Things Are Getting Silly Now … and a Sonnet

Meeting Lucky

Bear meets his lucky charm for the first time …

~*~

For good or ill things are getting silly now. Probably for good since a little bit of levity is a welcome change and living in the doldrums is no fun at all.

It’s week three ~ some 24 days into Bear’s treatment for an injured lateral suspensory ligament ~ and with the dust finally beginning to settle, finding stimulating ways to amuse ourselves in the depths of frigid winter is high on our list of priorities.

Thankfully, Bear continues to be cooperative and sensible during his convalescence, and the comic side of his character is once again taking centre stage. (Or perhaps I’m simply able to see it again. Amazing what happens when you open your eyes.)

During our most recent hand walking excursions, with the arena sound system set to the classical music station and Bear now on free walk (I believe the fact that his blanket stays on while we do our walkabout helps him to understand this is not an opportunity to go running off steam) he’s been following me around like a happy puppy dog. And, just like the proverbial hound out for a walk with his/her mistress, within minutes of our perambulation he leaves me a special delivery, which I then dutifully clean up under his expert supervision. After making a deposit in the bucket at Poo Corner, we continue our walkabout, and while I hum along to Mozart or Thomas Tallis or whoever, Bear ambles behind me, gently running his nose back and forth along the fake furry fringe of the hood on my winter overcoat. He’s ever so tactile.

Lately Bear’s been learning how to bow

Learning to bow has come about as a natural result of the carrot stretches I’ve been integrating into our daily walks to help keep him bendy.

Bear is a fast learner, so teaching him to bow has been easy. (He’s also rather motivated by the promise of an orange root veggie reward.) Being the smart apple he is, he’s taken this exercise one step further and bows without prompting.

For instance, we’ll be engaged in our walkabout (we walk dressage test patterns to cure the monotony) when I’ll sense he’s stopped somewhere behind me. I turn around.

“What’s going on, Bear?” I’ll ask with some amusement.

He’ll give me a knowing look with those big, baby browns and then gaze down at his front feet, one of which will be placed forward of the other. Next thing I know he’s bowing for me. Forgive me … for the carrot he knows is padding my pocket.

Bowing

Carrot, please …

 ~*~

Oh, my goodness … he’s so cute! And just for a moment I’ll forget this wretched injury vortex in which we’re holed up and simply revel in this touching moment of joy we share.

Of course, he’s rewarded for his effort and initiative, and then I make sure to move him forward quietly so he understands the moment is ended. (Otherwise we might be stuck there for some time while he demonstrates his bowing prowess by constantly switching which leg he brings forward and bowing and repeating. … Gosh, I hope I haven’t created a monster.) As we continue his free walk, we stop to practice his bowing for as many carrot pieces as I have left in my pocket. He’s always wander struck when my pocket is finally empty.

Still, twenty minutes of hand walking goes quickly when interspersed with a little silliness accompanied by classical music.

At least we finish with smiles.

Speaking of smiles … doing so on command is next on the trick roster. I’ll keep you posted.

And now … a Word from Poet’s Paddock

Meditation 2

Shakespeare musing …

~*~

Naturally, Poet’s Paddock is empty these days, but Poet’s Stall doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Still, Shakespeare (Bear’s registered name and creative alter ego) has had plenty of time to contemplate his navel and conjure some poetic fluff.

As many of you know, dear Shakespeare has a penchant for poetic rumination (visit PoetsPaddock for more) and from time to time I have been known to indulge his flights of fancy in this blog.

Herewith a sensitive rendering from our equine muse, transcribed, of course, by yours truly …

~*~

Sonnet XXVII

One hundred days and twenty in this stall
To rest and watch as others’ worlds go by.
And restless though I be as bouncing ball
More sad I am to hear my mother sigh.
Though side by side this journey now we trace
Our joys and sorrows cannot be the same
Tis not t’ward a finish line we race
For she is well and I, perchance, am lame.

Neigh, step by step while on this pitted path
Together wobble we this journey scorned,
Still in our hearts we harbour little wrath
For out of battles victories are born.
And though the days seem long and move e’er slow
This too shall pass, and to new heights we’ll grow.

~*~

 So, there you have it. This week is a little more light hearted, a little silly, and I pray this will continue to be the case as we move forward with Bear’s recovery. It is, perhaps, how we’ll be able to maintain our sanity during this dormant period.

As mentioned in my last post I’ve learned to acknowledge that this is, perhaps, an opportunity for further healing on my part as well. Little signs along the way are showing me this is, indeed, the case. I miss riding, make no mistake, but the intense cold makes it easier for me to focus on what’s really important right now and that’s the healing journey. I’m putting my faith in the process. Perhaps at the end of this Bear and I will come out stronger than ever and life will open up even more than I imagined.

I’m hopeful.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Going With The Flow

 

Shadow~*~

It’s day 18/120.

