The Sky’s the Limit

Nancy and Sophi

Attentive ears. Relaxed and swishy tail. Soft eye.

Sophi was in her element at the dressage clinic with Diane Creech on Saturday. Nancy, my coach, did an amazing job riding her and I could not have been happier for my girl.

Diane called her a “super mare” many times, and said that we’re really only tapping into 40 per cent of Sophi’s potential. So, I guess that means there’s lots of room for her to grow into fourth level/Prix St. George dressage, and as long as she stays healthy, enjoys the work and has fun, the sky’s the limit.

We will invite Sophi to take the next step and see how far she wants to go.

So excited for my sweet girl.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Soar

In Flight

~*~

When I was younger and bolder I used to enjoy the thrill of jumping a simple course of fences with a trusted, and trusting, equine partner.

It’s been about 15 years since a freak accident put an end to this pastime. Frankly, I don’t even care to work over ground poles anymore. Having said that, I can still remember and appreciate the precision, timing, coordination, balance, athleticism, and sheer joy of soaring over a jump. It is a unique and amazing feeling, indeed, to sit astride a horse who loves their work.

Horses, like people, are individuals with different characters, talents and enthusiasms. A skilled trainer can identify what makes a particular horse tick and create a training program that allows it to blossom in a discipline for which they demonstrate a clear talent and enjoyment. Training a horse to race when they clearly have no aptitude for it is like pressing a child to run a marathon when they’d rather throw javelin. They simply will not thrive in, or enjoy, the experience. So, like the attentive parent who thoughtfully nurtures a child’s obvious interest in, for instance, horses, a good trainer will notice when a horse demonstrates an obvious talent and enthusiasm for jumping or running and guide their development accordingly, being careful not to overwhelm mind, body and spirit in the process.

I once worked with a well-regarded trainer who, when asked a general question about horse training, always answered, “It depends on the horse.” What works for one horse, will not necessarily work for another. It depends on their history, temperament, talent. The ability to be sensitive to the needs of each individual horse is the mark of a good trainer. One-size-fits-all has no place in the training of  horses.

My three-year journey with Sophi in the discipline of dressage has been slow. At the beginning we worked with a trainer who appeared to show no interest in moving us beyond first level, even though Sophi’s previous experience and training had been more advanced. Did this coach demonstrate a lack of belief in my ability to ride my dressage horse at a higher level? Yes. So, I let this coach go and enlisted another who came highly recommended and  brought new eyes and understanding to our training. She immediately saw Sophi’s talent and acknowledged that with some polishing I had the skills to ride more advanced tests. Within six months Sophi and I were showing second level. This year we’ve nailed our third level movements and now we’re adding in more complex fourth level “tricks” that Sophi not only loves to do, but already does reasonably well. This is an exciting time for both us, and I’m so looking forward to watching her (and I) soar under the watchful eye of our amazing trainer.

We all need a chance to blossom and soar. Surrounding ourselves with appropriate, supportive people and being in an environment where we are encouraged to thrive and grow will give us, and our horses, the best chance to do this.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

Daybreak

The furnace kicked in for the first time this morning. Hard to believe the summer is pretty much behind us, though I’m happy to be free of the heat and humidity. Hard to get anything done in a furnace.

It’s hard on the horses at this time of year, too. Their winter coats are already coming in and as I’m not inclined to clip Sophi until late October I need to temper her activity in the heat. I just don’t like working her hard in it. She’s a trooper, make no mistake, and loves her work, but it’s a fine line between enough and too much. I prefer to err on the side of caution.

Besides, it’s been good to give her some time off. We’re starting to train fourth level dressage with its tempi changes and the like, and so starting refreshed suits us both.

And so as we move toward the autumn, my favourite time of year, I look forward to challenging ourselves toward new horizons.

I know Sophi is excited to show me all her tricks. She loves to fly at fourth.

Can’t wait!

 

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

 

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Planning to Shine

It’s been just over two months since Shakespeare departed and the Wednesday wave of grief continues to roll through. Each week its impact is less, still, I  choose to be gentle with myself on this day when the waters are stirred once more.

Today my thoughts begin to turn away from loss to what may be found from its experience. The silver lining, I suppose.

Bear was a huge part of my life for a long time, and for the past two and a half years our journey was shared by a beautiful Hanoverian mare, Sophia Loren (Sophi). Now she is the full focus of my attention so, in the spirit of getting on with life, I would like to tell you about her.

