Bear Therapy …

This week has been about Bear therapy …

There is nothing, perhaps, more mellowing than a mellow horse, and I have needed the comfort of my mellow horse these past few days.

If you follow my blog “Eyes to Heart” you’ll know that my family suffered a traumatic event late Wednesday night. I haven’t been specific about it … not yet. Suffice to say when the life of one of your loved ones is suddenly and unexpectedly threatened it is a shock. I have spent the last couple of days feeling unbalanced and emotionally vulnerable. It has required all my effort to stay grounded and in the moment. The first 12 hours were especially rough.

Since I’m still healing from adrenal fatigue too I’ve had to be especially mindful of my response to this situation and create a lot of down time for myself to recover. This has meant none of my regular physical exertion, i.e. no riding.

It’s disappointing to say the least, but sad eyes and heavy heart are not conducive to the focus and fortitude required to direct a 1,200 lb equine around a riding arena.

So instead I’ve been spending extra time with Bear in the barn … grooming mostly … lingering over his daily “spa” treatments as I release the unpleasant stress of the past 48 hours.

Of course, he doesn’t mind this at all as he happily inhales the carrots and apples and stud muffins, (oh my!) I faithfully deliver. Apart from the occasional pawing hoof if I’m not keeping up to his imagined dietary demands and schedule, he stands quietly in the cross ties while I fuss over him. His lavender aromatherapy facial massage is as much for me in the giving as it is for him in the receiving. I breathe in its pungent fragrance, and my heart softens … and Bear gives me his toothy grin which, of course, makes me smile.

And it’s a pretty darn good escape from the turmoil, leaving me free to mull, contemplate and meditate and let go of what I am powerless to change. I am reminded to be in the moment and the presence of Bear.

I fly to Calgary today to offer my loved one support for a few days. He’s out of ICU and feeling better, though bewildered. I don’t know what I can do but hold his hand and tell him I love him.

Before I leave I’m heading to the barn for more Bear therapy. There can never be too much of that …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

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

Triggers … What sets you off?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am his help.

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

Which makes my own situation all the more interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nurture what you love … that includes you!

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

Very Inspired Blogger Award


An award! For me? How wonderful!!!

Thank you, Michele Whitney, for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I feel most honoured. Your own musings of life inspire me, and how delighted I am to have found other bloggers, like you, with whom I seem to “click.” Reminds me that though we walk our individual paths alone we are all, nevertheless, sharing the journey of life (and healing, if we choose) and can inspire one another forward with each step. Thank you again, Michele.

Now, seven things you wouldn’t know about me … hmmm …

1) My favourite ice cream flavour is Baskin Robbins’ Chocolate Peanut Butter … Yum!

2) I’m working with a vocal coach to hone my jazz vocal technique

3) My favourite poet is Gerard Manley Hopkins … For his incredible use of imagery … (Shakespeare “The Equine” too, but that goes without saying … 😉 )

4) I have my green belt in Shotokan Karate (no longer practice for health reasons 😦 )

5) My favourite band is The Eagles and I’ve been fortunate to see them in concert twice …

6) In 2008 I was awarded the “People Make a Difference” Award by the Ontario Equestrian Federation for my efforts on behalf of local dressage

7) And last but not least … I make a mean homemade chicken soup …

Now … the bloggers that I nominate for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award:

1) http://www.jgburdette.wordpress.com/ … for inspiring me to pay attention to the lessons of history and reminding me that if we do not learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it …

2) http://www.patcegan.wordpress.com/ … for being an ongoing source of inspiration

3) http://www.palmbeachcountynaturally.wordpress.com/ … for inspiring me to more fully appreciate our avian friends

4) http://www.thechangeyourlifeblog.wordpress.com/ … for inspiring me to keep looking inside for the answers

5) http://www.knowthesphere.wordpress.com/ … for inspiring me to look beyond my sphere

6) http://www.resilientheart.wordpress.com/about/ … for inspiring me to be resilient

7) http://www.tracielouisephotography.net/blog/ … for inspiring me to see the beauty in all things …

Please visit, and enjoy, these inspired blogs.

Another “Musings of a Horse Mom” post will follow in the next few days.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012

The Test …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We mounted up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess you could say I passed the test …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
“Horse Mom”

My Responsibility …

I’ve been musing a lot during the past couple of weeks and, with so much floating about the grey matter, knowing what to write about is an interesting challenge.

In fact, I’ve been kind of dreading this moment — of sitting down at the computer and figuring out where to start. But my fingers, poised over the keys, are itching to pump out words full of meaning, so I must begin.

What you’re reading now is stream of consciousness. Kind of like the veil paintings I do and discuss in one of my other blogs — I have no idea what I will say or where it will take me.

Are you ready?

Do I share with you the unfettered joy I felt today while riding Bear outside in the sunny sand ring, picking up every canter transition, our nemesis for so long, as if it had never been an issue? Have we finally crossed that difficult bridge together, ready to face a new training challenge?

Do I share how, during our coaching yesterday, Bear made me feel like I really “shone?” How do I impress upon you how amazing it felt to finally be able to shine in this activity that I love so much, and to know that I not only felt it but that my coach also saw it, and that my incredible horse made it possible?

Conversely …

Do I share how awful I’ve been feeling regarding fresh evidence of equine abuse at the race track? How unethical trainers are drugging their injured horses and forcing them to race until they finally break down and have to be euthanized, often in front of a traumatized crowd of innocent bystanders? Do these horses really have to suffer in this way?

Do I share other concerns about unethical treatment of horses and abuse as read about in printed and online sources?

