©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018
©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018
Late last week the worst ice storm in recent memory rolled through our area about an hour northwest of Toronto. Downed power lines disrupted hydro service for several days to thousands of people in the local towns and on farms and other rural properties. Trees, large and small, succumbed to the 20mm of ice accretion that accumulated over a 36-hour period. The impact was nothing short of tornadic.
What’s accretion, you may ask? Take a look …
It twinkles like tinsel in the sunlight and gives everything that sparkly Christmas card look, but its effects are deadly. Imagine trees and power lines straining under the enormous weight of cumulative ice over an extended period time until they finally reach a breaking point. Until temperatures rise again the world is a virtual skating rink.
The meteorological masterminds warned on Wednesday that the storm was coming. Of course, all we in the valley hoped they were wrong … as they are so often. Alas …
… as I understand it a Colorado low moved into southern Ontario on Wednesday and clashed with cold winds from the northwest. They butted heads the hardest on Thursday night into Friday which is when all frozen hell broke loose.
Fortunately no people or horses were hurt on our farm, and there was no major structural damage. However, the stress of this brutal weather event played out in other ways. No power meant no water which, with a barn full of horses, is a bit of a problem. Only one water pump out by the paddocks was functional (by force of gravity, we figure), which meant that water had to be manually fetched by bucket for the duration. And not just for the barn, for the housing on the property, as well.
Tree debris was also a major problem. Volunteers, and paid help, came in to clear the high traffic areas cluttered with the fallen willows, maples, birches and pines that had met their icy match.
Words cannot express our gratitude to everyone who pitched in to get the farm through that first difficult day. Due to road closures and icy conditions for most of the day and the fact we live 45 minutes away we weren’t able to help. I would have been useless anyway, as I awoke that morning with a splitting headache which signalled a tipping point for a full-blown adrenal fatigue meltdown if I wasn’t careful.
Saturday presented the first opportunity for my husband and I to walk the property and view the extent of the damage. It was quite disorienting to see the farm in such disarray. Numerous large trees had lost sturdy branches or were completely snapped in half. The hacking trail along the east side of the 20-acre woodland was impassable due to the number of trees that had fallen across the path and into the paddock fence.
As we walked past the ice-laden woods the tinkling and crashing of icicles in frozen symphonic waves snapped, crackled and popped in the air. On every level the scene was so surreal. If ever there was an example of devastating beauty, this was it.
As we investigated another paddock bordered by conifers the scent of distressed pine permeated the air. The fragrance of Christmas a strange counterpoint to a vision of random destruction.
This small garden shed, and a car, took direct hits. Neither were seriously damaged.
Farm ownership is new to us, and I don’t mind telling you that since we took possession of this beautiful property last August it has come with a steep, and expensive, learning curve. We knew the facility had good bones when we bought it, and the grounds appeared, on the surface, to be well kept. However we have since realized that neither was terribly well maintained and we’ve had to invest heavily in repairs and renovations and excavations. Some of this we knew going in. But in the heat of August you don’t expect to find out in a November cold snap that the heating system doesn’t work. And in the dog days of summer you don’t anticipate the barn is going to get flooded in the heavy rains of autumn.
Buyer beware, I suppose. On the one hand I look at these unexpected obstacles as opportunities to get to know the property better while I work to build my equine experiential learning practice. On the other, I just shake my head in wonder.
Acquiring the farm required an enormous leap of faith and was the culmination of a mutual life-long dream to have a place in the country and build a custom home. We are in love with the land and its rolling hills, its lovely woodland, the wildlife and the spiritual peace we feel there. We want to be good stewards of the land; to share it with others who will truly appreciate its beauty, and honour its healing sanctuary. Still, even dreams shape-shift ~ the winds of change blow through offering fresh and unexpected perspective. The challenge is to rise to the occasion and give ourselves permission to see with new eyes. To move beyond the initial disorientation, and locate the silver lining.
Even now as I process our losses and the implications the clean up will have on our budget, I am searching for that silver lining. This requires an open heart and mind, as well as a good deal of faith and patience. I need to continue to live in the moment without being distracted by the drama around me. I need to accept the unexpected and roll with the punches, believing that “everything will be alright in the end ~ and if it isn’t alright it isn’t yet the end.” (Thank you Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for that great quote.)