Sophi

This little mare is as larger-than-life as one might expect from one bearing the same name as a cinema icon. I didn’t name her. Like Shakespeare, she arrived in my life offering a challenge. Shakespeare, named for one of the greatest wordsmiths of the ages, helped me to find my heart, and my voice, as a creative writer; Sophia Loren, named for one of the brightest shining stars in the firmament of Hollywood, is helping me to shine. I’m not going to get into all the complex ways this is meaningful to me. I believe, however, that my experience with these two horses rather underscores the idea that the Universe will send you what you need, when you need it. You just need to be open to recognizing and receiving it when it lands on your doorstep.

Sophi and I struggled, in the beginning. Not that we weren’t well suited. Not at all! Like Bear, she was only the fourth horse I looked at and we fit like a glove. No, our struggles came through outside influences. Finding our groove in that first year proved difficult as our coach, it seemed to me and for whatever reason, chose to dumb everything down. Sophi was training Third Level dressage when she passaged into my life, and our coach was keeping me stuck at First Level, a place from which I was determined to rise.

That coach and I parted company after a year for a variety of reasons. Four months later I was introduced to Nancy. A brilliant, accomplished coach whose only agenda was to help Sophi and I realize our potential. Within a couple of lessons she had us training Second Level movements. Six months later we were preparing for our first dressage show ~ my first time in the ring in 10 years! In such a short period, Sophi and I had risen together through the watchful eye and skillful teaching of a coach who truly cared and wanted us to succeed. No quick fixes. Everything I had learned over decades of training had been held within waiting for the right person to draw it out. It was a matter of trust.

Shoulder In

Shoulder-in … Image: Victoria Sambleson

In July and August of last year Sophi and I participated in our first shows together. Three tests over three days at each show. I learned all the Second Level tests by memory and Sophi was an absolute star. Sure, I was nervous, and adrenal fatigue was a concern as always, but feeling Sophi’s confidence, and the encouragement and support of those around me helped to override that. Our scores improved from test to test and we ribboned in the top four in all six classes.

We had so much fun. I’m so grateful to all my friends who encouraged me to take that uncertain leap, and to my coach for showing me it was possible. I’m grateful for Victoria who groomed for me at the show, and JF who transported Sophi in the horse box, his journeyman show confidence underpinning the whole adventure (“Go get ’em, tiger!”) For Eira who did such a lovely job braiding Sophi’s mane; and Courtney for doing such a beautiful body clip on her. Sophi looked immaculate and so proud of herself. And, naturally, I’m so grateful to Nancy for working with what she saw in me, not with what someone told her to see.

Extension

Extension … Image: Victoria Sambleson

Sophi thrives in the show ring and this gives me confidence, and as we share in each other’s confidence we thrive together.

Now we’re training Third Level, starting to introduce all the fancy moves that Sophi already knows (lead changes, passage, etc.) and loves to pre-empt. (“Oh, I know what you want…” and gives it to me before I even ask.) She’s a very smart mare.

We’re planning to show next summer. We’re planning to shine.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 

 

 

Musing

Sophi

Sophi

~*~

I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating ~ when in the middle of a significant life experience I tend not to disturb the process by writing about it. A play-by-play of my life (with horses) is not the purpose of this blog. Rather, I prefer to review things after the dust has settled … and muse.

One of the things I’ve observed lately is the amount of change going on around me. So much change, for so many, all in the same window of time.

This is true in my life also. In many ways it has been a summer of positive personal upheaval. I feel blessed and grateful and, perhaps, slightly overwhelmed by the incredible journey that lies ahead. However, I trust the path to which my husband and I have been guided because of all the signs along the way that have pointed us in this new direction. I also take lots of deep breaths and endeavour to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. I feel like I’m stepping into my purpose. My comfort zone expanding in momentarily uncomfortable, but important, ways that will define a new way of being as I go forward.

A quick-ish update …

Mi scusi … mi piacerebbe un bicchiere d’acqua … (Excuse me … I’d like a drink of water …)

It’s been five weeks since Sophi (aka Sophia Loren) sashayed into the barn for the first time and turned our lives upside down. She’s a starlet in her own mind … and she knows her own mind.