A little over two weeks have passed since Bear’s injured suspensory diagnosis and things seem to be progressing well. Thankfully, my emotional roller coaster has levelled out as I’ve become more accepting of this unexpected turn of events. I’ve also gained a better understanding of shock.

One thing I’ve learned from this experience is that we should never underestimate the impact of shock, no matter how minor we consider it to be. Shock disorients and unbalances us in all kinds of insidious ways, impairs thought processes and wears us down. Allowing the dust to settle during a time of personal crisis is crucial before we make important decisions if we’re to live without regret.

Of course, Bear doesn’t really make decisions … he simply goes with the flow ~ something I can still afford to do better. He’s has managed to settle into the new routine without all the drama. He is perfectly content, while in his confinement, to amuse, and be amused ~ eating, sleeping, engaging in Jim Carrey-like facial contortions. He’s accepted his lot ~ a reminder for me to do the same ~ to go with the ebb and flow of life and be with what is; to respond to events appropriately as they happen and then, as the proverbial contented horse, go back to grazing. It’s a challenging lesson, to be sure, but here’s Bear, in his wisdom, showing me the way. I always knew he was more than just another handsome face.

For me, as always, personal awareness is key. While I struggle with old issues triggered by the shock of Bear’s injury I realize that to face them head on and deal with them mindfully is the best possible course of action. In an odd kind of way, Bear’s convalescence is giving me yet another opportunity to heal some old emotional wounds and, as an added bonus, get appropriate rest as well. Healing, emotional or otherwise, takes energy and can be tiring. So, we need rest.

Let’s see … there are only nine-and-a-half weeks of this course of treatment left (but who’s counting?). A quick calculation tells me May 6 marks the beginning of the next stage, whatever that happens to be. That’s well into the spring. Thus, as I gaze into my crystal ball I foresee Bear and I languishing in hibernation mode, getting lots of rest. 😉

So, that’s the scheme of things for now. I don’t have another horse to ride at the moment, so my option is forced R&R with Bear. There’s no point in bemoaning something that cannot be changed. Life happens and, as my dear boy keeps reminding me, it’s best just to get on with it as best you can … and smile.

The Routine …

Naturally, we’ve developed a new routine and it appears to be working well.

In the mornings before I arrive, Bear helps ~ a loose interpretation to be sure ~with the chores. He gets rotated between stalls (for a change of scenery) while the barn is being cleaned and, being the enterprising equine he is Bear finds all kinds of opportunities to make himself useful. Cleaning up residual grain in his buddies’ feed tubs and scarfing remnant hay are his first priority. He hates wastage.

By 11 a.m. or so, his arduous tasks complete, Bear’s back in the comfort of his own freshly cleaned stall, indulging in a generous helping of hay plunged into the depths of the nibble net he’s borrowing from his generous buddy, Midas.

By the time I arrive (around noon) Bear’s almost finished his morning hay ration or is lost in a mid-day snooze. We say our hellos and then head into the arena for a little hand walking which, as I’ve discovered, can be considered more entertainment than exercise. Sure, he gets to stretch his legs, but more importantly he can gaze admiringly at his reflection in the mirror, or play follow the leader, or hunt for carrots in my pocket. The possibilities are endless. Eventually, when the weather warms up and the ice melts, we’ll be able to go outside for a toodle, but for now these moments of mirth and perambulation indoors must be our lot.

After 10-15 minutes of freezing our butts off, we head back to the barn for his daily grooming ritual, complete with more carrots and the occasional wintergreen mint. He likes those. As well, his bandages are changed, his hay net refilled, his stall picked clean, his water topped up and, oh yes, a heaping handful of yummy orange root vegetables are left in his feed bin.

Not spoiled at all.

The Perfect Day … New Shoes and a Massage

Who wouldn’t like a fancy new pair of shoes and a massage to brighten up a cold winter’s day?

Who indeed? (sigh …)

Monday was not my day for a pedicure and a back rub. It was Bear’s.

As luck would have it his appointments with the farrier and REMT just happened to fall on the same day.

Egg-zactly what the doctor ordered …

Proper hoof care is important, and perhaps even more when a leg injury is involved. Even though Bear’s right hind suspensory is bandaged 24/7 for the duration of his 120-day confinement, it requires extra support to aid healing. The egg-bar shoe, which Dr. Maggie, Bear’s attending vet from McKee Pownall Veterinary Services prescribed as part of his treatment, is designed specifically for this purpose.

As the name might suggest, this shoe is egg-shaped. It fits onto the hoof like any other shoe, however part of it juts out behind to help take pressure off injured suspensory ligaments.

Naturally, Bear enjoyed having his back feet trimmed and measured, and his new custom loafers properly fitted. He’s simply loves the attention. For my part, it was when Farrier Tim asked if the snow pads should be left under Bear’s front shoes (and I said no because, of course, Bear won’t be going outside until the ice and snow are a fading memory) that the rehab road ahead took on the appearance of a winter prairie highway … endless into the horizon. (I try not to think about it.)

