A Beautiful Thing

 

Bear's chillin' while the stylist does her thang ...

Bear’s chillin’ at the beauty parlour …

 

~*~

The last session of the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) certification program is next weekend so life is somewhat hectic right now. Assignments to complete (including a new blog/website dedicated to the work … stay tuned!), Bear to organize for my six-day absence and, of course, gearing up for Christmas (which, for obvious reasons, is taking a back seat right now).

And what about Bear?

His spirits are as good as ever, and why not? It’s been a regular spa fortnight for my four-legged fuzzy boy.

First the chiropractor to get the hips back in alignment. We now figure, given the degree to which his hips were out, that he took a tumble in the paddock while chasing around with his buddy, Tango. Horses will be horses …

Then the massage therapist to fix the supporting structure. She prescribed a heating pad over his loins and hips before each ride to help warm up those muscles and get them to relax. Bear is now moving better than ever!

Then on Sunday, a visit from the stylist (used in the loosest possible way) to give him his annual winter clip.

It would be an understatement to say that he’s been enjoying the attention. 😉

~*~

Something to ponder …

“If you’re to achieve the peace, joy and spiritual fulfillment that you want so badly, it depends on one thing and one thing only ~ your willingness to simply do something different.”

(from It’s Not About the Horse by Wyatt Webb)

For me, in recent months, the FEEL course has been that something different … and it has changed my life for the better in ways previously unimaginable to me. It has also deepened my relationship with Bear in amazing ways and given me an opportunity to see him in a brand new light. Not just as a companion in recreation and sport; and not even as a valuable life teacher (which he is), but as an incredible healer of the heart. It is a beautiful thing.

Remember … nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

Learning Curve

Bear

 

~*~

Learning curves do not move in a simple arc …

They are a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back, twisting, turning road that can drive us around the bend at times, motioning us beyond our comfort zones into a miasma of uncertainty and fear.

It’s little wonder people are afraid of change. And yet, if we do not go there we risk becoming ensnarled in our own traffic jams of negative thought and self-loathing. From my own experience, when we refuse an opportunity to venture into greater self-awareness and a deeper understanding of the world around us we deny ourselves the full capacity to embrace life.

In fact, it occurs to me that our comfort zones can, if we’re not careful, become more like dead zones. As I’ve discovered while doing my own healing work, the comfort zone is a good place to escape to now and then when we’re feeling overwhelmed, but to dwell there all the time can be stultifying and render us stuck in patterns of behaviour that prevent forward movement and personal growth.

Any number of things can keep us stuck, of course. Fear, vulnerability, depression, etc. can leave us feeling unable to move beyond what we perceive to be our limit. Busting through that self-imposed boundary (especially when we don’t know why we put it there) comes only when we can find the capacity within ourselves to leap with faith into the unknown. The assistance of an objective third party capable of holding a safe space for us while we work through whatever’s blocking our way is important too. When I started therapy four and half years ago, I felt the stigma. But now I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to free his- or herself from a burdensome and painful past in order to step boldly into a bright future.

Changes happen at various stages along the curve. They don’t all happen at once or we would become overwhelmed. Old concepts of self must be shed little by little and new concepts added just as gradually so as not to shock the system. Certainly there are times when I wish things would unfold a little more quickly, but when I look back on the past few years of my life and the changes that have occurred since I chose to to step out of the confinement of a false self-perception I am satisfied that everything has unfolded the way it was supposed to in order for me to come out of the process feeling more whole.

My big breakthrough in the past week has been to be able to ride Bear out back in the fields without company. Not long ago I would have hesitated, but enough has shifted inside of me with all that I’ve been learning in the last little while that my confidence has returned and things I would not have attempted before I am comfortable to do now. It’s a confidence my horse can feel as I put my leg on his side and ask him to march down the steep and narrow gravel driveway, past the scary pond, across the little bridge that takes us over a running stream and up the grassy hill on the other side to 70 acres or so of corn-planted fields surrounded by cut paths around cross-country jumps set in rolling hills. We have gone from feeling frightened to having fun! So liberating for us both after years stuck in our fear caused by trauma and my shifting middle-age physiology.

Another important component when moving along the learning curve is being able to pull a sense of humour out of our back pockets. Being able to laugh when things go wrong shows our willingness to allow life to take its course. When my summer riding agenda was rudely interrupted by a lower back injury caused while struggling to remove a dressage boot from my right leg I had, in the end, only to laugh about it. What a ridiculous thing to do! When I was able to allow the initial frustration to dissipate, I realized this silly episode actually put me in a position to learn some deeper lessons about my life with Bear. It put me on a new path, one I would have missed otherwise.

Stepping onto a new path for the first time is likely to start with a messy puddle at the gate, but with the first splash into the unknown comes awakening. And with awakening our recognition of that dead zone in which we find ourselves, and the desire to move beyond it; to peek around the door of a self-imposed prison and see what else is going on out there that resonates with and, perhaps, heals who we are in here.

I’ve been on a heavy duty learning curve the past few months …

First learning the theory behind the experiential learning practice ~ lessons on how energy works; heart resonance; how the body processes and releases trauma; treating emotions as information; psychotherapeutic terms and explanations; the spiritual aspect; various aspects of horse behaviour … and on.

And then the practice ~ energy exercises involving the horses; observing and understanding how individual energy fields (human and equine) impact the environment and how to adapt or self-regulate in the face of fear and uncertainty.

And while I learn I process. Long-buried stuff gets triggered … stuff which, within the sacred space created by the group, (and in my therapist’s office and at home) can be recognized for what it is, honoured for the role it has played and that is no longer relevant, and released to allow for new, more life affirming information to be integrated and acted upon.

So many profound healing moments on so many levels. Growing self-awareness and mindfulness. Exciting and exhausting all at once.

