Spring Fever



We’re in the 90 day territory of Bear’s long 120-day rehab.

How time flies.

What was daunting three months ago has become a routine; a new rhythm which, a month from now, will change again as we embark on the next phase of his healing journey. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he’s been such a good boy about recent his limited lifestyle. But then … it wasn’t spring.

Yes, spring has sprung and with it the vagaries of temperament it brings.

Last weekend Bear’s “girlfriend,” Heidi, returned from her two-month stint in Florida. That was exciting enough, but add to that the fact she was also in full season and well the boys, notwithstanding they’re all geldings, were all pretty excited. Especially my darling cooped up Bear.

He was a regular Romeo ~ my normally well-behaved boy reeling with spring fever.

I would say happily, but he really wasn’t. When we went outside for his walk, Heidi galloped all the way across the paddock screaming for him. Naturally, this had Bear all excited ~ on his toes, head in the air, ears pricked, nostrils flaring, eyes bulging. He voiced his own ear-piercing screams in response. And I’m standing at the other end of the lead line wondering what the heck I’m going to do to calm my love-starved boy down.

Hmmm …

First of all, I couldn’t allow him to exacerbate his healing injury and secondly, I didn’t want to get trampled. Somehow I had to get his focus back on me and away from the femme fatale. The first thing to do was to get him walking again and indoors. This required assertiveness without aggression, and total presence of mind.

Once indoors he came back to me fairly quickly, but was still on his toes. Normally, I would turn him loose in the arena to work out his anxiety on his own, however with his injury this was not an option. So, while he continued screaming for Heidi and acting like the proverbial hormonal teenage boy we returned to bare bone basics, hearkening back to exercises I’d learned while studying natural horsemanship with Chris Irwin. We spent a half hour doing in-hand work at the walk.

Since he was obviously stuck in a disturbing energy the only thing to do was to get him focused on moving out of it by going forward. As he was intent upon walking circles around me I let him lead the way, keeping a firm connection in-hand and calmly guiding those circles all over the arena. I remained conscious of my breathing and encouraged him to come down from his exhilarated state by audibly exhaling slowly so he could connect with my own calm energy. I talked gently to him and gave him praise whenever I recognized a noticeable shift.

With the dressage whip, which is a neutral instrument until we put our own energy into it, I gently tapped him on the shoulder or in the belly area when he absently crowded my space. I needed to reconnect him to the idea of safe boundaries and being present, with me. There was no drama involved. Elevating my own energy was not going to calm Bear down. I simply needed de-escalate his exhilaration by channelling his overwrought energy into an underwhelming task.

By the time we’d walked 15, or so, forward, 10 metre circles all around the arena his energy had already de-escalated. To finish and ensure we were completely on side with one another, we did one of my favourite awareness exercises. I call it “Eyes on Me.”

Respecting Boundaries

We stand facing each other about six feet, or so, apart. (Usually we can do this with him untethered but in light of his injury I kept him on a loose line). I keep him at that distance (creating a boundary) by simply pointing the dressage whip at his shoulder or tapping him gently on the knees when he wants to move closer. I need him to respect the boundary I’ve created for both our sakes.

The idea is to get him to keep his eyes on me. When his mind drifts or his attention is distracted by something which causes him to turn his head away, I regain his attention by shifting my body weight in the opposite direction to invite his attention back into the connected space we share. After a few minutes of this he’s generally licking and chewing and yawning, demonstrating to me that he’s fully back in his body and in my presence, and feeling good about it. We can stand there for 15 minutes and enjoy the most peaceful communion just being in the moment together. It’s amazing.

This was done to good affect on Sunday, and I was pleased. It just proved to me again that positively channelling excess energy in a constructive way can help to offset anxieties that can quickly overwhelm. I used to do this a lot with Bear when he was younger. It’s a gentle way to help desensitize the anxious horse when ice is falling off the roof, or a storm is rolling in the distance. Soon they learn to trust that the safest place is with their human companion … and isn’t that what we want?

Personally, this exercise has taught me that when I’m feeling anxious it’s helpful to distract myself with something that grounds me again. Listening to soothing music, reading a good book, or simply hanging out with Bear usually does the trick.

When we returned to the barn Bear was feeling mellow yellow. I was so glad to have had the presence of mind and skill behind me to guide Bear through a potentially volatile situation, without getting either of us more worked up or hurt.