Oh, well. At least Bear now has the shoes for the journey.

… and a massage, just because …

About an hour after his pedicure Bear was happily in massage mode. Floppy-eared, soft-eyed, and as zoned into this gentle muscle manipulation as anyone could be. Maybe I need to book one of these for myself … hmmmm.

spa time

 

So, what about a little pampering for this Horse Mom?

Yes, indeed. What about it?

Between the six-month Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning certification program in which I participated the last half of 2014 (an amazing learning and healing experience) and this proverbial blow to the solar plexus things have been pretty intense of late. A change of scenery is definitely in order. Figuring out what that is, where it’s going to be and organizing it is another matter.

My biggest challenge is that living with adrenal fatigue for the past three years has, out of necessity, made my world quite small. My life has been at home and at the barn, with the occasional accompanied trip abroad which I always had to manage carefully. This experience provided me with great insight on recovery time and maintaining a low profile while the body does what it needs to heal. Still, now that I’m feeling more robust I want to expand my comfort zone again. Just how to do this without overwhelming my still recovering nervous system is the pressing question.

I expect I’ll be asking similar questions once Bear starts into work again in a few months. How much can I push him without risking re-injury to that suspensory? See … we are not so different.

It’s all about mindfulness, of course, and being open. As I’ve said before, things invariably unfold as they should and it’s been my experience that going with the flow is always a good practice. Doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it does work. Just ask Bear, my going-with-the-flow guru.

Nurture what you love,

Dorothy
Horse Mom

P.S. Yesterday Bear had his second round of shock wave therapy. While it’s too early to tell if there’s been an improvement in his injured suspensory we can say for certain that his condition is stable. (Hahahaha … 🙂 )

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

 

My Horse; My Mirror ~ A Year In Review

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw

~*~

How I have changed

My 2014 journey has been filled with highs and lows, ups and downs and many blesséd “Aha!” moments.

With my new coach I am catching a glimpse of myself as the rider I always wanted to be ~ confident, skilled and aware. No limitations on where I might go. No one telling me I’d “never be able to ride” my horse at a higher level because “I couldn’t handle it.” Since this coach’s mandate is to teach skills to the rider that are of ultimate benefit to the horse, he is dedicated to instilling in me correct classical dressage principles. I now feel like riding is something in which I might thrive instead of merely survive. The difference in just a year is profound. I have never felt more in tune with my horse.

Hands

~*~

Coupled with this new lease on my riding life, of course, is everything I learned by participating in the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) certification program this year. Talk about a life changer!

I can say, unequivocally, that I am NOT the person I was when I started the FEEL course at the end of June. My past no longer haunts me the way it did. The self-defeating beliefs that had sabotaged my life no longer have their strangle-hold on me. I understand my Self and the burden of trauma I’ve been carrying my entire life ~ trauma that I have learned to release so that I can live more fully in the moment and with a vibrant sense of well being. A happy side effect is that my overall health has greatly improved. Adrenal fatigue seems a fading memory, though the lessons it taught about self-care are now a fixture in my life and I continue to nurture my Self accordingly.

The FEEL journey wasn’t easy, this is true, but it was so worth it. And I’m grateful to my fellow graduates, the course facilitators and, of course, the wonderful herd of therapy horses who made the healing journey that changed my life a safe, exciting and rewarding experience. An experience that has opened my mind and heart and given me the freedom to live my truth instead of the illusion I’d known.

Yes, I have changed. I’m happy in a way I’ve never been happy. Confident in a way I’ve never been confident. And engaged with life in a way I’ve never felt engaged before.

How Bear has changed

Well, I didn’t think it was possible for my beautiful boy to become any more beautiful but this year he certainly has. He’s blossomed!

When we arrived at the new barn a year ago today, he was going little better than an old school horse ~ weak behind; not accepting the contact; a four-beat canter and arguing with me with each transition. I didn’t see it then, but a year in review and everything I have learned shows me the ugly truth. I’m sure my new coach must have looked at us and wondered what on earth he was getting into. But he never judged us. He simply accepted the challenge and has, by all accounts, turned Bear’s (and my) life around.

Bear today

~*~

I knew going in that working with a riding master of the German school was going to be a treat for me, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what a profound journey it would prove for Bear.

The new coach has been giving Bear the training he needs to be the horse he was bred to be. There is still much to learn, of course, but as demonstrated during Monday’s coaching Bear is moving straighter, using his back more effectively, is sound in the hind end, has a three-beat canter and is happy in his work (as indicated by his soft eye and gorgeous floppy ears.) I have had Bear for nearly nine years now and I can honestly say I have never seen him so relaxed. He loves working with Stefan and he is much happier with me now that I’m “getting” it.