In the midst of this experience I realize the road to self-awareness is one of the most exciting adventures upon which I will ever embark. It is the exploration of an inner world ~ climbing my own mountains; forging my own seas; walking my own forests. An opportunity to recognize the beauty of my inner landscape and to clean up the toxic emotional wastelands initially created by the dysfunctional people in my life and perpetuated by my unquestioning belief in the noxious myths they’d planted that threatened to lay waste to the light of my own truth. As I pull out their weeds there is room for my own truth to grow. It is a wonderful experience to see my Self in the light of day.

This summer has also been about recognizing and attending to Bear’s aging process …

It’s funny how we echo each other. As I watch my own body go through the mid-life “change” his is doing something similar. In horse terms he is still in his prime, but as soon as he turns 14 next June he’ll be considered “aged.” (Sigh …)

With us both getting long in the tooth there are many health issues to consider.

Sadly for Bear, my adrenal fatigue has had an effect on his life. My lack of physical strength has diminished his own simply because I have not been able to train and exercise him in the way he needed to maintain the fitness he (we) once had.

Since I am now feeling somewhat better and we have great support around us we can step up our game. Our summer of lameness is behind us and we’re both feeling more up for a challenge. With the help of his chiropractor, massage therapist and the lovely barn owner I need to figure out an appropriate maintenance program for Bear as we continue to grow together toward our potential.

Nine months ago I moved Bear to a new barn and together we jumped right into a mud puddle of possibility. Since then, we have ridden the learning curve and evolved and changed in ways that I could never have imagined.

And the journey continues.

Now, as luck would have it, I just received a link to a new and beautiful short video filmed at the farm where I’m taking my course. Spend a few moments with 12 year-old Olin who, through the healing power of the horse, begins to overcome his anxieties and find his feet in the world. Here’s the link:

Free Rein ~ Olin’s Journey ~ click on the video at the bottom of the page “Free Rein Part 3: Horse Connections.”

Enjoy!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2014

 

 

Healing Work(s)

 

Chillin'

~*~

It’s been just two months since I embarked on my Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) journey, and the rate at which new information and change is flowing in, through and around me is nothing less than astonishing.

So much growth in just eight weeks and on so many levels it’s put me into heavy duty integration/processing mode. However, this makes writing about it a challenge.

Even though the information I’m learning resonates with me at a deep level, the facts and feelings are still finding their way home. I’m looking forward to the day when the words just trip from my finger tips onto the keyboard and into my blog posts, because for now it is an arduous task at best. Clarity is important when sharing this incredible work. I want to do it well.

Having said that, I’ve written a short piece of fiction in three parts inspired by a prompt and a few supportive blog followers, that touches on one of my experiences from the first FEEL session in July. Here’s the link to the beginning: Lost and Found … Part I in case you’re interested in reading it. Parts II and III appear in consecutive posts. The setting and characters are fictitious, of course, but the work is not.

My experience doing Reflective Round Pen work at that first session turned into an incredible life altering moment for me. I was not planning on putting it into any written form, at least not yet. But then the prompt came and sometimes you just can’t plan for these things. I like the way the story turned out. I hope you do too.

Of course, behind every experiential learning activity is a wealth of research and background information to support it. I’ve spent a good deal of time reading from a number of books and resources that help to bring the work to life.

For instance:

Institute of HeartMath ~ is an “internationally recognized nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to helping people reduce stress, self-regulate emotions and build energy and resilience for healthy, happy lives. HeartMath tools, technology and training teach people to rely on the intelligence of their hearts in concert with their minds at home, school, work and play.” I’ve really enjoyed learning about this and plan to become really conversant in it.

Institute of Noetic Sciences ~ founded in 1973 by Apollo 14 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell ~ “a 501(c)(3) nonprofit research, education, and membership organization whose mission is supporting individual and collective transformation through consciousness research, educational outreach, and engaging a global learning community in the realization of our human potential. “Noetic” comes from the Greek word nous, which means “intuitive mind” or “inner knowing.” IONS™ conducts, sponsors, and collaborates on leading-edge research into the potentials and powers of consciousness, exploring phenomena that do not necessarily fit conventional scientific models while maintaining a commitment to scientific rigour. … The Institute’s primary program areas are consciousness and healing, extended human capacities, and emerging world views.” I’m just learning about this. It’s fascinating.

In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness … by Peter A. Levine PhD ~ this has been an incredible source of understanding for me with respect to how early childhood and developmental trauma has shaped my life, and provided greater awareness concerning how trauma may be managed and released. Many lightbulb moments here. And lots of processing.

The Way of the Horse … by Linda Kohanov ~ I reflect on a chapter a week, depending on which of the cards call my attention. It’s amazing how the information I read reflects so accurately the place I am in my life in that moment. A great learning tool and beautifully presented.

Reading and connecting to the information presented in these resources alone (and I’m just barely scratching the surface here … there is so much more) has been heart and mind opening to say the least. My understanding and experience of life, and my Self in it, has deepened dramatically. The amazing thing about this work is that as I learn I also heal. It’s so profound. I’m finally integrating the idea that my past is not my future. Emotions are information, not prison guards. Allowing them to speak; listening to what they have to say is the beginning of healing and letting go. When we are stuck in our emotions we are stuck in the past; stuck in our lives. Debilitated. From my own experience I know this is not a nice place to be.

Of course, learning to treat emotions as information takes time and practice. From what I’ve experienced so far, it’s worth it.

For instance, the incident with the dressage boot was extremely painful on a physical level, and frustrating in other ways. However, as soon as I started listening to and considering the deeper body-held message of trauma real healing ~ physical and emotional ~ was able to begin. Lifelong trauma held in my hips finally released. In fact, my hips have never felt better. What I realized was that looking at the issue as more than just physical; being willing to recognize the emotions that sat in the background waiting to be acknowledged and released was an important part of the healing process. It IS an important part of the healing process.

All of this simply confirms for me that unless we are open to the lessons life has to teach us in the moment, they will be repeated until we finally make the connection and do the work to heal.

Awareness is key.

Bear’s Boo Boo

At RestMeanwhile, Bear’s in recuperative mode.