For instance, it wasn’t by accident I learned she loves to play with the water nozzle when being bathed. She told me. I was  hosing her down after our first training session, spraying cool water at her chest, when she started dipping and bobbing her head up and down trying to reach for the nozzle. I got the hint and pointed the gentle spray at her lips, whereupon she grabbed the nozzle and drank from it as it if were a straw. This went on for about a minute. It was a hot day and she was thirsty, and what struck me immediately is that she knew how to take care of herself.

Then, as I rinsed her off with a bucket of diluted anti-fungal liniment she kept reaching around as if she wanted to drink from it. I cautioned her and yet she persisted. She wanted to drink from the bucket as well. So, I stopped what I was doing, grabbed her little red bucket and promptly filled it with water. When I offered it to her she emptied the bucket almost to the bottom and then grabbed the edge nearest her and attempted to throw what was left in my direction. I guess she figured I needed cooling off, too.

As you might imagine, she has trained me well and this is now part of our daily ritual (as long as the weather stays reasonably warm.)

Non puoi fare nulla di queste mosche? (Can’t you do anything about these flies?)

Another pet peeve for our resident Italianate prima donna is the surfeit of biting flies. This I discovered the hard way when I was bringing her in from the paddock one day soon after she arrived.

It was one of those hot, humid, sticky days and the flies, as annoying as any paparazzi, were swarming and stinging. In her distress Ms. Sophi bumped the metal gate as I was leading her out of the paddock. The gate, in turn, bumped hard into the bridge of my nose. (Expletive!) After I let go of the lead rope she ran back into the paddock leaving me stomping and wandering around the path to the gate in an excruciating daze and feeling my nose to ensure it wasn’t broken. Having established it was still in one piece, I was able to pull myself together and make a second attempt at bringing in my stomping starlet.

Once she was safely in her stall I grabbed an ice pack from the freezer and spent much of the afternoon and evening with it perched on my nose. A visit to the chiropractor on my way home helped, too. Perhaps it was this that saved my face from extensive bruising. I was lucky. A few inches lower and the gate would have knocked out my front teeth!

It wasn’t Sophi’s fault. I was distracted by the flies as well and ought to have been paying keener attention. Since then I’ve been careful to ensure Sophi’s turned out damp after bathing her so she can roll in her favourite dirt spot and create her own fly defence. I must take care of my little starlet … and my nose. 😉

~*~

Bear

Bear

~*~

The lady doth protest too much, methinks …

Meanwhile, Bear (aka Shakespeare), a one-horse-show for the past nine years until Miss Sophi entered and took centre stage, has made it clear he will play second fiddle to no one.

Sophi and Bear were originally turned out in adjacent paddocks. This had to stop day one when I made the mistake of attempting to bring Sophi into the barn first. Witnessing my error in judgement from his paddock gate next door, Bear went all medieval, bucking and leaping as if I had slighted him in the worst way possible. Naturally, I was concerned that he would re-injure that healing hind suspensory ligament, so I had to abandon my original plan and bring him in first.

Who says horses don’t get jealous?

To alleviate this being a “thing” every time I want to bring one of them in, they are separated by at least one other paddock, this way neither is any the wiser when I bring the other in.

If they’re in the barn at the same time I am careful to ensure they receive equal treat distribution. However, there is one ritual I’ve reserved for Bear alone.

Banana time is his thing. Sophi can have everything else ~ Bear shares his carrots, his apples (yes, he’s been weaned back onto apples), his crunchy treats, his fly spray. He even, in a fit of pique one night, remodelled his fly mask for her. But I have promised him that he will never have to share his banana.

He’s good with that.

Back in the saddle

“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ”

William Shakespeare (Henry V)

Riding Sophi has proven to be a revelation.

She is everything I hoped for in a new dressage partner. She’s finely trained; forward and forgiving. My coach says we’re a good match. We still have a long way to go to find our synchronicity, but the foundation is already there. Every time we work together, on the ground and under saddle, our connection and understanding improve. Sophi moves correctly which has underscored my own lack of alignment. Now I’m on a mission ~ through massage, chiropractic, Pilates and conscious awareness ~ to re-align my hips toward straightness so she and I can work correctly together. A tall order at this age and stage of my life, perhaps, but I’ll do my best.