DozingNaturally, all this learning has proven a challenge for my dear boy. It’s been a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back kind of year. Bear would make progress and then be off for a while as his body adjusted to the new, correct way of going. He needed his rest. Visits from his vet, dentist, chiropractor and massage therapist have all helped him to negotiate his way through this learning curve and, I’m pleased to say, his state of mind throughout has been open, trusting and receptive. I’m so proud of him!

As well, he has benefited from my involvement in the FEEL program. I am more aware of my communications with him in general and he appreciates it. Instead of telling him what we’re doing I ask him if he’d like to participate. This encourages me to be more present and get a sense of how he’s feeling before just launching into something. It’s a more consciously intuitive connection than before, even though I have done my best, in the past, to practice awareness with him. It’s just more so now.

Bear has also proven to me time and again that he’s a happy soul. He’s had numerous paddock buddies this year and demonstrated a friendly open nature with all of them. With Tango, his present roomy, he’s quite conciliatory and gentle sensing, it seems, that Tango’s current leg injury requires quiet paddock time. It’s lovely to watch them interact. They could be brothers they’re so similar in temperament and stature.

Yes, Bear has changed. He’s happy in a way he’s never been happy. Confident in a way he’s never been confident. And engaged with life in a way he’s never felt engaged before.

My horse ~ my mirror.

~*~

Dorothy and BearI like George Bernard Shaw’s quote (above) because it is truth.

None of the progress I have made this year would have been possible without a willingness to change my mind and open my heart to new possibilities ~ for my Self and for Bear. And it certainly would not have been achieved without the support of my husband, my therapist, my FEEL family and fabulous new friends and mentors at the new barn. There are not enough words to express the gratitude in my heart for the incredible journey and time of personal growth the year 2014 has been for me.

And now, thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to share in my journey. It means a lot to me to have your support as I write about meaningful times with Mr. Bear.

Who know what 2015 will bring. Based on my experience of 2014, I am optimistic … and I wish the same for you.

May you enjoy a blessed, prosperous and ever so happy new year!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

One Journey Ends … Another Begins

Noble Bear

Shakespeare … aka Bear

 ~*~

 A few months ago I began the journey of a life time.

No, it wasn’t to some foreign land out there.

It was to an exotic place of mystery and richness residing in me.

~*~

During my passage I’ve kept a pretty low profile on this blog. It wasn’t because I had nothing to say; nothing to share. It was simply, in my mind, inappropriate to turn this into a travel log of my adventures on this intense journey; a journey ripe with personal revelation.

Processing and integrating the facilitated equine experiential learning material was not just about absorbing the content I plan to facilitate as a practitioner of this incredible healing modality. Rather, it was also another huge step along the path to my own healing. Every new port of knowledge provided an opportunity for me to check in with where I am in my life. Profound moments of self-discovery; “A-ha!” moments around every corner delighted and despaired and delighted again. The healing heart energy of these magnificent creatures who, by their very being, can’t help but be enormous catalysts for personal awareness and change if we but open our hearts to this truth, shone a light on my own magnificence and gave me a chance to see more deeply into my truth.

Learning about fields of energy and connection, heart resonance, body language, the messages and power of emotions, and witnessing the healing changes in the lives of those with whom I shared this journey ~ six beautifully spirited women all with a love for the horse and a desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others, horse and human alike ~ has given me a new respect for the power of  this work. All of us stepped into a knowledge of Self that, I dare say, might have been impossible under any other circumstance.

The horses, being non-judgmental, and the sacred space of learning and trust created throughout the three sessions, gave all of us a safe place to explore our inner worlds and integrate the powerful lessons our incredible equine teachers had to share. Cleansing tears; tears of laughter and joy; moments of frustration when a particularly hard lesson presented itself; moments of triumph when the key to an emotional prison finally unlocked and the door swung open to a sense of personal liberation not felt before. Discovering true Self; true personal power and learning how to live in a more authentic and healing way in the world changed us. Changed me.

And through all of this, my relationship with Bear ~ my equine companion of the past nearly nine years ~ grew deeper and more connected. I honour the sentient being and powerful teacher of awareness that he is. Together we have grown; matured; healed. Time in the saddle for us is now more an exercise in synergy than frustration. Supported by our incredible teachers and mentors we have a glimpse of our potential ~ something which a year ago seemed unimaginable.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw

Who I am today is not who I was on June 26, 2014, when I started this journey and boarded the inbound flight. My heart is softer. My mind is more open. My health has improved. My ability to take life as it comes has blossomed. I am getting better at accepting the process of life. I am kinder to myself. This doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of frustration, et al, but I am able to pass through them more quickly and come out the other side feeling more optimistic and grounded. Bad days; hours; minutes happen. Learning how not to dwell on these times has been a major lesson indeed. Having the support of my therapist, my mentor and the horses has made all the difference in the world.

Equine experiential learning has changed my life, and I am excited to see, now, what the future holds.