To finish, an anecdote …
Yesterday, Abbey and I took a short walk to visit the stumpy remains of a crooked, old maple of which I had become rather fond over the months. I wanted a closer look at it as we’ve been thinking about getting a local wood carver to sculpt new life into it. A sort of memorial, I suppose ~ perhaps a rearing horse to symbolize our rising up to meet the challenge of this new path.
As I stood beside the tree stump, which stopped about two feet above my head, I had the urge to hug it. (Yes, I hug trees.) As I held on tightly, I felt droplets of water falling on my face. I looked up to the hovering branches of the surrounding trees, but there was no moisture there. And then I took a closer look at the torn open trunk above my head. Tears of maple sap were trickling down its craggy bark, as if it was weeping. My eyes welled up as I realized this perfectly healthy tree, so cruelly cut down, was still reaching out for life.
I wiped away one of its sugar tears with my hand, and tasted it, its subtle sweetness bringing both joy and sadness. Suddenly the tree’s fate as a wood carving didn’t feel so certain. What could be done to help this traumatized old soul?
A friend has suggested that if the root system is healthy (which it probably is) it may be worth trimming and sealing the tree so it can find its way back. I notice there are some remaining shoots on the trunk higher up which might flourish under the right conditions. I’ll consult an arborist. If in the end our efforts fail we will, at least, know that we gave the crooked old maple a fighting chance.
Call me a sentimental old fool, if you will, but I have a soft spot for the tall, leafy things. The extensive variety of trees was one of the reasons we fell in love with the property in the first place. I hugged that tree yesterday out of a sense of despair, and yet in its traumatic state it ushered in me a sense of hope and healing. I feel I must do what I can to help it.
In the meantime, we begin the clean up. No small task as we have to hire a tree removal service to help and get the insurance company involved. Fallen branches will become wood chips (which, ironically enough, I was sourcing through a third-party last week) for trail paths and my work pen. Fallen trunks will become firewood. Maybe we can save a maple trunk for a harvest table down the road. Or use the larger trunks for some other creative purpose. Who knows?
All I know for certain is that one of the most important things we can do in life is nurture what we love …
©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016
It started with a wake-up call, as many important personal journeys do. One morning I was writing advertising copy for a legal publisher and by 3 p.m. that afternoon I was restructured out of a job.
Devastated does not begin to describe how I felt. For five years I’d been a dedicated employee invested emotionally in my creative work for the company. And just before they released me I’d been agitating for more responsibility. However, I was at the top of my pay scale and the easy out for them was to cut me loose under the guise of “restructuring” and hire someone starting at the bottom.
Do I sound bitter? Well, I’m not. That day in March, 2005 was the day my old life ended and a new one began, but like all major shifts it was tumultuous. Change is hard. Unexpected change is even harder.
The experience was buffered somewhat by a lovely Mediterranean cruise in late summer ~ a cruise we’d been planning for several months. So, while I was still sorting out what direction my life might take I had this lovely distraction to help me find my bearings.
When we returned after two weeks of travel bliss, things went down hill again. Murphy, the horse I had been part-boarding for two years and who kept me anchored to some semblance of sanity, was ill with an unexplained edema in the girth area. She was also rapidly losing weight. Her owner shipped her to the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph for specialist care. Within days she was dead. Cancer of the peritoneum (lining of the heart.) Essentially a broken heart.
I felt devastated again. Another area of my life with no trajectory. Murphy’s demise a reflection of my breaking heart.
I continued to ride, but my heart wasn’t in it. Schoolies are lovely horses, but I’d been there, done that all my life, and had looked at Murphy as my first step to horse ownership.
And as it turned out, she was that.
A couple of months after Murphy’s death my partner (now husband) suggested that it was perhaps time to think about getting a horse of my own ~ the longed for dream of my childhood. I was 43, out of work, aimless and suffering from an acute lack of worthiness, and here was this wonderful man offering to help me make a dream come true. I had to think about it ~ pinch myself. Was this turnabout really happening?