In my last post I mentioned some concern about a possible issue with his left stifle. Flexion tests showed that Bear’s issue was acute rather than chronic, though we do need to keep an eye on a couple of things. He’s been put on a joint supplement that will help and he’s been only in light work of late. Today he had a chiropractic adjustment ~ his first in almost a year ~ and this should make a big difference. He certainly enjoyed it.

The thing I’ve realized is that he’s processing, too. Like me, Bear has absorbed a lot of new information this year. His body is being asked to work in a new, more correct manner, and the old ways must be released. This is bound to cause some strain. Like breaking in a new pair of shoes there’s bound to be some discomfort for a while until they’ve moulded to your feet. Bear’s body is moulding to a new, more aligned way of being and it’s taking some toll right now. With patience and lots of pampering he’ll be his new self in no time.

I’m excited for the possibilities that lay ahead for Bear and me, but am in no hurry. Everything has a process that must be respected or we just buy ourselves more unnecessary misery. By my observation the only thing that’s ever in a hurry is the ego.

Remember the Titanic? 😉

When Harry Met Dorothy

Interestingly, while Bear’s been off I’ve had the opportunity to ride another horse.

Harry is a 20-year-old chestnut Trakehner eventing horse whose mom doesn’t make it up to the barn very often right now. A few of us have been offered the chance to nurture and exercise him, and I am participating. (The fact I would do this indicates how far I have come since last year when the adrenal fatigue was still so in control of my life I was only riding Bear three times a week. Now I’m riding two horses ~ Bear five times per week and Harry two to three times per week!! :-))

Harry and I have been an item for the past two weeks or so. Bear’s good with it. He knows there is enough love to go around and that no one can take his place in my heart. (Horses do need to know these things.)

My first time out with Harry was disorienting, to say the least. He and Bear are so different. However, as we got to know one another and our relationship progressed both on the ground and in the saddle we found an understanding.

Like any new relationship I had to find my place in his world. Had to release any expectation and embrace the new experience. Riding Harry the same way I rode Bear was not going to work. I needed to adapt to Harry’s needs; learn the language he understood before piling on any new information that was intended to make his working life a little easier. Slowly building a synergy with Harry was my primary goal ~ first at walk and then trot and then, when completely comfortable, the canter. My intention whenever trying a different horse is to feel what they need, not demand from them what my ego wants. Proving myself is not the point. Creating a good working relationship with a horse that has allowed me to take up residence on his back for half an hour is the goal. It’s better for both of us.

I’m pleased to say my approach has worked well. Together Harry and I have grown, and what I have learned from Harry I am adapting to Bear. It makes a difference.

But that’s what moving beyond our comfort zone does, isn’t it? It gives us another perspective that we can integrate into other areas of our lives. Sure, anytime we move beyond what we consider to be normal there is a period of disorientation. How we move through that momentary feeling of imbalance and confusion depends largely on how aware we are in the process and how open we are to change.

Harry has proven another wonderful catalyst for change for me. He has tested my skill and expanded my comfort zone in a way I was not anticipating. That said, I appreciate any horse ~ any person~ who, without agenda or judgment, is able to help me find a missing piece of my Self.

When Harry met Dorothy her life changed … again.

The healing journey continues.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Correction

Hands

~*~

A rare thing indeed … an image of Bear and I (taken by my husband) with our coach who, through the creative use of a shovel he usually uses to fix the footing, is showing me correct placement of my hands.

It’s a heavy shovel. He got tired quickly. Still, he held it there long enough for me to get the point.

Correct hand placement is an ongoing struggle but one I am determined to master. It’s obvious how much better Bear goes when I’m using my hands properly.

Bear is off this week with a lameness issue in his left hind. The vet is coming today to check him out. Nothing serious, I dare say. It’s just that now he’s moving more correctly his weakness there is more pronounced since he can’t mask it by over-compensating somewhere else.

We think it’s in his stifle area (the knee joint of the hind leg). I’ll let you know what we find out.

We’re both weaker to the left. A lot of correction going on.

More on the FEEL course soon. It’s difficult to write about while I’m learning so much.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

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

Do Nothing? Are You Kidding Me?

 

My Classroom

Welcome to my classroom …

~*~

 

When I first heard about Wu Wei* (the Taoist practice of “non-doing”) my immediate reaction was “Do nothing? Are you kidding me?”

It came up as an exercise we FEEL (Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning) program participants are to incorporate into our regular routine with the horses. Let me explain.

Being more in tune with the needs of my horse and understanding the context of choice in his life requires mindfulness on my part. People say that animals are dumb, but based on my experience I don’t believe this for a second. Horses know the difference between a hand that hurts and a hand that heals. They know from the moment someone appears on the horizon if their intentions are fair or foul. They read our body language all the time and respond accordingly. So, it’s up to us to be mindful of how we interact with these beautiful beings. It can literally make, or break, the relationship.

If we want to know what kind of an impact the environment is having on a horse’s frame of mind it’s really simple ~ read the horse’s body language. For instance, if you look at the image above, Bear’s relaxed stance, floppy ears, semi-closed eyes and level head tell us that in that moment he’s happy just chillin’. 😉

There’s more to it than that, naturally, and perhaps I’ll write more of it at another time, but the bottom line is horses respond to whatever energy is present in the moment.

Part of the curriculum of the FEEL program is learning to understand energy ~ how it works; how it connects us; how it heals; how it can hurt. One way or the other it’s all a matter of intention. Intuitive impulses, when we are in touch with them, can alert us to trouble and allow us to make the choice to move away or put up a fight. As prey animals horses are imbued with this instinct. They sense danger even when they can’t see or hear it, and will respond appropriately to survive.

This is what makes them such valuable teachers in the human pursuit of self-discovery. Since horses can only ever reflect the truth around them they are the perfect mirrors for helping us to see who we are.

For some people, naturally, this is an uncomfortable prospect. For others it offers a marvellous healing and personal growth opportunity.

For instance, how a horse reacts to two different people depends entirely on the energy each person brings to the relationship. As an equestrian coach it always botheedr me when one student would say to another: “You won’t like Mouse, she’s mean/won’t canter/ is really hard to ride,” etc. Or, conversely, “You’ll love Mouse, she’s so sweet/has a brilliant canter/is lovely to ride.”