Meanwhile, my intention for Bear is to put the saddle on and take him out for micro hacks. Five minutes to begin and gradually working our way to longer outings. I’ve come to this decision because ever since Sophi’s arrival Bear’s showing me he wants to do more than just hand walk. It’s as if he’s trying to prove to me that he’s quite capable of doing much more than my imagination will allow. So, soon I will take him out for that first short, slow spin. We’ll both enjoy that.

Moving On

BuildingsAnd so, a few final words on change.

We have spent the summer preparing to move the horses to a new farm, which is part of the reason my posts have been so sparse of late. Energy can only be divided so many ways.

The move finally took placed September 10, and I’ll have plenty to say about that in my next post which, I hope, will be more timely.

Last, but certainly not least on the subject of change, we find ourselves moving on to this next chapter in our lives one dog short.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned our old collie, Sass, was on her last legs. Well, on August 14 we finally had to let her go. She was failing. Her quality of life much compromised by the ravages of old age. At 13 years she’d lived a long and happy life, and we wanted to remember her that way. So, with heavy hearts we released our dear Sass, knowing it would be the last act of kindness we’d ever do for her.

Sassy was our sweet girlie and we miss her terribly. Autumn's GirlVisit my blog Eyes to Heart for a short tribute.

So, as another chapter closes it’s time to contemplate and move on to the next. A lot of change lends itself to a lot of musing.

It was ever thus.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti 2015

When Shakespeare Met Sophia Loren

Whoa baby!

~*~

Shakespeare: Who through yonder stable door doth pass this beauteous summer’s eve?

Sophia Loren: Buona sera, bello.

Shakespeare: More glorious a sight mine eyes hath never beheld!

Sophia Loren:  Dire qualcosa di poetico a me, Shakespeare.

Shakespeare: Fair maiden doth know my name!!!! How knowest she that I am a Muse of poetry?

Sophia Loren: Sembra che io vivrò nella stalla di fronte a voi.

Shakespeare: Be still my heart … she’s to live in the stall across from me. My knees are as jelly. I shall accomplish nothing.

Sophia Loren: Dire qualcosa di dolce per me, Shakespeare, per favore.

Shakespeare: She desireth poetry. O, resist, thou besotted fool! Resist! Alas, I cannot. Her wish is my command! … “Dearest Sophia, thine eyes are the pools of love in which my Scribe doth dip her pen.”

Sophia Loren: Oh, così bello, il mio amore. Penso che stare qui con te per sempre.

Shakespeare: Oh, how I have pleased her!! Sophia hath declared her eternal devotion to me.

Sophia Loren: Mi scusi, cara Shakespeare, ma come si fa a capire quello che sto dicendo a voi?

Shakespeare: She wonders at my language prowess. “O fair maiden, once thou hast wrapped the Scribe around thy dainty hoof all things are possible. In fairness, the Google Translator doth serve rather well.”

Sophia Loren:  Capisco completamente. Cura di unirsi a me per una carota?

Shakespeare: Oh, how the wheel of love doth spin! She shareth with me a fondness for orange root vegetables! … A carrot! A carrot! My kingdom for a carrot! … “Make haste, dearest Scribe, and render unto me and my fair maiden the source of our mutual affection!”

Sophia Loren: Grazie, bello Shakespeare.

Shakespeare: Neigh! Thank you!

Scribe: Oh, brother …

~*~

See what I’m up against now? The creative Muse gone wild!!!

Remember that silver lining I mentioned months ago in the depths of winter after the sad diagnosis of Bear’s career-ending suspensory ligament injury?

Well, after the better part of seven months searching for my next dressage partner here she is … Sophia Loren (Sophi) ~ a 10-year-old Hanoverian mare by Schwarzenegger out of Alwine.

Sophia Loren

Sophi arrived Wednesday, July 22, and has proven to be as much a character as my boy, Shakespeare. Not only does she share his good looks (in a supremely girly way), she has demonstrated a flare for the flamboyant gesture as well. When I bathe her (it’s been really hot the past few days) she drinks straight from the hose and demands … yes, demands … some play time with water in the little red bucket I bought especially for her. She loves all treats and is as adept at getting what she wants as any Hollywood starlet. And yet, she’s so classy about it. So, Sophia Loren.

Sophi

So, the search is over and I find myself with two larger-than-life equine personalities named after a bard and an actress. I dare say we will be in for the occasional animated dialogue.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Bear and Sophi sitting up a tree … 😉

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015