Life Unfolds

The Indignity

~*~

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.

The dressage dreams still live …

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.

And on that note I doubt I need to remind you to … 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

 

The Master

Bear and I are really fortunate to be working with a coach of the German school.

I call him the Master because he is just that ~  a Master horseman.

As the Master, he is most invested in the development of both horse and rider and is, as a result, thoroughly engaged in the process of training.

This is great for us, his students, because it spurs us on to engage our best energy as well.

It also makes for great photos ops …

~*~

Scheduling

The Master has claimed the blackboard outside the arena door and this is where we congregate for lesson scheduling.

~*~

Entering

Arrival of the Master.

I featured this image on my photography blog Eyes to Heart recently. If you’re interested, link through to this post to read more about my experience with this incredible teacher.

~*~

Investing

On the ground the Master demonstrates, in his own special way, the nuances of the perfected ride.

~*~

Observing

The Master is always on the move ~ whether he’s running beside a student as they execute a particular movement, standing in the middle of a 10m circle shouting encouragement or leaning on a shovel between shifts of scraping footing back into the track, he’s a going concern.

And yet he misses nothing.

Did I say he’s “invested?”

~*~

Connecting

Being able to teach the student effectively means having a thorough understanding of the horse. Occasionally the Master will ride his student’s horses, including Bear, to get a clearer understanding of how the horse is working so he knows what the student is up against.

Since the dressage boot incident the Master has ridden Bear several times and taken the opportunity to sharpen him up for me. The difference is amazing!

What I’ve I learned from this is that it’s not necessary to carry the burden of training my horse all on my own. The Master knows a lot more than me and I’m happy for him to share his wealth of knowledge and skill to help bring out the best in Bear … and me.

Bear is working more correctly and is happier too.

~*~

Trotting

When all is said and done it’s about developing a healthy relationship with the horse by employing key principles of horsemanship and adopting correct techniques.

I have learned so much in the past several weeks simply through observing the Master. Whenever I ride I do my best to emulate his very correct position and use of the aids.

And now, with my back fully healed and Bear with valuable training under his girth, we’re on the right track and things are going really well. (Photos at a future date.)

And we have the Master to thank for that.

The journey continues …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

PS More on my experiences with the FEEL certification program coming up!

Pony Potpourri Revisited … Time For Change

Bear Springs for Spa Time

Well, actually I sprang for some spa time for Bear this week.

As you know it’s been a long, cold winter. In addition to the new work ethic which is testing our physical resources differently, our winter-weary muscles have been expanding and contracting like cracks in the sidewalk to combat the bitter cold. Time for an early spring tune-up.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll recall that last year Bear was introduced to chiropractic care. This time I decided to try something different and enlisted the services of a highly recommended registered equine massage therapist (REMT).

There were no obvious physical maladies needing to be addressed, but why wait until there’s a problem? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?

So, this week I arranged for a spa day for Bear.

Oh yeah, that feels good ...

Oh yeah, that feels good …

While he stood quietly, the REMT commented on how trusting and relaxed Bear is while being poked and prodded and nudged. What can I say? He’s always loved attention.

First, the REMT worked along the right side of Bear’s body and then the left. It was fun to observe my boy’s obvious pleasure at having his muscles gently massaged. For a full 45 minutes or so Bear languished in his very own la-la land.

You got that right ...

Right there. Right … there. Ya …

The bottom line is that Bear’s in pretty decent shape for a horse his age. He’s nice and free through the shoulders (blocked shoulders are a common problem) with only a little tightness through the sacrum. This, the REMT noted, was to be expected given the icy paddock conditions since the beginning of January.

When I returned Bear, all warm and snuggly in his cool-weather jammies, to his stall he was feeling no pain, which was just as well because a couple of hours later the vet arrived to administer Bear’s first intra-nasal Strangles vaccine. Naturally my happy boy took this in stride, not seeming to object too much to a straw-sized tube being ever-so-briefly wedged up his nose to deposit the vaccine. Perhaps not the most comfortable moment in a spa day, but there you go.

His discomfort, whatever it might have been, was soon forgotten and easily remedied with a generous helping of carrots and time in the paddock with his friend Konnor. Together they picked at hay and basked in the early spring sunshine for the rest of the afternoon.

And, glad to have given him this happy time, I left him in peace.

~*~

NEWS FLASH!

Zu Zu Says “Bye, Bye!”
Zu too

Bye, bye, Zu Zu …

Last week it was announced in the barn that Zu Zu, Bear’s girl friend since January 1, is leaving for other muddy pastures this weekend.