The fact is, Mouse will respond to each rider differently based on whatever energy they carry around with them. For instance, Mouse may perform well under the gentle and confident leadership of a rider with a quiet hand and light, effective leg aid, but become resistant and anxious with another, more fearful, less educated rider who kicks mercilessly and pulls on the rein at the same time, sending the poor horse mixed messages. The riders’ experiences with the horse will be much different based on what they bring to the equation. The horse can only respond according to the information she’s receiving. Perhaps the most that can be said about Mouse is that her response to each rider is totally honest.

Still, I’m getting a little side tracked here. I’m merely attempting to show that the energy we emit is inevitably what comes back to us.

Understanding this and other truths of emotional energy is teaching me to honour the privilege of having the trust of a 1,200 lb prey animal like Bear.

So, what about Wu Wei?

Loosely translated Wu Wei is the art of “non-doing” or “non-action.”

“In our culture,” as author and horse trainer, Linda Kohanov, writes in her book The Way of the Horse: Equine Archetypes for Self-Discovery, ” … those who work more, buy more, try harder, and seem busier are the ones we’re taught to admire and emulate. The art of not striving has been lost, and we’re suffering from a host of stress-related illnesses as a result.”

Of course, I live in “this culture” and what has been my stress-related illness in recent years? Adrenal fatigue.

So, the challenge of Wu Wei is to do nothing constructively and see what happens. It’s not about being a couch potato on a Sunday afternoon watching reruns of your favourite TV show.

No, it’s about being in the moment and allowing all distractions to subside; to engage with nature and feel it’s impact upon us. To do nothing.

A foreign concept for most people.

With the FEEL program our task is to practice Wu Wei in the presence of our horses and, in the process, create a deeper connection with them and, potentially, our inner selves.

My first attempt a couple of weeks ago was nothing if not magical …

Before bringing Bear in from the paddock I allowed myself a few extra minutes to practice just “being” in his presence.

I entered through the paddock gate without calling to him, which is my usual practice, and parked myself in the middle of the paddock from where I could see him just over the rise of a rolling hillock. Standing there quietly and not drawing attention to myself, I focused on my breathing and and simply observed my beautiful boy as he grazed. Within a few seconds he raised his head and turned to look at me, as if acknowledging my presence. I stayed where I was; didn’t speak. He then turned his whole body toward me and started walking over ~ a slow, sauntering kind of walk which told me he was relaxed and happy to see me. I held my ground waiting to see what he would do next. I kept focused on my breathing. When Bear was about eight feet away he stopped for a moment, respecting an unseen but important personal boundary. I waited. About a minute later he walked right up to me. Sniffed at my hand, my back (found the carrot in my back pocket and helped himself), sniffed up my arm, down the outside of my leg. I didn’t move. Didn’t touch him. After a minute or two he drifted away a few feet and began to graze again, happy just to be near me. I smiled and waited, curious to see what he would do next.

Outside the paddock a slight commotion occurred as two horses being led in opposite directions were brought to a halt and their handlers had a brief and quiet chat. Being the curious boy he is, Bear left me and wandered over to the gate to check things out. I didn’t move; didn’t follow; didn’t say anything, and watched with interest as he indulged his curiosity. I will admit that for a moment … and just a moment … I was disappointed that he’d left. I felt abandoned. Our lovely moment, it appeared, had ended all too soon. Still, I tried not to judge and waited to see what would happen next.

As the two horses were eventually lead their separate ways Bear followed one up the fence line. Then he broke away and, much to my pleasure, wandered back to me. He put his muzzle right into my hand as if to plug into my energy once again. It was such a profound experience I almost wept with the joy of it. More than anything else he wanted to be in my company … in that moment. He didn’t want to eat (which is what horses do all the time except when they’re sleeping or working). He didn’t want to engage with other horses. He wanted only to be with me. 🙂 And I didn’t have to do anything but be.

Of course, the purpose of the FEEL program is to demonstrate how these concepts we learn with the horses can be applied to every day life …

As I observe it, we have become human “doings” and forgotten to be human “beings.” We’ve forgotten that periods of limbo are a natural part of the living and creative process. Part of my quest over the next several months as I complete the FEEL program and gain an even deeper level of self-awareness, is to learn to be comfortable in limbo ~ to honour the constructive and regenerative aspects of “non-doing” so my life takes on a more balanced way of being. This may be a tall order, but the more I practice the easier it it will get. As Linda Kohanov writes: ” … lack of control is infuriating and frightening for the intellect. For this reason, it’s beneficial to practice “not doing” voluntarily rather than wait until circumstances force you into those inescapable limbo periods. Training the mind with a regular dose of Wu Wei quite simply strengthens courage and creativity on all levels.”

I have Bear to help me with this, but practicing the art of “non-doing” can be as easy as standing in your back yard or other safe, peaceful area and observing as nature unfolds around you.

I’d like to challenge you to take 20 minutes to try this out. Put away your technical gadgets, clear your mind, focus on and slow your breathing. Be still. Spend time with nature by simply being and observing. What are the birds doing? How many butterflies do you see? How do you feel watching the squirrels chase each other through the trees? What sounds do you hear that you would normally miss? Should you choose to do this, I’d be curious to know what this experience was like for you. I find there is usually a natural conclusion to each session. That is, I don’t have to do anything … the end just is. 😉

I try to spend 20 minutes or so two or three times a week just hanging out with Bear ~ either in the paddock or sitting in a chair outside his stall. It’s a pleasant exercise for him too because it releases him from the expectation of having to do something every time I show up at the barn.

