To Every Thing There is a Season …

Since starting my FEEL (Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning) certification course a month ago I’ve been incorporating new ways of being and little challenges into my day-to-day experiences with Mr. Bear. He is an eminently patient horse and has indulged my flights of fancy quite willingly. Actually, I think he quite enjoys the extra attention and the deepening of our bond.

Having been forced out of the saddle for the past 21 days, or so, with a wretched back issue (see last post) I’ve been proactively making use of the extra ground time to incorporate a new activity into our routine … playing with the purple Pilates ball.

At the moment Bear is learning to “be” in its presence.

The idea to introduce Bear to the ball came about as a way to deepen our awareness together. I knew that expanding Bear’s world to include the way of the purple ball would require more awareness on my part as I observed his reaction to his new inanimate friend. It wasn’t my intention to overwhelm Bear with this experience. I simply wanted to expand his world in a fun and controlled way.

It all began three weeks ago, the day before my injury.

The first thing I did was to set the ball up outside his stall and sit on it. No big deal. He sniffed around and then returned to his pile of hay in the corner.

Next, I propped it up against his doorway and left it there. I walked away and, with camera in hand, waited to see what would happen next.

~*~

Unsure

At first he was all “Hmmm, I don’t know about this …”

Getting acquainted

And then he got brave.

Bemused

And then he got bored.

No worries.

It was time to try “the purple Pilates ball in the paddock test.”

Again, after maintaining his initial distance he was fine with it.

Ball Outside

A week later, my lower back wracked with muscle spasms, I put Bear in the arena for some free lunging. He’d been off for a few days (because I wasn’t able to ride him) and I wanted him to be nice and loose for my coach’s ride on him the next day.

When Bear was done free lunging he ventured, without any encouragement from me, over to the purple ball which had been sitting in the middle of the arena the entire time. Of his own volition he began to play with it, rubbing his muzzle back and force across the top of the ball with all the familiarity in the world. I only interfered when it looked like he might pop out the air intake valve and bite it off.
Ball Boy

He was having fun with the ball! Again, the point was not to overwhelm him but to see if he could accommodate a completely foreign object in his life and maybe even learn to interact with it.

My hope is that at some point he’ll figure out how to kick it, however I’m not going to force him. I’m simply going to facilitate this learning for him. I’m really just so happy that he has been able to accept this new experience so calmly. But then, as I’ve said, it was never my intention to overwhelm him with this new information. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my own life, the learning stops and the dissociation begins when I’m bombarded with new information and too much stimulation. I imagine, given how sensitive my horse is, that it would be the same for him. Anyway, expanding my boy’s world by degrees is far more effective in the long run and a lot more fun.

The pleasurable things of life are not meant to be rushed.

And so it goes with his present under-saddle training which is, I suppose, a funny thing to say about a horse already in his prime. However, like me my darling boy is a late bloomer with low mileage and a willingness to learn. As long as we don’t overwhelm with the learning curve we’ll both do well and be fine.

~*~

A short update on my injury …

The aftermath of the saga of the bad dressage boots continues.

Finally, after two weeks of misery, I was able to get back in the saddle Wednesday of last week. Oh, joy! Bear is being so well schooled by Stefan and becoming so much more confident it’s like riding a completely different horse. I was so happy and felt so good after my brief ride that I decided to give it another go the next day.

Bad boots ... bad, bad, bad dressage boots ...

Bad boots … bad, bad, bad dressage boots …

So, Thursday arrived and I got on again figuring I wouldn’t push my luck but simply stick to good forward walk exercises as prescribed by my coach. Rode in the arena for a little time, then outside around the property and, as everything was going so well, finished inside again with about two laps of trot in each direction. In total about a half hour in the saddle. And then I dismounted … and that was it. Excruciating pain across my lower back and into my right SI joint to the point I could barely walk never mind bend down to remove Bear’s bandages or take off my half chaps. Thank goodness there was someone else around to help me get sorted or I don’t know how I would have managed.

On my way home (and I was driving which in itself was most uncomfortable) I stopped in at the chiropractor who gently popped everything back into place. After a dizzying Epsom salts bath I spent the evening resting in front of the TV watching Downton Abbey (my distracting panacea when I’m unwell) while alternating hot and cold compresses (thank you, darling husband) and loading up on anti-inflammatories.

