Let go, and let be …

~*~

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

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

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

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

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

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

The show must go on …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

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

Blue Bear

Blue boy

It’s been almost a year since Bear’s sudden departure. Memories are flooding back, but they don’t make me sad anymore. They make me wistful, and grateful. He was the horse that healed my heart and now I can only think of him with the joy that was our life for all those amazing years.

As the cycle of the first year comes to a close, I’ll be sharing some of my favourite images of him in the next few posts. I’ve also put together a Celebration of Life video that will be uploaded to YouTube soon and tagged to this blog. It’s all part of the closure.

Connected through heart and spirit, Bear’s last message to me was to “Let go and let be.” Two days later he was gone and 50 weeks on I am finally preparing to release his ashes and fully pour my heart into life again.

He will be forever in my heart; the heart he healed with his deep wisdom and his own incredibly loving heart.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

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

Creator … *Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry*
An official film selection of EQUUS Film Festival 20182018 OFFICIAL FILM SELECTION LAUREL copy

 

Sophia

Sophi study

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

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

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

 

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

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

 

 

Welcome Reilly …

Reilly Roo

~*~

It’s been several months since my last post. There are a variety of reasons for this I won’t get into right now. One ray of sunshine during my absence from this blog was welcoming this beautiful boy into our family.

Reilly was born July 4, 2016, and came home at the end of August. He is sable merle in colour and his left eye is blue. He’s a sweet, happy dog bringing us immense joy.

Another soul to nurture. Another soul to love.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2017

 

Musing

Sophi

Sophi

~*~

I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating ~ when in the middle of a significant life experience I tend not to disturb the process by writing about it. A play-by-play of my life (with horses) is not the purpose of this blog. Rather, I prefer to review things after the dust has settled … and muse.

One of the things I’ve observed lately is the amount of change going on around me. So much change, for so many, all in the same window of time.

This is true in my life also. In many ways it has been a summer of positive personal upheaval. I feel blessed and grateful and, perhaps, slightly overwhelmed by the incredible journey that lies ahead. However, I trust the path to which my husband and I have been guided because of all the signs along the way that have pointed us in this new direction. I also take lots of deep breaths and endeavour to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. I feel like I’m stepping into my purpose. My comfort zone expanding in momentarily uncomfortable, but important, ways that will define a new way of being as I go forward.

A quick-ish update …

Mi scusi … mi piacerebbe un bicchiere d’acqua … (Excuse me … I’d like a drink of water …)

It’s been five weeks since Sophi (aka Sophia Loren) sashayed into the barn for the first time and turned our lives upside down. She’s a starlet in her own mind … and she knows her own mind.

For instance, it wasn’t by accident I learned she loves to play with the water nozzle when being bathed. She told me. I was  hosing her down after our first training session, spraying cool water at her chest, when she started dipping and bobbing her head up and down trying to reach for the nozzle. I got the hint and pointed the gentle spray at her lips, whereupon she grabbed the nozzle and drank from it as it if were a straw. This went on for about a minute. It was a hot day and she was thirsty, and what struck me immediately is that she knew how to take care of herself.

Then, as I rinsed her off with a bucket of diluted anti-fungal liniment she kept reaching around as if she wanted to drink from it. I cautioned her and yet she persisted. She wanted to drink from the bucket as well. So, I stopped what I was doing, grabbed her little red bucket and promptly filled it with water. When I offered it to her she emptied the bucket almost to the bottom and then grabbed the edge nearest her and attempted to throw what was left in my direction. I guess she figured I needed cooling off, too.

As you might imagine, she has trained me well and this is now part of our daily ritual (as long as the weather stays reasonably warm.)

Non puoi fare nulla di queste mosche? (Can’t you do anything about these flies?)

Another pet peeve for our resident Italianate prima donna is the surfeit of biting flies. This I discovered the hard way when I was bringing her in from the paddock one day soon after she arrived.