This week I will get to spend more time in Wu Wei than I had planned as I am forced into limbo due to back spasms. But that’s a story, perhaps, for next time. 😉

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

* What Is Wu Wei? One of Taoism’s most important concepts is wu wei, which is sometimes translated as “non-doing” or “non-action.” A better way to think of it, however, is as a paradoxical “Action of non-action.” Wu Wei refers to the cultivation of a state of being in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world. It is a kind of “going with the flow” that is characterized by great ease and awake-ness, in which – without even trying – we’re able to respond perfectly to whatever situations arise. (Source: About.com)

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014 

Disclaimer: The events described herein are taken from my own experience, knowledge, and understanding and are shared for entertainment and information purposes only. Should you wish to try any of the techniques or exercises shared within the framework of this blog, please ensure that both you and your horse(s) are adequately prepared. And remember: while I have enjoyed some success using these techniques, you try them solely at your own risk.

 

 

 

Restoration Isn’t Just for the Medieval …

Dozing

 ~*~

Looks like Bear’s has an easy life of it, eh? Basking in the late spring sunshine. Not a care in the world, except that his buddy, Dream, has left him on his own for a while. This is how I found him when I arrived at the barn on Friday. All by himself in the middle of his paddock, chillin’.

I’ve never seen him do this. At first I wondered what on earth was going on but then, as I moved closer, he rolled over on his back for a little scratch, stood up and came over to greet me. He was feeling good and relaxed, and he wanted me to know.

A little R&R between rounds of training ~ rebuilding muscle; rewiring the brain; re-establishing connection is important. Rest is good. It gives us strength for the next leg of the journey. Gives us an opportunity to regroup; rebalance and, possibly, recalculate our next course of action. Given my experience with adrenal fatigue, which is stress induced, I firmly believe we need to incorporate more opportunities for rest into our daily lives. It’s a challenge, I know, but not impossible. And it’s important. Information overload and manic, perpetual doing is undoing our world, if I might be so bold as to say so.  As I’ve learned, running on empty is nothing of which to be proud. Self-care is important.

Mark my word … 😉

Bear and I had a rest from each other for two weeks …

Initial separation from my boy is always difficult. As a vacation approaches I gradually distance myself from him so that when I leave it’s simply a matter of saying “Goodbye, buddy, see you in a couple of weeks.” It’s good for both of us. Then, knowing he’s in good hands, I am able to enjoy my vacation worry-free. Of course, if anyone needs to reach us in case of emergency, they have our mobile number. Otherwise, the mind switches gears and my focus is on where I am.

Where we were was Italy ~ a vacation in the planning for a year. We spent three days in Florence; a blissful week at a rented Tuscan villa with five other couples in our neighbourhood, and ended with three days in Venice. It was a truly amazing experience.

When I was deep in adrenal malaise six months ago the last thing I wanted to do was plan, let alone go on, a trip. My last few travel experiences had been rather less than enjoyable from a health perspective, and for a long while I felt I would never travel again. It was just too stressful.

The villa in Tuscany. Serenity now ...

The villa in Tuscany

The planning of this trip was left up to my husband, although I did have a say in where we would go. The villa was a no-brainer ~ we’d been having organizational meetings of the “Tuscan Twelve” since June of last year. The villa near Iano was selected by the group last August, so we didn’t need to give this any further thought. However, because of my debilitating health situation I wanted to keep the rest of the trip as simple as possible ~ no flitting all over the country trying to see everything and getting into adrenal overload. I had no desire to feel miserable for 14 days.

So, I suggested Florence, because it was only an hour away from the villa, and Venice because it was two hours by train from Florence. My husband was good with that. Both cities we’d visited previously as part of a cruise experience and as any of you who have been on a cruise will know, eight hours at a destination is really only enough time to help you decide if you’d like to return again. We’d talked many times of revisiting these two beautiful cities and experiencing them more completely, so that’s what we arranged to do.

I’m not going to get into a travel log here. It was a phenomenal trip on so many levels and one that proved an important point ~ the worst of the adrenal fatigue appears to be behind me.

Italy, with all its culture, flavourful food, fine wine, dry climate, bright colours, flair, antiquity, art, music … and on, offers such an all-embracing panacea of rest and relaxation. I have not felt so good anywhere in such a long time. Even the travel days, while they didn’t exactly agree with me, were less stressful than other such experiences of the recent past. (I will mention that when we arrived in Florence ~ via Frankfurt ~ my one piece of luggage did not arrive with me. That got me pretty close to a panic attack that first night. Fortunately my husband was able to help me through that experience and I managed to get to sleep. The bag arrived the next morning after breakfast. How do you spell R-E-L-I-E-F? My medication was in that suitcase!)

In Italy I felt my sense of wonder return; my energies revived. I felt restored. (I want to write about it more fully, but may need to start another blog to do it justice. 😉 …) It seemed like both the end of an old and the beginning of a new chapter. The end of an intense period of healing that began five years ago with a trip to Sarajevo, and the beginning of a new enlightened phase of healing that includes the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning certification program I’m starting tomorrow.

I’m ready to take the next step. My adrenals will support me now, I know it.

And then there’s my beautiful horse who was so happy to see me when I got back. He had a lovely time of it while I was away, make no mistake. Enjoyed lots of fussing over while he worked and played hard and got plenty of rest.

We both needed this break from each other to help process all the new information we’ve absorbed since our move to the new barn six months ago and to prepare for the next period of growth.

Together we’re gearing up to enjoy this new chapter ~ and while it’s going to be a lot of work and life expanding in ways that, at this point, I can only imagine, I can’t help but feel it’s also gonna be fun!

~*~

Bear 13

… The birthday boy …

~*~

It seems fitting that as we enter this new chapter we’re also celebrating Bear’s birthday. He turns 13 today. That’s right up there in middle age. Time to start thinking about some joint support. 😉

Nurture what you love … and get some rest.

Restoration isn’t just for the Medieval. 😉

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014 

 

When Life Takes Us Full Circle

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the past several years it’s not to judge the process.

When we launch into something we often have a pre-c0nceived notion of how things are supposed to unfold.

It’s simple, right? Have a dream; set a goal; plan a destination and that should be enough to get us on our way.

Well, it is, and it isn’t.