~*~

So, what’s next?

That remains to be seen. I have a vision for this work that requires a farm, a suitable herd of horses and kindred human spirits. We shall see how, and when, that materializes. In the meantime, I continue to practice with Bear and increase and improve my knowledge. As well, I have started a new blog/website dedicated to my experience of this work. Somewhere I can explore themes and share what I, and others in the world of equine experiential learning, have gleaned. It is, like me, a work in progress.

Cor Equus is Latin for “heart of the horse.” I have combined the two words and given my practice the name CorEquus. From the heart of the horse emerges the reflection of who we are. By way of the horse we can find our truth and begin to heal. Here is the link to CorEquus.

Musings of a Horse Mom, on the other hand, will return to being Bear-centric ~ a more light-hearted look at horse-worldly things.

Who knows where the road will lead. As I announced to my mentors and the group on December 2, graduation day, my heart and mind are open; my faith in myself restored. Basically, the sky’s the limit.

~*~

In closing, direct from Poet’s Paddock, a missive courtesy of
Shakespeare “the Equine”

Sonnet XIII

To break out of one’s box, if truth be told,
Is not for faint of heart consumed with fear.
One must desire change; one must be bold
For new and wondrous blessings to appear.
And to this end one day did I aspire
Embarking on a journey from my slump
And from my ember rose into a fire
Where I didst gladly test myself and jump.

With wings of Pegasus o’er fence I flew
As heart didst bound with each and every stride
And burning fire from timid ember grew
Til I no longer could my spirit hide.
Hence when into my stall for rest I leapt
My heart no longer faint thus soundly slept.

~*~

My considerable thanks to those of you who follow this blog and who have, during the past few months, offered words of support and encouragement. It means the world.

May the world be yours.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

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 

 

The Gentleman’s Club

Managing the herd dynamic is one of the top priorities at any barn. Horses, like people, are predisposed to like and dislike others according to their own personality and character.

While horses will identify their own pecking order, it is important for the barn owner to understand their horses well enough to know who should and shouldn’t be turned out together and encouraged to mix. Ensuring the horses are grazing among others of like mind and character is key to reducing the risk of injury and possible upset among the herd.

Bear, as we’ve discovered, is the horse-about-town type. He wants to, and does, get along with everyone. It makes him a natural leader. His experience with Zu Zu is a case in point. Now that she has left, however, we’ve had to find him other friends that share his particular easy-going life philosophy.

For the past three weeks or so he’s been enjoying the company of old campaigner Konnor, and a young FEI dressage prospect, Dream. They’ve been getting along famously. In fact, Dream and Bear are often to be found playing and grazing together as if they’ve been friends for life, while Konnor hovers in the background ready to mediate if needed. He likes the ex officio role ~ doesn’t need to be in charge all the time, but will step in if required.

Bear and Dream share a tender morsel ...

Bear and Dream share a tender morsel …

 

They’re such a polite trio I’ve dubbed them “The Gentleman’s Club.”

Last week a new horse moved into the barn.  Midas, at age 19, is an older fellow and another retired dressage horse. The day after his arrival I was approached  about introducing Midas to our gentlemanly herd. We discussed the proposed change at some length. We knew the established herd was functioning well together, but wondered what would happen if we introduced someone new. Would it alter the dynamic? Would it be a good fit?

Every herd introduction is a social experiment. While J had her own concerns because of past injuries Midas had experienced, she assured us he was a peace-loving horse and, if anything, preferred to keep to himself. Her main concern was that he be in with a quiet group who wouldn’t bully or chase him around.

The facts were this: Konnor is 20 and the paddock peace keeper. Dream is eight and, having had two colic surgeries of his own, needs quiet companionship and civilized play as well as all-day turnout. Bear is 12 and just wants to be everyone’s friend. Taking all of this into consideration, a well as Midas’ disposition, we agreed there was little harm in seeing if they would get along. After all, you don’t know if something is going to work until you give it a go. So, Midas was introduced into The Gentleman’s Club.

As Bear was still enjoying his after-ride grooming session, Midas met the other two members first.

It is normal, when introducing horses to each other for the first time, to witness a cacophony of squeals and grunts and screams as necks arch and noses touch in greeting. It’s all part of the initial interview. There’s the occasional pawing at the ground and some ear pinning too but, if all goes well, this is the extent of the discussion.

By the time I lead Bear to the paddock it was apparent that Midas had passed muster. But Bear and Midas still had to meet.

While Bear was  lead into the paddock I grabbed my camera and documented his interaction with the potential new club member.

Herewith my interpretation, in words and pictures, of Midas’ admission interview with Bear.

 ~*~

Hello, Midas. My name is Shakespeare, but you can call me Bear ...

“Hello, Midas. My name is Shakespeare, but you can call me Bear …”

~*~

Now, then ... let's get a closer look at you ...