The next day I was mobile again, but still quite sore, especially while sitting down. As the days progressed the pain became pretty much isolated to my right SI joint/hip and the muscles supporting it. Walking, stretching and rest ~ plus an additional trip to the chiropractor ~ was the order of the day.

I’m happy to say that today ~ one week later ~ I am feeling much better and am hopeful that I’ll be in the saddle again tomorrow for a short period of time. Likely after my coach has warmed Bear up so the effort for me will be easy. I can hardly wait!

In the meantime, Bear has continued his training with our masterful coach while I have learned through observation, which is an important and effective method for me. Together we’ll continue to integrate our energy ground work exercises for the FEEL course. Naturally, that includes playing with the purple ball. 😉

To every thing there is a season, and I have entered yet another season of deep healing.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

(This post is re-posted and updated after I discovered it had mysteriously disappeared to a July 1 publishing date.)

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Fun!

It’s been a full week.

Preparations are ramping up for our wedding which is next weekend, so time with Bear has been, sadly, sporadic at best. In fact, I haven’t ridden at all this week and won’t, now, until after the wedding is over.

This means, of course, he will get to enjoy a bit of a vacation too.

On Wednesday, between hair colouring and a dress fitting, I managed to squeeze in a visit to the barn. Because the farrier was doing feet (including Bear’s which were in real need of attention) and this tends to monopolize the small barn where Bear lives, our time was limited to a few minutes of hand grazing.

Yesterday, however, and to my delight, I had plenty of time to devote to grooming and playing with my beautiful boy.

We had so much fun!

He loves a free-run in the arena and to wallow in my company (and I his, of course). This makes my heart glad and releases any stress I’m holding and, as we get closer to the big day, this is really important.

These images were captured with my iPhone while we were hanging out in the arena. Please enjoy them for the next couple of weeks. I doubt I’ll be posting again until the beginning of June.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

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Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Escape With Me …

Yuk it up

… and pass the time with my equine entertainment coordinator … the comic, Shakespeare … as we engage in a little horse play.

You all know him as Bear, of course, but that doesn’t alter the fact that my four-legged thespian loves to put on an act and delight whatever might constitute an audience in the small barn where he lives.

Yukking it up and flashing those pearly whites for the camera is one of his many pleasures.

This week the topic of conversation around the barn has been the mucky-ness of the paddocks.

While these green spaces recover from the ravages of winter, the horses are on hourly rotation out in the sand ring which is itself a mire of mud and murkiness. This schedule will continue until the paddocks are demonstrating more resilience and the grass has had a chance to grow.

Like all the other horses, Bear cannot resist the urge to drop to his knees and roll … and roll … and roll. The current soft squooshiness of the sand ring makes this a particularly appealing pastime.

Yesterday Bear’s blanket, as evidenced by this image taken in said paddock with his buddy, Sam, was absolutely filthy. He has the role of mudslinger down pat.

Sam and Ham

Later, as I was photo-documenting the results of his shenanigans in the barn he decided to be the centre of attention for his own reasons, and proceeded to ham it up for the camera.

Yuk it up 2

Naturally, the bucket of carrots at his feet had something to do with it. Like all great entertainers he expects to be rewarded for his efforts.

Aries is looking for a best supporting actor nod as he rests his chin on Bear’s rump trying to get in on the action.

Aries wants a carrot

You can see how well that’s going over.

*

This is my escape from the world and its drama.

After a couple of hours with Bear my perspective on a broader world beyond my control changes as I realize the amazing influence I can have on my horse and he on me.

My heart goes out to all whose lives have been radically changed this week by terrible events … and not just the ones we know about.

Nurture what you love … and create a happier world for yourself and those within your influence … while the chance is yours.

Be well …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

*

Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

A Change of Pace …

It’s April 11 and, believe it or not, a snow day.

What do we do on a snow day?

The last few weeks have seen some intense moments as Bear and I sort through a few issues together. But now, with a clearer vision of where we’re going, it seems appropriate to take a bit of a break and have some play time.

I arrived at the barn early to beat the effects of the “winter” storm currently barrelling down on Southern Ontario. The arena was free so I walked Bear over and let him loose for what we commonly refer to as a “Yahoo!”