John Lennon famously said that “life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” Often what we don’t understand is that life, no matter how topsy turvy and mettle testing it is at the time, is unfolding as part of the plan to reach our dream. It’s why it’s so important to acknowledge the journey and be immersed in it wherever it takes us. We may reach, or even exceed, our dreams if we just hold on tight and don’t let go.

Good things comeThis is all very philosophical and a round about way of getting to my point …

Eight years ago, after reading “Riding Between the Worlds” by Linda Kohanov, I had a dream to acquire the training I needed to help people heal through the way of the horse. I was already a nationally certified equestrian coach so this would be a natural extension of what I was already doing. In my innocence (or ignorance) I thought achieving the dream would be a simple case of signing up for Linda’s course in Arizona and, once completed, setting up my shingle somewhere here in southern Ontario.

Nothing could have been further from the truth … because I was disconnected from my truth. At the time I was in my early 40s and struggling with life on so many levels, looking for escape. My focus was on running away rather than walking steadfastly toward something.

The dream identified, life unfolded ~ a veritable roller coaster ride:

Down ~ Within months of formulating this dream I was restructured from my job as an advertising copywriter and went into a depression.

Down ~ Six months later the horse I’d been part-boarding for two years died of cancer.

Up ~ Four months later, after a relatively easy search, by all accounts, Bear cantered into my life.

Up ~ One month later training began with Chris Irwin ~ my introduction to healing with horses through his Train the Trainer program and Equine-Assisted Personal Development. This was when I started to realize how broken I was and led to eighteen months of art therapy.

Up ~ In the meantime my partner (now husband) and I enjoyed four years of twice yearly world travel to places I’d never imagined going. (2008 to 2012)

Down ~ A trip to beautiful, battle-scarred Sarajevo in 2009 sent me into five years (and counting) of psychotherapy ~ my own life battle scars screaming for attention.

Down ~ Then early-onset menopause and all the joy that brings took its toll. (2010)

Down ~ Adrenal fatigue and its bitter anti-social pill insisted I shut down my life and focus on healing. (2010 to present)

Down ~ No more public singing performances (my adrenal health couldn’t support it) (2011)

Down ~ The attempted suicide of a family member and resultant trauma threw another curve. (2012)

Up ~ Our beautiful wedding brought immense joy. (2013)

Up ~ A barn change signalled a new beginning for Bear and I. (2013)

Up and down and up ~ The death of old friendships and the birth of new ones tested my emotional resiliency in ways I had not expected.

Yes, life happened; demanded I pay attention; tested my resolve, strength and commitment to the ups and down; the highs and lows of the healing process. Could I weather the storms I was intending to help others with through healing with horses?

It was an honest enough question. How could I facilitate in others what I had not experienced for myself?

These experiences have, indeed, brought me full circle to the point at which I am happy to announce that I have registered in a six-month Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) certification program which begins at the end of June. It’s a program based on the teachings of Linda Kohanov and, as luck would have it, the sessions take place just a half hour away from home.

It’s a big decision made after much considered thought and meditation. However, I feel that it is the right move for me as I continue along my own healing journey. I am confident this course will teach me much about how I relate to the world and will help to heal aspects of my inner world still requiring attention. And, of course, it will take me another purposeful step closer to realizing my dream of helping people heal through the way of the horse.

I’m ready for this new step but am not kidding myself ~ it will be another intense period of growth bringing with it the inevitable roller coaster of emotion.

Still, I’m game.

What’s another roller coaster on the circle of life when it takes us closer to our dreams?

I firmly believe our heartfelt dreams never die. When a dream is meant to be it seems that life provides the experiences we need to create the environment the dream needs to come true. It’s why we must never judge the process or how long it takes … or quit.

Hold fast to your dream. It may be closer than you think.

~*~

I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks. When I return my plan is to post regular updates as I proceed through the FEEL certification program and, of course, share the cheeky shenanigans of my beautiful Bear.

Of course, life unfolds as it should. 😉

Always remember to nurture what you love … and that includes you.

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Horse is Never “Just a Horse”

 Weekly Writing Challenge: Student, Teacher

~*~

Bear Boy

Bear

~*~

As a writer I know I share at least one thing in common with anyone who puts pen to paper or finger tips to keyboard ~ we want to move people in some way.

Move them to think; to act; to change; to believe; to hope; to aspire; to learn; to grow.

Perhaps there are some with other more nefarious objectives but my goal, particularly with this blog, has always been to inspire, and perhaps teach, through the way of the horse … okay, my horse.

The lessons I’ve learned in the past eight years with this incredible equine companion have altered me in so many amazing ways I cannot even begin to number them.

Bear is among the kindest of souls and endears, with his gentle and comic personality, all who meet him.

Perhaps the most important lesson he has taught me (so far) is the importance of self-awareness; to be in the moment. To wrap myself in the now and be fully present in every experience, even the ones I don’t enjoy so much.

As one who has lived most of my life in a disassociated state this has been, as you might imagine, a most valuable and, at times, uncomfortable, lesson. A lesson I have explored both on the ground and in the saddle and thoroughly reviewed and attempted to integrate every week, for the past five years, in the therapist’s chair.

Reclaiming Self is a serious business.

When I go to the barn and look in Bear’s big baby browns, and he curls his lip in greeting and nickers for his carrots, I feel invited into, and an important part of, his world.

Being disassociated means not feeling safe, never mind special, in anyone’s world, not even your own. The only way to survive is to create distance; to be there, but not be there. To trust no one, often not even yourself. The flight/fright hormone is engaged all the time.

Horses will not tolerate this dysfunction in anyone since it triggers their own primal instincts to flee, i.e  disassociate. It’s why horses are wonderful mirrors during the healing process. It is possible to know almost immediately how well you are doing by the response of the horse sharing your space ~ that is as long as you are aware of the impact you’re having on them in that moment.

I’ve been around horses most of my life but Bear is the one who has shown me who I am and helped me recover my life.

He’s been the equine therapist and a valuable teacher to this soul long lost, and I am blessed.