I didn’t have to think about it that long, to be truthful, still the search was a hollow experience for me. Horse shopping is a rough road. I didn’t want to waste time tire kicking. I relied on the expertise of others to help guide me as, despite my many years involved with horses, I didn’t have the slightest clue about buying one.
By horse shopping standards the search did not take long, but I honestly feel it’s because Shakespeare found me. I’d looked at three horses, none of them promising candidates, and then one night at my dressage group’s board meeting I got into a conversation with a woman, a horse breeder, I hadn’t met before. She was aware of a horse that fit my check list (yes, every single item) and said she was going down to the farm where he was to see another horse. Would I like her to check him out for me? Sure, why not.
Later the next day she called and said, “Don’t look at anything else until you’ve seen this horse.”
Two days later, on February 4, 2006, I was in southwestern Ontario enjoying my introduction to Shakespeare … and that was it. Our fate was sealed.
I say he found me because that’s exactly how it feels 10 years on. All the cosmic tumblers fell into place ~ he was everything I’d ever dreamed, we met through a complete stranger and he came to me with the name Shakespeare. Apart from the magnificent riding horse I wanted, he was to be my Muse, my teacher and a catalyst for profound change in my life.
He arrived home March 17, 2006 ~ almost a year to the day I was “restructured” from what I can now look back on and see was a personal hell. Together Shakespeare and I have survived many trials and tribulations, including poor early training support, my three-year battle with adrenal fatigue, and his suspensory injury of last year. We’ve shared many wonderful moments, too, just being in each others’ company and surrounding ourselves with people who care. Because of Shakespeare I was introduced to the natural horsemanship training of Chris Irwin and the equine experiential learning work of Linda Kohanov, both of which inspired me to follow a healing path. Naturally, Shakespeare inspired my creativity. Anything you see on any of my blogs (see menu) is because of this horse who helped me find the courage to unveil and share my heart ~ a heart so beaten up by early childhood trauma and ensuing Complex-PTSD that I didn’t know my truth and didn’t trust anyone to help me find it.
This is what our dreams can do for us, if we just give ourselves permission to embrace them and everything they can be. Our dreams speak the language that our hearts understand will reveal our truth and and bring us peace. There are as many dreams as there are people in the world ~ we all must find our own way.
My dream ~ my way to self-actualization and personal truth ~ just happens to be through the way of the horse. I don’t know why, and I’ve stopped asking. It doesn’t matter. All I know is that on this day, 10 years ago, a horse named Shakespeare arrived as my dream dressage mount and turned into the equine teacher who changed my life.
With his injury last year Shakespeare showed me that he couldn’t do it all, and so we welcomed the lovely Sophia Loren (Sophi), another beautiful Hanoverian who loves to strut her dressage stuff, to join our small herd.
Shakespeare has given me my heart … Sophia has given me my wings.
It started with a wake-up call, as many important personal journeys do.
Nurture what you love …
Fortunately for me, Shakespeare is the comic, rather than tragic, player, which is totally fitting for St. Patrick’s Day. Hope yours is a happy one.
©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016
Spring has sprung here in Southern Ontario, and while we are seeing the light at the end of winter’s dark tunnel it’s premature to believe we’re completely through the other side of it to spring. We had snow flurries two days ago and temps are still hovering around the zero celsius mark. It’s also been terribly damp, to the point of being bone-chilling, so too early to put the woolies away yet.
Still, this too shall pass.
We have been granted the occasional teaser warm day with bright sunshine, which has melted the ice and dried the ground enough for me to be able to take Bear outside for his daily amble (when their isn’t a stiff nor’wester blowing, of course).
How amazing to finally be able to engage with Bear in the sunshine. A blessing, to be sure.
Even though he’s been stuck indoors for weeks and weeks Bear’s demonstrated such poise on his first outings outside. A nice alert, flat-footed walk around the dirt parking lot for several minutes; his ears perked; eyes big and curious about who’s in which paddock. The occasional stop to test, with practiced lips, the browned grass for the much longed for fresh shoots that are just beginning to poke through the thawing earth.
As a special treat he has permission to feast at a hay buffet courtesy of an open round bale. Such bliss to stand in the early spring sunshine with Bear as he seeks to satisfy his endless appetite.
