaching him to bow has been easy. (He’s also rather motivated by the promise of an orange root veggie reward.) Being the smart apple he is, he’s taken this exercise one step further and bows without prompting.

For instance, we’ll be engaged in our walkabout (we walk dressage test patterns to cure the monotony) when I’ll sense he’s stopped somewhere behind me. I turn around.

“What’s going on, Bear?” I’ll ask with some amusement.

He’ll give me a knowing look with those big, baby browns and then gaze down at his front feet, one of which will be placed forward of the other. Next thing I know he’s bowing for me. Forgive me … for the carrot he knows is padding my pocket.

Bowing

Carrot, please …

 ~*~

Oh, my goodness … he’s so cute! And just for a moment I’ll forget this wretched injury vortex in which we’re holed up and simply revel in this touching moment of joy we share.

Of course, he’s rewarded for his effort and initiative, and then I make sure to move him forward quietly so he understands the moment is ended. (Otherwise we might be stuck there for some time while he demonstrates his bowing prowess by constantly switching which leg he brings forward and bowing and repeating. … Gosh, I hope I haven’t created a monster.) As we continue his free walk, we stop to practice his bowing for as many carrot pieces as I have left in my pocket. He’s always wander struck when my pocket is finally empty.

Still, twenty minutes of hand walking goes quickly when interspersed with a little silliness accompanied by classical music.

At least we finish with smiles.

Speaking of smiles … doing so on command is next on the trick roster. I’ll keep you posted.

And now … a Word from Poet’s Paddock

Meditation 2

Shakespeare musing …

~*~

Naturally, Poet’s Paddock is empty these days, but Poet’s Stall doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Still, Shakespeare (Bear’s registered name and creative alter ego) has had plenty of time to contemplate his navel and conjure some poetic fluff.

As many of you know, dear Shakespeare has a penchant for poetic rumination (visit PoetsPaddock for more) and from time to time I have been known to indulge his flights of fancy in this blog.

Herewith a sensitive rendering from our equine muse, transcribed, of course, by yours truly …

~*~

Sonnet XXVII

One hundred days and twenty in this stall
To rest and watch as others’ worlds go by.
And restless though I be as bouncing ball
More sad I am to hear my mother sigh.
Though side by side this journey now we trace
Our joys and sorrows cannot be the same
Tis not t’ward a finish line we race
For she is well and I, perchance, am lame.

Neigh, step by step while on this pitted path
Together wobble we this journey scorned,
Still in our hearts we harbour little wrath
For out of battles victories are born.
And though the days seem long and move e’er slow
This too shall pass, and to new heights we’ll grow.

~*~

 So, there you have it. This week is a little more light hearted, a little silly, and I pray this will continue to be the case as we move forward with Bear’s recovery. It is, perhaps, how we’ll be able to maintain our sanity during this dormant period.

As mentioned in my last post I’ve learned to acknowledge that this is, perhaps, an opportunity for further healing on my part as well. Little signs along the way are showing me this is, indeed, the case. I miss riding, make no mistake, but the intense cold makes it easier for me to focus on what’s really important right now and that’s the healing journey. I’m putting my faith in the process. Perhaps at the end of this Bear and I will come out stronger than ever and life will open up even more than I imagined.

I’m hopeful.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015