“Now, then … let’s get a closer look at you …”

 ~*~

Now, the other side, if you please ...

“That’s good. Now, the other side, if you please …”

~*~

 

(I like him so far, mom ...)

(So far so good, mom …)

~*~

 

Here, let me show you the water barrel ...

“Now, if you’ll come this way, I’ll show you the club’s water barrel …”

~*~

Uh huh, you're good over here too ...

“Just so you know, it’s first come, first serve after me, buddy …”

~*~

Now, over here is club hay ...

“And over here we have some of the club’s select hay. Over here, I said …”

~*~

Good, good ... I like what I'm seeing. Your patience shall be rewarded ...

“Thanks for waiting. Your manners are excellent. I like that …”

~*~

Please ... help yourself ...

“Please, try some for yourself. Do note its superior quality …”

~*~

Here ... let me help you ...

“Here, let me help you with that …”

~*~

"Thank you," says Midas ...

“No need to thank me just yet … “

~*~

"I like him, boys, what do you think?"

“I like him, boys, what do you think?”

~*~

Admission granted ...

Admission granted …

~*~

The interview took all of 10 minutes and we watched in awe as it all unfolded. J said she’d never seen Midas relax so quickly into a group.

Well, it is The Gentleman’s Club after all. 😉

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

Waking Up Is Hard To Do …

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

~Albert Einstein.

~*~

Just over three months ago Bear and I made a major change in our lives by moving to another barn.

The shift in awareness for us both has been dramatic. It’s almost as if we are awakening, finally getting to see our truth in the light of day. In fact, I even joked the other day that Bear is coming out of hibernation!

And I feel like Sleeping Beauty kissed awake into a new realm of magical possibility.

All the romance aside, waking up is hard to do. Life can be so overwhelming for many of us that we learn to numb ourselves to the day-to-day adopting, however unwittingly, a disassociated state just to get by. As a result we don’t feel present in our experiences and our lives,  and when we look back all we see is a blur. I know this to be true, for it is my experience.

To be awakened, no matter how gently, has the potential to wreak inner havoc. However, if we are to be free of the over-shadowed life we must wake up and step into the light, even though it’s bound to be a bit disorienting for a while.

Wake up! Wake up!

The real life metaphor of this for me was watching a “broken” horse find his spirit again in the training theatre of Canadian natural horsemanship trainer, Chris Irwin.

The beautiful quarter horse palomino was docile and well-mannered. Ground tie him, i.e. attach a rope to his halter and just let it drop to the ground, and he’d stand there quietly, unmoving and disinterested in the world around him, just waiting for whatever was to happen next. He’d been so well “broken” that the light in his eyes had all but disappeared. The equine equivalent of a human zombie, I’d say. His owners, who’d recently purchased him and were concerned about his malaise, had brought him to the training session to see if the light could be restored to those big brown eyes. They wanted to give the poor animal a chance to feel like a horse again.

Cream-Coloured Pony

Be the free spirit you were born to be …

Witnessing the transformation in this horse over the three-day session was awe inspiring. Through measured and controlled groundwork and round-pen exercises Chris, and those of us who had an opportunity to work with the horse under his supervision, was able to help awaken the horse to a more authentic way of being. It was one of the most miraculous things I witnessed while training with this great horseman.

The journey to awareness for that horse was not easy, however. Even under these protective and nurturing circumstances the horse was confused and acted out. The notion of “awakening” was a scary prospect. However, by the end of the three-day experience obvious gains had been made. The horse was more animated and more engaged with the world around him.

The interesting thing for me was that as I observed the transformation in this beautiful golden horse I recognized the need for such a change in my own life. It’s when I began to realize the depth of my own broken spirit. It was another sign it was time for me to seek help and step into my own light.

Changing is never easy. It’s why most people choose to avoid it. But I believe that every time we resist the opportunity to heal and expand our lives in some way we entrap ourselves, and those with whom we interact on a daily basis, in an endless cycle of misery.

Waking up is hard to do, but it must be done if we are to realize, like the beautiful palomino, a chance to see ourselves, and the world, from the vantage point of our truth.

~*~

The Ultimate All-Terrain Vehicle

This week I unearthed an old project as I was cleaning out Bear’s file.

A few years ago I had a little fun with his official passport picture and created my take on the ultimate all-terrain vehicle. Sadly, the original image is not on this computer so I was reduced to photographing the printed copy with my iPhone and uploading it. The image is a bit fuzzy, but I hope you can get the gist of it. If you click on the image and enlarge it helps.

One Horsepower Has It All

One Horsepower Has It All

This leads me to share how Bear’s all-terrain capacity was put to the test earlier this week when we went hacking for the first time this year. After a grim winter riding in circles in the indoor arena it was, I hoped, to be a gentle awakening to a new experience.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve done plenty of hacking in my life but not much in recent years, and together Bear and I have certainly never done anything like this.