I happened to have my iPhone in my pocket so, while Bear did his best wild thing impression I did my best to capture a few candid moments.

These three images worked out the best.

Running free

Bear wasn’t such a wild and crazy guy this morning, but he did kick up his heels a little and enjoy a bit of a run about.

His head carriage always seems get that much higher as he canters past the mirror. I believe he has a strong appreciation of his own handsomeness. Can’t you just see him catching a glimpse of his reflection from the corner of his left eye?

Cornered

Excitement over, limbs stretched, the demons chased away, he comes to a stop in the north east corner of the arena and waits for me to collect him. For some reason he always stops here when he’s done. Like us, horses are creatures of habit.

As I walk over he slowly bobs his head up and down below chest level, stretches his nose toward me and peels back his upper lip in a happy grin. He’s relaxed and ready for his lump of sugar.

The view from here

Once we’ve re-connected Bear freely follows me around like a big, happy, puppy dog, going where I go, stopping where I stop. I feel like a million dollars. Is there anything so marvellous as winning the trust of the free-spirited?

We stop at the open half door overlooking the outdoor riding ring where many of the boys are turned out while spring paddock management is in full swing. Bear checks out the mudslingers moping in the muck. Liam is mildly curious; Tex is bored.

It’s not a good time of year to be a horse outdoors. They like to roll in the mud but hate to be covered in it. Sadly, you can’t have one without the other.

Play time over, I lead Bear back to his stall where he chomps on a generous helping of carrots and a big pile of hay. He awaits his moment in the muck.

Later Christine will pop on him and have some fun over fences.

A lovely change of pace and a mental health day for Mr. Bear.

A change is as good as a rest.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

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Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013 

Horse Crazy After All These Years …

It occurred to me this morning, for some reason, that I don’t have a single photograph from my childhood of me with a favourite pony. Not a one!

My mother, a single-parent earning her living as an opera singer, rehearsed and performed odd hours during the week. She was too busy, too tired, too distracted providing for my brother and I (including paying for riding lessons) to attend too closely my equestrian exploits.

My father (rather a deadbeat), and the rest of the extended family, lived thousands of miles away in Canada. Thus, there was no one around to capture my moments of triumph or my sheer joy of being with the ponies.

All I have are memories.

I don’t feel sorry for myself … just sad, in a way.

I suppose that’s why this image, that I’ve posted in this blog many times before, is so important to me. My first official portrait, as a “mature” horse crazy girl, with a horse; my horse.

I revisit my memories fondly. Learning to ride in England was a special experience. Britain’s culture is steeped in the horse and I was rapt by it.

The other day a good friend forwarded a link to a comedy sketch poking fun at the culture of the horse crazy girl. It features brilliant British comedic actresses Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, and is called simply “Ponies.”

If you haven’t seen it before, please check it out via the link below. It’s a lark laced with the truth and innocence of a young girl’s love of horses. When I view it I laugh so hard it brings tears to my eyes.

It brings back so many memories — of the old stable yard (a little more sophisticated than depicted here) where I first learned to ride; the frustrations of trying to catch ponies that just won’t be caught; and yes, playing “show jumping” over the jumps while the horses are otherwise occupied (usually eating.)

The memories are so thick around me it feels like just yesterday I was a young girl lost in pony novels, immersed in Follyfoot Farm on the television and galloping across a huge field and jumping ditches while on the back of a dark bay pony called Bimbo. Never mind the fact I have nothing on photo paper to confirm any of it.

Girls and ponies. Women and horses. Nothing changes. I am just as delighted to be spending time with Bear now as I was as a little girl with all the other ponies and horses that captured my heart. Only now, of course, I am that horse crazy girl with one to call my own.

Please enjoy …

Ponies

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

Happy Birthday, Bear!

It’s been almost a month since my last post. A family crisis has come and gone and thankfully the worst is behind us.

Gradually I’m finding my way again, however as happens during times of crisis life is under examination and I am mostly lost for words right now.

So, herewith the third instalment of Ham Horse Gallery, this time to celebrate my beautiful boy’s 11th birthday.

These images were captured today while Bear and his buddy Sam were having a romp in the paddock.

Enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Bear!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

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 

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