Watching Bear revel in this small change of routine makes me happy. He’s been a model rehab patient during his long confinement, so to be able to give him the gift of blue skies and sunshine makes me feel like I’m doing something positive. It was a cold, bleak winter and it feels so good to be out from under that cloud.
With respect to Bear’s recovery, he’s getting better by the day. Things haven’t changed much since his last ultrasound of three weeks ago, except that as of last weekend I no longer apply a sweat to the injured fetlock. The inflammation there has decreased such that a simple stable wrap will do. He lives in them (I still wrap the supporting leg as well) 24/7 except when I hand walk him. This is when he wears Back on Track therapeutic polo bandages to give his lower legs the support they need while exercising, such as it is at present.
Bear’s spirits are good. He’s spoiled with attention, and treats, and loves to entertain whoever chooses to stop long enough outside his stall to indulge his flights of fancy.
Last Monday he had his monthly massage. Evidently he gets tight on the right side from standing around, so the therapist has given me a few gentle techniques to use on him to help keep those localized spots a little more limber.
In the meantime, I have been starting to shop for another horse, and horse shopping, as pretty much anyone who’s engaged in it will tell you, can be the worst kind of crap shoot, especially without good guidance. There are so many variables; so many things to consider that if you don’t know specifically what kind of horse you’re looking for and keep the emotional component in check you could end up on an expensive and discouraging wild goose chase.
Since my goal with a new dressage horse is to be able to see myself start to ride to my highest potential, I need one with three good gaits (walk, trot, canter) and that is well schooled in the German training system. As my coach put it to me the other day, we want a horse that allows me to develop my riding ability without having to address huge holes in his training. I don’t mind the challenges that will arise as I push myself to a higher plateau of horsemanship, but I don’t want to have to deal with the arguments presented as a result of someone else’s poor horse training.
My coach is in agreement with this.
So, we’re on the look out for a warmblood around eight years old, with good solid gaits and training, a sound temperament and at least 16.2 hands in height ~ in a price range, of course, we can afford. In other words … a needle in a haystack. Still, that’s okay. I’m a firm believer that life unfolds as it should. I have good support and guidance around me, so when the right horse comes along he/she should be fairly easy to spot. At least I’m optimistic.
As always my primary concern, beyond my own safety, is the welfare of the horse, and so I want to ensure that whatever horse enters the picture will be appropriate for, and comfortable with, the kind of training I have in mind under the expert guidance of my coach. Horses are not one size fits all, so being as mindful of their individual needs and limitations is as important as being mindful of my own.
Of course, I am ever mindful that Bear is the one who has put me on this path. From the moment he stepped into my life nine years ago he has walked the bumpy road of healing with me, opening my heart and my mind to new and wonderful possibilities. He’s helped me attract into my life, when I was ready, the circumstances and people who have helped me along the path of personal growth during the past several years, and as such has placed himself at the heart of my healing program and my dreams of one day having my own equine experiential learning practice. With his good looks and charm, funny disposition and open heart he is a gift of sunshine that I’m really looking forward to sharing with those who are ready when the timing is right ~ for me … and him. 😉
Nurture what you love …
©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015
Nine years ago today, St. Patrick’s Day, my happy-go-lucky charm Shakespeare, aka Bear, trotted into my life.
And what a period of transformation this has been. So much growth and change, with so many exciting things to come.
We’re entering the best years of our lives.
Happy anniversary, Bear!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all!
Nurture what you love …
©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015
Life unfolds, yes it does.
I haven’t written much lately as there’s just been so much to integrate. Often when we’re in the middle of a shift there’s just no point in writing about it. We need to experience it without the burden of recording it. I often have dreams where I see an incredible vista and and reach for my camera so I can capture it, but my camera doesn’t work. I’ve taken this to mean that sometimes life just needs to be savoured, in the moment, and that’s just how I’m kind of looking at things right now. For no matter how I plan ~ to take a vacation or whatever ~ nothing seems to be falling into place. The shutter won’t work. So, I observe the unfolding of life.
With Bear all I can do is my best to keep him comfortable and happy. Fortunately, as I’ve noted before, he is a sensible soul and is taking his confinement, due to a suspensory ligament injury, remarkably well. In fact, Wendy made the comment the other day that he’s the best rehab horse, in terms of his behaviour, that she’s ever come across ~ and she’s known and cared for many. So, I have this for which to be grateful. Bear is doing his bit to get well again.