Equine-assisted therapy has, in recent years, become widely accepted as a recognized healing practice

My introduction to equine-assisted therapy came in 2006 at an Equine-Assisted Personal Development workshop with noted Canadian horse trainer, Chris Irwin. During the four-day closed session 10 of us participated in a variety of exercises designed to promote self-awareness ~ the horses engaged as remarkable catalysts for personal growth and learning. All exercises took place on the ground and within the safety of the round pen. To interact with the horse in this new way changed my life. It was the true beginning of my journey to healing and it made my interactions with Bear, who was new to me at the time, all the more meaningful.

I’ve also had the privilege of attending a workshop conducted by Linda Kohanov ~ internationally-recognized as the innovator of Equine Experiential Learning and author of four powerful books on the journey of healing with horses ~ “Riding Between the Worlds,” “The Tao of Equus,” “Way of the Horse” and “The Power of the Herd.”

Both Chris and Linda have been developing global networks of qualified equine-assisted personal development/therapy practitioners. Naturally, I cannot recommend one over another, but if you are interested in exploring equine-assisted therapy as a healing option or you have a background with horses or in psychotherapy and would like to familiarize yourself with this work I recommend a visit to their websites to get started.

Certainly there are other practitioners in the emerging field of therapeutic healing with horses. Many programs are adapted to provide specialized leadership training, while others are tailored to help troubled youth and prison inmates, and still others are designed to address issues of abuse. For many years special “riding for the disabled programs” have been integral to helping the physically-challenged gain a sense and awareness of their own bodies in a way that conventional physical therapy cannot.

Dorothy and BearOver the years horses have evolved from farm and war machines to recreational and healing partners. All the better for them ~ and us ~ as long as we proceed with awareness and don’t abuse this privilege.

I’m presently contemplating taking my journey of awareness to the next level by working with a qualified equine therapy practitioner in my area to address some lingering post-traumatic stress issues. This came at the recommendation of my new GP who practices Integrative Medicine. I just about fell out of my chair when she suggested, during our first meeting last fall, that I explore this healing option.

Life is an ongoing journey and for years I believed my survival depended on me going it alone.

The horse ~ my horse ~ and the amazing people drawn into my life because of him, have taught me to believe otherwise.

A horse is never “just a horse.”

~*~

If you’re interested in learning more about the magic of healing with horses, check out the links below and other resources on the internet.

Further Resources

Horse Therapy Helps People Surmount Personal Obstacles (Toronto Star)

Horses4Heroes

National Association for Equine Facilitated Wellness (Canada)

PATH International

FEEL Alumni

EAGALA

 

~*~

And now for something completely different …

 

onelovelyblogawardMy thanks to Ivy of Ivy_Mosquito|Love is free for nominating “Musings of a Horse Mom” for the One Lovely Blog Award. Ivy is a more recent follower of my horse mom musings and I’m touched that she has been so quick to pin a  ribbon to my wall. Thank you, Ivy.

Seven things you won’t know about me (and Bear):

  1. Bear receives a lavender aromatherapy facial massage at the end of every grooming session. Yeah, okay, I spoil him rotten. The fact is it’s a habit I started the first day he became mine. I wanted him always to be able to associate me with a pleasant experience, no matter what. He really enjoys it. 😉
  2. Bear’s bridle and dressage saddle are both Canadian-made by master craftsman Martin York of York Saddlery and Harness. I can highly recommend his incredible work.
  3. I’m OCD about Bear’s polo bandages and my shirt matching or at least complimenting each other. Coordination is king!
  4. Bear’s bit is a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra Loose Ring Snaffle. I’ve used nothing else and he loves chewing on it.
  5. Bear has no vices … okay, he may enjoy his carrots just a little too much. 😉
  6. I always wear a helmet when I ride. My preferred brand is Charles Owen.
  7. Hat hair is the bane of my existence, but I’d rather be safe than sport the perfect coif. 😉

Here are seven lovely blogs I nominate for the One Lovely Blog award.

 Apronhead Lilly

Living Soulful

Building a Life of Hope

Capital Cowgirl

Crazy Train to Tinky Town

Horse Listening

Virginia Views

Thank you to all who follow and “like” this blog. It means a lot to me that I can touch souls through my musings about life with my horse and beyond.

Nurture what you love and enjoy the ride!

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Remember Who You Are

 

~*~

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

 ~*~

Since moving to the new barn almost four months ago I haven’t had much to say about training. It’s been a rather intense period of re-configuring my relationship with the world equine, and often when you’re in the midst of something like this and you can’t see the light for the tunnel you’re travelling in, it can be an impossible task to describe the experience to others. These moments are deeply personal and life-altering and the moments must be fully lived in to reap the benefit.

I am aware that not all readers here are horse people. Still, the lessons of life ~ whether you learn them with reins, rigging or a nine iron in your hand ~ are universal. It’s the language of whatever we have identified as our passion that will speak the magic words of life’s meaning to us. It is up to each of us to pay attention. So, while endeavouring to grasp the language of the horse as interpreted by my new trainer, I’ve been doing my best to pay attention and take it all it in. Of course, there are plenty of old ideas to release before the new ones can take hold. I’m learning to forget who I was told to be and am finally getting a profound glimpse of who I am (never mind remembering.)

Being a “woman of a certain age” already managing the baggage that particular trip to self-awareness brings, this is no mean feat.

Finally I’m seeing beyond the limitations others had established throughout my life and am moving into a more expansive, authentic way of being. My awakening horse, the new nurturing barn environment and a trainer and yes, barn owner, who support my potential and judge me not by my past, have already, in just four short months, made such a huge difference.

There certainly have been, and continue to be, struggles, of course. One cannot extricate oneself from old patterns of behaviour and belief without profound moments of discomfort, doubt, sorrow and trepidation. Change means challenge, but being stuck in a frustrating and debilitating rut is, as far as I’m concerned, far less desirable.

There are moments when I wonder why Bear and I had to wait so long for this opportunity to expand. But then I remind myself that everything unfolds as it should and bemoaning what was only uses up whatever precious energy is available to enjoy what is.