After a thorough grooming, he returned to his new digs (yes, he now has a room with a view across the aisle from his old stall) and I spoiled him with treats. He’d earned it.

When I left to go home Bear was contentedly munching on hay … oh yes, and dreaming up his latest sonnet which, of course, his alter ego, Shakespeare, later summoned me to transcribe.

What can I say? I’m a pushover for a writing assignment …

Sonnet XXVI

With spring upon the air there is no doubt

The wistful thoughts that populate my mind.

Yet dwell upon them not lest I should pout,

Forgetting gentle deeds of those so kind.

Tis stuck indoors I’ve been these many weeks

And cabin fever’s cramped my usual style,

Still, liberty toward me slowly creeps

And renders ‘pon long face a welcome smile.


For lately in the warm delight of day

When mother’s love hath led me in the sun,

I feast upon fresh shoots and wisps of hay

Reminding me this journey’s almost done.

For winter hath released its icy hold

And once again spring’s warmth I feel, not cold.


Nurture what you love …

Horse Mom
©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

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.


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 …

Horse Mom


©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

When Things Are Meant To Be … Or Not To Be

... A poet out standing in this new field ...

… Shakespeare ~ a poet out standing in his new field …


It’s been nearly two weeks since Bear and I started a new chapter in our life together. I’m pleased to say the first few paragraphs have been incredibly fun. 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve known for some time that we needed a change. What I’ve learned from this experience, however, is that when change (or opportunity if you prefer to look at it that way) is ready for you, it comes knocking. The important thing is to be aware and listen for that first gentle rap at the door so we can usher change in quietly and methodically. It’s when we haven’t been paying attention and change starts banging the door down that problems arise. From past experience I know this to be true.

If I thought about it too much I might kick myself for not having made this move sooner. The fact is, though, the timing was not right until now. Opportunity was biding its time waiting for Bear and me (mostly me, sadly) to be ready. I’d looked at potential new homes for Bear before, but not found the right fit. And then, one day last November during an online search I found this barn which, as it happened, had only one stall open. I paid the barn a visit and, after due consideration, made the decision to let change, and opportunity lead us through the door.

The rest you know.

So, I don’t beat myself up over something I wish I’d done years ago. It’s a moot point. Everything unfolds as it should, and when you follow your heart things do, inevitably, fall into place at exactly the right time. No regrets. No mourning for the past. Just a much clearer vision of the future and a toe-hold closer to a dream.

The recent hard blast of winter has been both a curse and a blessing. A curse, of course, in that conditions have been unbearably cold and not suited to riding. A blessing because the extra down time has given Bear and I a chance to acclimate to our new surroundings. He hangs out with his new friends and I hang out with mine. And when it comes to his exercise, because it’s been so quiet at the barn we’ve had free access to the arena. This means we’ve been able to play at will, which is great because it gets him used to the quirks and creaks of his new working space without me on his back.

It’s been a rather smooth transition, all in all. This tells me it was meant to be. 😉

Forsooth, a few words from the poet equine …


Sonnet XXIV

No way there is to know what life shall bring;

What storms shall pass or sunny days shall hold.

The best advantage is a heart that sings

So through the best and worst one might be bold.

As winter hath its fury bourn this way

And havoc wreaked for all within its path

The choice, per chance, to mope or, rather, play;

Be beaten not by Mother Nature’s wrath.


What change the winds hath wrought, what change indeed

As to a new life I am surely born.

And yet, all things that matter, all I need,

Hath followed me; for nothing do I mourn.

Thus, change hath done me good, I’m bound to say,

For happy heart of yore’s more glad today.


Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

The Gift

Winter hay

Perhaps I indulge the muse just little too much but, here again, a new inspiration from my darling Shakespeare ~ a poet out standing in his field.

I guess he knows something’s up … 😉



Sonnet XXIII

‘Pon snowy mounds of white a glint of moon

As through the frigid night the light descends

And on the breeze a hint we’re moving soon;

A chapter new begins while this one ends.

The wind of winter change doth blow it seems

To lead us to a life that’s bright and new

So Mother dear can chase another dream

And I, perchance, can help that dream come true.


For what is life if not a chance to dream?

To seek our hearts desire and make it so.

A miracle that casts a vibrant beam

Into the hearts of those who dare to grow.

My gift to she who brightens up my day?

Is all my heart can give to light the way.

Shakespeare “The Equine”
December 2013


Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013