It was one of those hot, humid, sticky days and the flies, as annoying as any paparazzi, were swarming and stinging. In her distress Ms. Sophi bumped the metal gate as I was leading her out of the paddock. The gate, in turn, bumped hard into the bridge of my nose. (Expletive!) After I let go of the lead rope she ran back into the paddock leaving me stomping and wandering around the path to the gate in an excruciating daze and feeling my nose to ensure it wasn’t broken. Having established it was still in one piece, I was able to pull myself together and make a second attempt at bringing in my stomping starlet.

Once she was safely in her stall I grabbed an ice pack from the freezer and spent much of the afternoon and evening with it perched on my nose. A visit to the chiropractor on my way home helped, too. Perhaps it was this that saved my face from extensive bruising. I was lucky. A few inches lower and the gate would have knocked out my front teeth!

It wasn’t Sophi’s fault. I was distracted by the flies as well and ought to have been paying keener attention. Since then I’ve been careful to ensure Sophi’s turned out damp after bathing her so she can roll in her favourite dirt spot and create her own fly defence. I must take care of my little starlet … and my nose. 😉

~*~

Bear

Bear

~*~

The lady doth protest too much, methinks …

Meanwhile, Bear (aka Shakespeare), a one-horse-show for the past nine years until Miss Sophi entered and took centre stage, has made it clear he will play second fiddle to no one.

Sophi and Bear were originally turned out in adjacent paddocks. This had to stop day one when I made the mistake of attempting to bring Sophi into the barn first. Witnessing my error in judgement from his paddock gate next door, Bear went all medieval, bucking and leaping as if I had slighted him in the worst way possible. Naturally, I was concerned that he would re-injure that healing hind suspensory ligament, so I had to abandon my original plan and bring him in first.

Who says horses don’t get jealous?

To alleviate this being a “thing” every time I want to bring one of them in, they are separated by at least one other paddock, this way neither is any the wiser when I bring the other in.

If they’re in the barn at the same time I am careful to ensure they receive equal treat distribution. However, there is one ritual I’ve reserved for Bear alone.

Banana time is his thing. Sophi can have everything else ~ Bear shares his carrots, his apples (yes, he’s been weaned back onto apples), his crunchy treats, his fly spray. He even, in a fit of pique one night, remodelled his fly mask for her. But I have promised him that he will never have to share his banana.

He’s good with that.

Back in the saddle

“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ”

William Shakespeare (Henry V)

Riding Sophi has proven to be a revelation.

She is everything I hoped for in a new dressage partner. She’s finely trained; forward and forgiving. My coach says we’re a good match. We still have a long way to go to find our synchronicity, but the foundation is already there. Every time we work together, on the ground and under saddle, our connection and understanding improve. Sophi moves correctly which has underscored my own lack of alignment. Now I’m on a mission ~ through massage, chiropractic, Pilates and conscious awareness ~ to re-align my hips toward straightness so she and I can work correctly together. A tall order at this age and stage of my life, perhaps, but I’ll do my best.

Meanwhile, my intention for Bear is to put the saddle on and take him out for micro hacks. Five minutes to begin and gradually working our way to longer outings. I’ve come to this decision because ever since Sophi’s arrival Bear’s showing me he wants to do more than just hand walk. It’s as if he’s trying to prove to me that he’s quite capable of doing much more than my imagination will allow. So, soon I will take him out for that first short, slow spin. We’ll both enjoy that.

Moving On

BuildingsAnd so, a few final words on change.

We have spent the summer preparing to move the horses to a new farm, which is part of the reason my posts have been so sparse of late. Energy can only be divided so many ways.

The move finally took placed September 10, and I’ll have plenty to say about that in my next post which, I hope, will be more timely.

Last, but certainly not least on the subject of change, we find ourselves moving on to this next chapter in our lives one dog short.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned our old collie, Sass, was on her last legs. Well, on August 14 we finally had to let her go. She was failing. Her quality of life much compromised by the ravages of old age. At 13 years she’d lived a long and happy life, and we wanted to remember her that way. So, with heavy hearts we released our dear Sass, knowing it would be the last act of kindness we’d ever do for her.

Sassy was our sweet girlie and we miss her terribly. Autumn's GirlVisit my blog Eyes to Heart for a short tribute.

So, as another chapter closes it’s time to contemplate and move on to the next. A lot of change lends itself to a lot of musing.

It was ever thus.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti 2015