We accompanied a small group into the rolling back fields where a course of cross-country jumps resides. Before embarking on our new adventure, however, we worked in the arena for about 40 minutes to take the edge off.

I felt confident enough and figured if not now, when? Sooner or later Bear and I were going to need to expand our comfort zone. So, in single file with Bear the last in line, we headed downhill along a tree-lined lane way which passes by the old bank barn. In the summer months this is a really pretty spot of dappled sunlight. Right now, however, the lane is a mess of mud and melting snowy slush punctuated with tangled, fallen timber, remnants of December’s horrible ice storm.

Bear was a brave boy as he baby-stepped his way down the unfamiliar hill.  And, while he was attentive to me I hoped he would also feed off the confidence of the three horses ahead of us.

The lane to the pond lies to the left of the bank barn. A snow bank blocks the way. Jerome is in the paddock. This image taken in January.

The lane to the pond lies to the left of the bank barn. A snow bank blocks the way. Jerome is in the paddock. This image taken in January.

 

At the bottom of the hill and to the right of the path we passed a pond which is presently still frozen, and to the left an abandoned paddock awaiting its rebirth as a turnout space for retirees. The paddock fence ends at a river bank that cradles a small stream which, at present, is swollen with spring run-off.  This was all new to Bear. By his timid steps I could tell he was bravely facing his confusion. He wasn’t necessarily upset, but like anyone facing the unfamiliar, he was proceeding (as was I) with caution.

Then came a small wooden foot bridge that crosses the stream.

Bless him, Bear was not so sure about this. The other horses were already on the other side of it when we arrived. The combination of the snaking stream’s hissing, bubbling waters and the sound of hollow footfall over the wooden bridge was almost too much for my darling boy’s warmblood mind. He fretted, backing up and moving sideways, unable to compute the gentle aids I was using to ask him to keep moving forward. There was no point in getting angry or frustrated with him. I wanted this to be a good experience so he’d be happy to come here again. The barn manager called instruction from across the bridge but recognizing our predicament was only getting more stressful, she rode to our rescue so we could follow her over. Almost immediately Bear began to relax and was happy to bump hips with her horse across the bridge, snorting a sigh of relief when we reached the other side.

As we climbed the still snow-covered hill that led up from the stream, I was feeling somewhat intimidated by the soggy terrain. However, I reminded myself that Bear is designed to handle these conditions. All I really needed to do was put him in gear and stay out of his way so he could do what comes naturally … move.

We lagged behind our companions for most of the hack, but every so often someone would turn to see how we were doing and reassure with a smile.

Up and down small undulating hills we went and, at one point, into a little gully where water had pooled fetlock deep. Bear, whose all-season radials prefer drier conditions, put on a brave face and waded boldly through, even while his buddy, Dream, stopped in the middle and pawed and splashed like a happy child in a bath tub. Then, onward we went, past large, fixed obstacles, through the snow, slush, mud, and more big puddles. Bear was alert; curious, but he wasn’t afraid. He simply attuned to me and followed the others while quietly absorbing his surroundings.

Sure, he hesitated a few times while attempting to navigate around puddles and the the deeper snow, but I do believe that overall he rather enjoyed himself. He offered no indication that he was experiencing any undue stress. He was, it seemed to me, happy for the change of pace and scenery.

Soon it was time to turn around and head back to the barn. The hack was only meant to be a taste of what’s awaiting us as the season unfolds. Right now much of the property is still too snow- and ice-bound for exploration anyway.

As we approached the bridge from the opposite direction I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Bear, but being the bright boy he is he took it in stride and happily followed the other horses over the swollen stream and ice-covered pond, up the steep, slushy hill and back to the comfort of the barn.

It was a proud moment for me. Bear stepped up to this new experience beautifully.

Waking up, and expanding our comfort zone, is hard to do. Still, when we land in an environment that promotes growth and surround ourselves with people who care a whole new world can open up for us. An expansion of mind, body and spirit takes place that leaves us feeling stronger, more confident and prepared to take those next defining steps in our lives.

This experience was a lovely, gentle wake up call for both Bear and I.

I love those the best.

 

 ~*~

In the Saddle“Neigh!” Quoth He …

 No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.

~Winston Churchill

 

~*~

Thanks for stopping by.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Pony Potpourri

And now for something completely different …

~*~

“He’s of the colour of the nutmeg. And of the heat of the ginger…. he is pure air and fire; and the dull elements of earth and water never appear in him, but only in patient stillness while his rider mounts him; he is indeed a horse, and all other jades you may call beasts.”

~William Shakespeare, Henry V

~*~

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Deborah, a budding equestrian photographer.

She asked if she could take some photos of Bear and, as you can imagine, I had no problem with that … and neither did he.

Deborah sent me a sample and I’m posting them here for your viewing pleasure.

Enjoy!