Do I share my concerns about hay shortages, fatal equine-specific virus alerts and the impending fly season?

Do I share my concerns about local barn closures in the wake of our struggling economy? Where do the horses go? Do I tell you that many end up at the slaughter house?

I could go on … but … enough already …

When my mind starts wandering in this way, concerning itself about things over which I have no control, I need to re-focus on where I can make a difference.

To judge the actions of others is unwise. To upset myself worrying about things and events beyond my control is not wise either.

So, as Bear’s steward my focus must remain on ensuring his good health and welfare.

It is with gratitude that I’m able to board him in a comfortable barn where he receives excellent care. As well, that I’m able to provide plenty of appropriate exercise so in mind, body and spirit he can thrive. And, happily, that he is well loved by all who know him.

My responsibility is to ensure it is ever thus.

Next time something lighter … I promise!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
“Horse Mom”

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012

You Are Beautiful …

There is a road near home that I travel occasionally. It’s a lovely rolling, broken country road peppered with estates and farms on either side and overhung by old maples, oaks, elms and spruces. It’s one of my favourite routes to travel going east-west.

I first noticed this random, incongruous sign (pictured) on this lovely road a couple of years ago. My eyes had wandered for a second as I was heading east and there it was, nailed to a tree at the front of someone’s property, its white, hand-printed block letters squeezed with effort into too small an area. Yet the message was clear to anyone who happened upon it … “YOU ARE BEAUTIFul.”

Naturally it made me smile —  first, because it was so whimsical and, second, because its message had brightened my day and, in its innocence made me, indeed, feel my beauty.

It was obviously put there on purpose, and even  now I wonder how many other people have observed its unassuming presence. It’s still there. If you’re looking you can’t miss it.

Of course, this leads to musings about beauty.

Do we see and acknowledge the beauty of our own being, or ignore it and brush it aside? Do we nurture our inner, and outer, beauty so we can share our authenticity lovingly with those around us? The kind of beauty I mean is not the vain kind we see only with our eyes … it’s the essence of who we are that emanates from our hearts.

Every day I tell Bear he is the most beautiful horse in my world, but not only because he’s so handsome. His buoyant and honest spirit lifts my own in so many ways and makes me feel better about who I am. The essence of his beauty nurtures me.

My dogs, too, and my cat are frequently reminded of how much I appreciate their extraordinary companionship — their beautiful spirits bringing smiles and healing to my life every day.

It is said that animals reflect their owners. If my animals are so beautiful, and not just in my eyes but to my heart also what, then, does that say about me?

Animals don’t lie. If I’ve learned anything in the past several years when working with my horse it’s that our animals, reflect back to us all that we are. Horses in particular, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, will show us the truth about ourselves. If we don’t like what they’re telling us are we prepared to change so we can accept our truth and see the beauty that resides there?

False modesty is a lie. I accept the beauty that graces my life and am willing to open my heart and share it with others who can, and will, appreciate it.

When I forget to acknowledge this, however, it’s good to be reminded by the sight or memory of the random sign, on a random road, in a random township that a random somebody placed because they believed enough in the beauty of other people to tell them so.

In case you hadn’t noticed … you are beautiful. 🙂

Thanks for visiting “Musings of a Horse Mom.”

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
“Horse Mom”

My Horse, My Mirror.

When I look at my horse I see myself.

No, I do not have a long, furry face, big pointy ears and a nose dripping with anticipation. (Although I do have big brown eyes … )

My horse is a reflection of my “self.”

When I became aware of that I realized that I could change in myself what I didn’t like, but the change had to begin with me.

So then my horse became my therapist.

The mystery of why I am the way I am and have done things the way I’ve always done them started to unfold when Bear trotted into my life.

Before his arrival almost six years ago, I thought ahead and took the positive step of enrolling in a horsemanship course with internationally-renown Canadian horse trainer, Chris Irwin (www.chrisirwin.com). Even though I had been around horses for most of my life I wanted to ensure that Bear and I got off on the right foot, and Chris’ course promised to teach me to “think horse, speak horse, and play horse games by horse rules” so I could “be the better horse” and my horse would learn to trust me.

It was one of the best things I could have done for myself … and my horse. What I hoped would simply nudge me up the path to being a better horse person/trainer actually became the catalyst for taking a good look at my life in general. I learned that the issues I had with my horse were mere reflections of greater issues that had plagued me for years — the inability to make a connection and keep it; getting stuck in transitions; being left behind; the overall heightened anxiety of my existence (which has recently manifested physically with adrenal fatigue), and other debilitating ways of being.

Sounds like I was a mess … and I was.

I learned that when I over-reacted, he over-reacted. When I wasn’t paying attention, he wasn’t paying attention. When I was stuck, he was stuck.

Horses live in the moment; they get their cues from us by reading our body language. I had no idea how fractured my life was until Bear — through his own hairy fits, spooks and other prey behaviour — made me sit up and take notice. Ultimately I knew that if I didn’t do something to bring my life into focus I would never be able to get Bear to focus on me and one, or both, of us would end up getting hurt.

So, my equine therapist sent me to therapy.

What I’ve been working on these past several years, incorporating the horse training techniques I learned from Chris and the knowledge of other caring professionals, is due to Bear’s call-to-action.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that self-awareness is the key when desiring an authentic relationship with yourself and anyone else, never mind a horse.

The personal work I’ve done during the past several years has manifested an amazing, trusting relationship with my beautiful horse. Every time I look at him I see and feel the progress we have made together. We are better connected; our transitions are smoother; we are moving out of that stuck place and our confidence is increased.

When I look in the mirror that is my horse, I see love.

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012