The Spell of Equus

A few months ago I posted a poll, “You and Horses.”

My thanks to everyone who responded. Over the next few posts I’ll endeavour to address each of the statements mentioned in the poll.

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Fifty per cent of respondents indicated that horses are as necessary to their lives as the air they breathe.

Evidently I am not the only one under the spell of Equus.

The air I breathe is infused with the essence of horse. It has been since I was a little girl. For a while, only God knew why, but as the years have unfolded the reason has become increasingly clear … the horse is one of my most important life teachers.

As with many horse people I was not raised on a farm. I was city-born with a country heart and, as I’ve described in my bio, horses have coloured nearly every aspect of my life. I might add that they’ve saved me from myself more than once and been therapy when I had no idea what the word meant or even how it might apply to me.

When I was in my late 20s/early 30s I stopped breathing “horse.” For reasons I won’t get into here I surmised that horses were a childish pursuit and it was time to “grow up.” So I stopped my weekly visits to the barn, stored my equipment and commenced a more adult pastime — wandering in a desert called Misery.

Only I wasn’t aware of this at the time.

It wasn’t until after four years of this nonsense and a death in the family that I recognized the alarm bells that had been ringing in my head and the heaviness in my heart.

I recall the moment distinctly. I was sitting, one gorgeous summer’s day, in the grandstand at the Calgary Stampede with my brother and (now ex) husband. It was a week after the funeral. My gaze wandered enviously about the competition ring where cowgirls on beautiful sorrel quarter horses and thoroughbreds were parading. The horses’ coats glistened in the sun and I found myself catching my breath.

It was a surreal moment — the metaphorical chains around my heart loosened their constrictive grip and unleashed a flood of emotion (no doubt fuelled by my grandmother’s death the previous week). Tears streamed freely down my cheeks as I realized, in that moment, that more than anything else in the world I wanted, needed, a life with horses again.

My brother looked at me and smiled — he understood. My husband was bemused.

In my heart I knew this was the perfect opportunity to turn a bad situation into something better. Somehow I knew that allowing myself to breathe horse again would change me. And I felt that by doing this I could honour my grandmother’s memory too. She’d want me to be happy. I didn’t want her death to have been in vain.

Within six months, and much to my husband’s chagrin, I’d quit my corporate gig and signed on with a local equestrian centre to do an internship working toward my national coaching certification. I was fulfilling a life-long dream to work with horses.

The internship became my refiner’s fire (the first of many), and started me down the long and rutted road to self-awareness. I describe my experience as “going in a marshmallow and coming out toasted.”

Among the many lessons my equine friends have taught me, and continue to instil in me, (in no particular order):

  • the importance of being in the moment
  • the value of patience
  • the importance of body language as a means of communication
  • the importance of letting go
  • the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries
  • how to work constructively through a problem
  • the importance of living with intention
  • the fact that I’m stronger in mind, body and spirit than I give myself credit
  • to be flexible, adaptable and open to change

Suffice to say horses have been an important catalyst for personal growth on many levels. With this in mind, it’s interesting to note that in recent years there has been a growing trend toward equine-assisted therapies — the Canadian Association for the Riding Disabled (CARD) being an example — and equine-assisted psychotherapy. Linda Kohanov and Chris Irwin, among others, are pioneers in this area.

I know many people who have been touched by the spirit of Equus who could speak to its positive effect in their own lives.

So, far from being just a pastime and passion, Bear earns his keep in more ways than the mind can imagine or the heart can fathom. Caring for and riding him is a fun, albeit intense, physical and mental activity, but it’s more than that — it’s a metaphor for living.

I love this quote:

“God forbid that I should go to any Heaven in which there are no horses.”
~R.B. Cunninghame Graham, letter to Theodore Roosevelt, 1917

I believe we create our Heaven (or Hell) here on Earth based on our choices. While I would like to say I have chosen to be a steward of the horse I feel the truer statement is horses chose me. When I gave them up all those years ago I’d broken a sacred connection. Imagine if I hadn’t come to my senses that summer day in Calgary? I wouldn’t be on my healing path and I wouldn’t have Bear.

So, if Heaven on Earth is here with my horse, than indeed, God forbid that the Heavens above should exist without the spirit of the horse that cast its healing spell on me so long ago.

As necessary to my life as the air I breathe? … You better believe it!

Nurture what you love … that includes you 😉

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

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Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2012

Cleanliness is Next to Impossible …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

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

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

Nurturing Thoughts on Mother’s Day

I take my role as horse mom pretty seriously.

In my view, I have been given stewardship over one of God’s creatures. I do not own Bear. (If anything, he owns me …;-) )  I have taken on the responsibility of seeing to the welfare and well being of this beautiful horse and so I nurture him to the best of my ability. I want him to be happy, healthy and enjoy a satisfying life experience.

Due to circumstances beyond my control I do not have children of my own. I don’t dwell on it. It is what it is. So I turn my nurturing instincts instead to my four-legged, fuzzy children, all of whom teach me valuable lessons as I wear the mantle of nurturer.

Experience has shown me that how we nurture someone or something will either bless us, or come back to haunt us. It’s one of the reasons, I suspect, it’s so important to be mindful of our decisions and interactions with others.

It also pays, I’ve found, to be discerning with respect to the kinds of influences we invite into our lives. What we take in we inevitably dish out, whether we intend to, or not. Remember the saying “Garbage in; garbage out?”

So … I have this horse, and …

… as I nurture him past his spooks and moments of discomfort I, in turn, learn to negotiate the spooks and discomfort in my own life more effectively

… as I nurture him to a more athletic way of being under saddle I, in turn, am more athletic in the saddle

… as I nurture his mind, body and spirit with daily rituals of grooming, exercise and feeding I, in turn, am more mindful of my own self-care

… as I nurture his playful spirit I, in turn, am more playful

… as I nurture his happy nature my nature, in turn, assumes one of happiness.

It’s really very simple.

The obvious reward for being a diligent and loving, caring nurturer is the pure joy of seeing whatever we’ve nurtured, thrive. In my case, it’s Bear. The fact that I, too, can thrive from this experience is a happy, and most welcome, side effect.

Happy Mother’s (Nurturer’s) Day!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Please participate in the poll in my post Poll: You and Horses

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012

Poll: You and horses …

… Did you participate in the poll? … Enquiring minds need to know …

Before I can have an effective connection with my horse I need to understand what makes him tick.

Similarly, it’s my desire to have a better understanding of your experience with horses so I can create an effective connection with you through this blog.

So please, take a teeny, weeny moment to click on the statement below that best reflects your experience with horses. Leave comments if you wish. In ensuing posts I will muse upon and write about each of the statements, share stories, etc. to demonstrate that you are not alone, whatever your experience with, or interest in, horses may be.

Obviously you have some interest, or you wouldn’t be here, right?

So, go ahead … don’t be bashful … 😉 …

Thank you soooo much!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012