~*~

Bear’s and my progress continues. A new level of self-awareness emerges. The act of processing ~ releasing the old and embracing the new, as well as creating new mental, physical and emotional muscle memory ~ can be tiring for both of us but we are growing together in a new way of being which is far more positive and forward focused than we’ve experienced.

Yesterday we went on our first hack in the snow. Yes, if you can believe it I’ve had Bear for almost eight years and finally we went for a ride (albeit a short one) out in the snow.

It’s a brave new world.

~*~

“A horse can lend its rider the speed and strength he or she lacks, but the rider who is wise remembers it is no more than a loan”.

Pam Brown

~*~

Bear and Zu Zu have separated.

Not as tragic as it sounds. Zu’s got girly things going on and Bear doesn’t need to be in the way of one of her mood swings. So, my beautiful boy is now paddock prowling with two new friends ~ Dream and Konnor. The transition has gone well. Everyone is getting along. However, I noticed yesterday that someone had taken a plum-sized chunk of hair and some flesh out of his hip with their teeth. His first battle scar.

I guess they’re still jockeying their hierarchy out there in the paddock, but my guess is he’s the low man on the totem pole. Poor Bear. I don’t really think he cares as long as he gets to eat.

~*~

Why is a horse’s frog called a frog?

A horse actually has four frogs ~ one located at the bottom of each foot on the underside. Its rubbery construct acts as a shock absorber when the horse strikes his foot to the ground. But where did the term frog come from?

Unknown

Source: Wikipedia

Some say it’s called this because of its triangular shape and how this resembles a frog. But I did a little research and found this at The Hoof Project .

“How the horse’s frog acquired its name is somewhat obscure. It seems doubtful that the term was derived from a resemblance to the back of the amphibian. Older English texts refer to the frog as the frush, which is confusing as it indicates that the word may be of German origin where the word for frog is frosch. Alternatively, earlier references indicate that the word for frog is derived from the French word forchetta and/or forchette which are best translated as a “little fork” which, in turn, is used to refer to a fork with only tines. This suggests that the two limbs, or crus, of the frog were thought to resemble the tines of a fork. Technically, the Latin cuneus ungulae describes the concept that the frog is a wedge (cuneus) in the hoof (unglue).”

~*~

“He flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.”

Stephen Leacock

~*~

That was fun!

A bit of a horse hodgepodge, but a change is as good as a rest.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Bear’s Winter Blahs

Spring is just three weeks away but you wouldn’t know it to look out the window or gaze at the forecast. Winter still blows at full blast.

At the barn everyone ~ horse and human alike ~ is bored with it. And I know I’ve never had so much time out of the saddle during the winter months as I’ve had this season. It’s just been so cold.

And, too cold to get out the serious camera.

So, in the last few days I’ve attempted to capture, with my iPhone, some of Bear’s winter blahs.

Presented herewith.

Commentary in Shakespeare’s own words … of course. 😉

~*~

Breath

The breath of winter hath the season chilled.

~*~

Chillin'

And yet, somehow, remaineth I so cool.

~*~

Alone Again

Zu Zu away, alone I am not thrilled.

~*~

Digging In

But bury nose in bucket ~ I’m no fool.

~*~

Carrots

For carrots glow there as a blazing sun,

~*~

View

And with a splendid view my heart might sing.

~*~

Bored

Yet bored, am I, when all is said and done.

~*~

Grass?

The grass is yet not green. When cometh Spring?

~*~

So dramatic. 😉

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Introducing Zu Zu …

Rather than bore you with yet another rant about how miffed I am about yet another dumping of snow interfering with my precious barn time, I thought I’d introduce you to Bear’s new girlfriend. Rather appropriate, don’t you think, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner.

A couple of days ago, when it was finally warm enough to pull out the good camera, I captured a few images of the happy couple out in the rolling paddock behind the barn.

Bear and Zu Zu

They were hanging out by the far fence line, so I called to Bear. He turned his head to acknowledged me and, naturally, when he did, she did.

Zu leads

After a few moments hesitation, where it looked as if it they were discussing whether or not it was worth their while to interrupt their mutual meditation Zu Zu, it seems to me, decided it would be appropriate to make the trek across the snow for a visit. Or, possibly, Bear indicated to her he wanted to see his mom and nudged her along. At any rate, you can see that he’s quite the gentleman allowing Zu to take the lead. Or did she, the alpha mare that she is, just take the lead and he followed? Hmmmm … this is open to debate.

Bear follows

Either way, they trudged happily together through the snow to the gate and, as any gentleman would, Bear stood back to allow his beauty to star in her very own picture.

Zu Zu

Zu Zu is a rising four-year-old mare of the Canadian breed.  She is much smaller than Bear, but what she lacks in stature she more than makes up in attitude. She is the boss and has wrapped herself around Bear’s heart.

And mine. 😉

Nurture what you love  …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, All Rights Reserved 2014