The fact is, timing and preparation met opportunity. Bear’s current home, as it is now, didn’t even exist 18 months ago, and I was not ready to take this step. The cosmic tumblers hadn’t fallen into place. Last November things began to click and the transition from old barn to new happened in less than a month once I’d made up my mind to move.

Yes, life unfolds as it should; things happen when they’re meant to; when the student is ready the teacher will appear. Truth in abundance.

But enough philosophizing.

The reason this has come up is that last Thursday I was almost ready to put away my riding boots for good …

Any equestrian with a true passion for their sport and a love for their horse(es) will tell you that there are days when the effort just doesn’t seem worth the reward. You have an off day. The horse has an off day. You both have an off day at the same time. Conditions are too cold; hot; wet. There are so many variables. A horse has a mind of its own and on any given day he might just tune out and leave you feeling like you’re sitting on a brick wall for all the connection you have. Getting doggedly through these moments without berating yourself for being a crap rider and having a meltdown can be a challenge at times. Riding horses effectively and sympathetically isn’t all happy trails and fairy tales. It’s mentally, physically, emotionally, financially and, for many riders I know, spiritually challenging.

And just to set the record straight, not all horse people are sitting on piles and piles of cash. Many make great sacrifices to ensure the health and safety of their animals and to pursue their passion. Still, I’m happy to sacrifice a pair of fashionable shoes that’ll last me a season for a training session in classical riding with a Master instructor that’ll last me a lifetime. Prioritizing what’s truly important is all part of the experience. Is that not a life lesson?

So, getting back to Thursday, in spite of the fact Bear and I have made great progress during the previous almost four months I felt, on that miserable day, as if we were going backwards. He wasn’t moving off my leg. He wasn’t paying attention. He wouldn’t walk down the lovely lane by the pond we’d conquered the week before. And he wasn’t being particularly nice about any of it. It was old stuff ~ old stuff I thought we’d left behind. Bear was being a bear, and I was frustrated.

I blame some of this on his hierarchal arguments in the paddock. He’s established himself as alpha out there, so possibly he was laying a challenge for me. In the end I made it work but honestly, it felt like any progress since our move had been lost. It was one of those two-steps back kind of days. Argh!!!

After a few moments of weepy frustration (as we equestrians are wont to do at such times) I decided that rather than get mad I’d get even. Instead of riding, which I had no desire to do anyway, I would school Bear on the lunge line.

The lunge work, with Bear in side reins, helps him engage pushing power from behind and get him stretching over his top line and into the contact, which he generally finds creative ways to avoid. No contact, no connection. Just 10 minutes in both directions was enough to achieve the desired result. Bear’s a smart horse. He picks up on cues and signals quickly when I work with him on the ground.

Now, if only I could engage that in the saddle.

After our excellent lunging session I walked Bear, in-hand, down the lane past the bank barn, past the pond, over the bridge, back over the bridge, past the pond up the lane way past the bank barn and back to his stall. He was such a good boy. The more I can get him used to this routine the more enjoyable it will be for both of us. My intention is to get out in the fields and ride this summer, not spend every day in the hot sand ring so, he must learn to be brave.

The next step in this little remedial moment was for Stefan to ride Bear on Saturday.

Stefan rides Bear past the scary pond ...

Stefan rides Bear past the scary pond …

Stefan riding Bear is like Wayne Gretzky manoeuvring a hockey puck across the ice ~ effortless and intuitive. For an hour or so I watched as Bear was put through his paces by this great horseman. I watched closely the master’s technique. The pace and rhythm he created. Bear went so beautifully for him. Sure, my horse needs to continue to build strength from behind, but he was putty in the gentle master’s hands. I can hardly wait to see the difference a few months from now. 😉

Hands together and stationed just above the withers seems to be the most important thing I can remember right now. My hands have a tendency to get a bit busy. This impedes our connection and allows Bear to be evasive. Imagine if you’re driving a car and you keep moving the steering wheel unnecessarily ~ you’d be all over the road, right? Busy hands create confusion for the horse. A proper connection cannot be established like this. If I don’t commit to stillness, he can’t commit to straightness. It’s quite simple.

So, Sunday I took Bear out for a spin, determined to duplicate what I had witnessed the day before. My experience was night and day compared to Thursday. No, it wasn’t perfect, but working from a higher level of awareness and with my boy tuned up I felt like I was on the moon! This continued into my lesson on Monday, my coach and I quite encouraged by the profound progress made in just one week.

Of course, it’s one thing to find the connection but another thing altogether to maintain it …

This will come with time and practice. For one thing, both Bear and I need to rebuild our endurance. During the last couple of years, with adrenal fatigue my miserable companion, my stamina all but disappeared. I’ve been feeling better these days so I’m hoping that over the coming months I can, through riding and twice-weekly Pilates sessions and more walking, build this up again. I still need to manage my energy stores carefully. Pushing myself beyond endurance creates an energy deficit that my body can only manage by foreclosing for 24 hours. Still, I am stronger and this is most encouraging.

For Bear’s part, he’s on all-day turnout with his buddy, Dream, and the paddocks are large and rolling, so he gets plenty of exercise when I’m not around. That, and the new work we’re doing, will make him plenty strong.

Apart from that, this classical style of riding requires the creation of new muscle memory in mind and body. Building that takes time, effort and practice.

So, while things looked pretty bleak on Thursday it was, in fact, a pivotal day. And now, we rest for a few days to replenish our resources.

It’s said that things are always darkest before the dawn. It’s also said that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Crossing the threshold to a new way of being can be a tough and miserable business. However, with the appropriate, knowledgeable help and a determination to get through the rough patches, the transition of old ways of thinking to new and the adoption of fresh ideas that more deeply resonate with our personal truths can mark a glorious beginning and reclamation of self.

Putting away my riding boots for good would not have been the answer. Symbolically, however, I traded in the beat-up steppers for a sturdier pair, tailor-made for striding positively, purposefully and powerfully into a future where I finally get a chance to remember, be, and embrace who I am.

Bear SmilesAnd all because of a horse.

What helps you to remember who you are?

Nurture what you love.

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014