Still, the end result is uncertain and a long way away.
He had his two-month ultrasound check-up last Friday. This was an opportunity for Dr. Maggie to see how well the injury is healing. The good news is that the lateral suspensory desmitis is looking better than it was two months ago. The lesions in the affected tissue are reducing in size and the prognosis seems favourable for a reasonably full recovery. I qualify that to mirror the words the good doc shared with me in conjunction with this ~ because of Bear’s already dropped suspensory ligaments in both hind legs it is unlikely he’ll ever be back in full work again, i.e. no more dressage training. He’ll be a lovely hack horse ~ one with whom I can do some light work and go for rides on the trails ~ but that’s about it.
If I hadn’t been through the last two months of hand walking and meditating and soul searching with Bear this might have been difficult news to take. But the fact is, I more or less came to the conclusion some time ago that Bear’s destiny is to be numero uno in my emerging therapy herd.
When I consider the sensitive soul he is and the stress he endured as I was managing both menopause and adrenal fatigue in those years when we should have been focusing on his training; and I consider the anxiety and panic and fear (mine and others’) he was exposed to and which coloured everything we did, and what a good boy he was under those circumstances, I feel he’s done enough. At this age and stage of his life it would be unfair of me to burden him with my dressage dream. Besides, his beautiful body is not designed to be the dressage horse I have in mind ~ he’s weak where he needs to be strong, and I don’t want to exacerbate his physiological problems by pushing him into work for which he is obviously not suited.
So, my kind-hearted, sensitive and funny boy is destined for life as a healer and that’s okay by me … and him, as it happens. He loves to make people happy. In the meantime, we focus on healing this injury as best we can and continue to deepen our connection as we move forward toward the next chapter of our lives together.
Having said all that, my dressage dreams still live. I may be in my early 50s, and I may be experiencing the dreaded gravitational slide into old(er) age, but riding is still important to me, and as long as there is air to breathe and I have a pulse, I’m going to ride. And not just riding for the sake of it ~ I want to challenge myself to a higher level of performance.
I’ve never been in a position to really test myself with the support of good people around me who understand and care about my dreams. Now is my time. As I mentioned to Wendy the other day, it’s time for me to find out what I’m really made of as a rider. I have the coach and a good support system around me. Is it possible to draw from a life time of accumulated riding experience and skill the horsewoman I’ve always dreamed of being?
I hope so. And to this end I’ve begun the search for another suitable horse, either to lease or buy. This may take a long time … and it may not. It’s a matter of being open and aware and of knowing exactly what I want. And I want a horse properly trained in classical dressage with a few miles under his/her belt. I’m not interested in training a youngster. I want the stability of a horse who knows the work and is happy to do it. It’s early days yet, but I have no doubt when the timing is right life will unfold and he, or she, will trot onto the radar. (She may have already …)
Still, I’m not rushing into anything. Bear is my first priority, and he knows what’s up because I’ve told him. And I dare say, given his relaxed and happy attitude while he’s healing, he has no problem handing over the reins to another horse who really enjoys the work and is more physically capable to do the kind of dressage training I have set my heart on.
Bear continues to set the example for me of patience, and while it is difficult to see the end from the beginning sometimes, I have faith that life will unfold as it should and we will enjoy the next stage of our journey together in an even more meaningful way.
This past Thursday afternoon Konnor, Wendy’s long-time and beloved equine companion, succumbed to a sudden heart attack by the gate in his paddock. He was a 21-year-old, retired Prix St. George dressage competitor with a noble spirit and a tender heart. A barn favourite, Konnor will be greatly missed.
Yes, life unfolds and too soon it is the end. We must make the most of every moment, for we are not promised the next.
And on that note I doubt I need to remind you to … nurture what you love.
©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
Nurture what you love …
©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015
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.
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. Wendy rotates him 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.
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 Farrier Tim and REMT Jaime just happened to fall on the same day.
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.
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.
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,
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
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw
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.
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.
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.
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.
Naturally, 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.
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 Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014