It was a short, but happy, courtship for Mr. Bear and little Miss Zu. The rising four-year-old Canadian mare (some said Mr. Bear, at age 12, had robbed the cradle) offered a ray of sunshine for the gentle Hanoverian gelding. Through the frigid and bleak mid-winter Miss Zu helped her handsome paddock mate feel welcome in his new digs. Together they trudged through mountains of snow and spent hours digging in three-feet drifts scavenging for patches of green.

Zu Zu called the shots. Bear followed her everywhere. Naturally, Valentine’s Day was celebrated with his alter ego, Shakespeare, a poet out standing in his field, penning his Sonnet XXV especially for her.

It’s a sad parting of the ways. Zu Zu, with her rambunctious nature and hearty appetite, will be missed.

Still, Bear’s response to the separation has been eased by the fact that he has made new friends of the male persuasion ~ Dream and Konnor ~ and together they hang out happily in what I like to refer to as the “Gentleman’s Club,” as they’re all so polite and well-mannered.

Bear and Zu Zu enjoyed a quality friendship for a couple of months. Some human relationships should last so long and be so happy. 😉

We’ll miss you, Zu Zu.

~*~

“Neigh!” quoth he …

Riding: The art of keeping a horse between you and the ground.

~Author Unknown

~*~

Defining Horsepower

Original horsepower

Original horsepower

Ever wondered about the origins of the term “horsepower?”

A search of the Internet brought this definition, which will appeal to all you beer drinkers and draft horse lovers out there. Maybe a few car enthusiasts too. 😉

Horsepower is the unit of power in the English system of measurement. The term horsepower was coined by James Watt (1736-1819), the Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer renowned for his improvements of the steam engine.

 Definition

One horsepower (hp) is equivalent to 0.7457 kW in standard SI units. A healthy human can sustain about 0.1 horsepower, a car can generate several hundred horsepower, while a steam turbine in an electric power plant can produce more than 1.5 million horsepower.

Horsepower-hour is a unit of energy or work equal to the work done by the applied power of one horsepower over the period of one hour. The corresponding standard SI unit of energy is the joule. One joule = 3.73·10-7horsepower-hour.

 History

The term horsepower was coined by James Watt (1736-1819), the Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer renowned for his improvements of the steam engine. In the early 1780s, Watt and his partner Matthew Boulton set out to sell their steam engines to the breweries of London, calculating that they would be likely customers because brewing was such an energy-intensive process. In order to convince the breweries of the advantages of the steam engine, Watt needed a method to compare their capabilities relative to horses, the power source they were seeking to replace. The typical brewery horse, attached to a mill that ground the mash for making beer, walked in an endless circle with a 24-foot diameter, pulled with a force of 180 pounds, and traveled at a speed of 180.96 feet per minute. Watt multiplied the speed times the force and came up with 32,580 ft-lbs/minute. That was rounded off to 33,000 ft-lbs/minute, the figure used today.

A healthy human can sustain about 0.1 horsepower, a car can generate several hundred horsepower, while a steam turbine in an electric power plant can produce more than 1.5 million horsepower.

Source: Cutler J. Cleveland, The Encyclopedia of Earth … www.eoearth.org

~*~

Direct from Poet’s Paddock …

Spring

by Shakespeare “The Equine”

Spring is here;
Brings with it change.
My life and habits
Rearrange.

With paddocks closed
Alas, to dry,
Amuse myself in
Stall, must I

With dreams of fresh
Green grass to eat.
I count the days with
Stomping feet.

On warmer days
Bid rugs farewell
And feel sun on
My back a spell.

With joy I revel
In its beams,
As through the window
Pane it streams

Upon my shiny
New spring coat.
Handsome and dark,
But I won’t gloat.

And birds, they sing
Their song so sweet.
“Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! Chirp!
Tweet! Chirp! Tweet! Tweet!”

While buds appear
And set to bloom,
Adorning our great
Garden room.

Yes, I love spring
A time of joy.
Reminds me I’m
A lucky boy.

~*~

The change in the format of these posts is easily explained. It’s time to do things differently. Bear and I are experiencing such a profound shift on so many levels with our new coach in our new environs it’s a challenge to write about it at any depth. So, instead I’ve decided to have a little fun with the blog format, sharing snippets of our lives rather than delving too deeply into the inner journey. To everything there is a season and a time to change.

This seems to want to be a newsletter. This appeals to me well enough as writing and producing them my forté for a long time as a commercial writer. The format is looser and more dynamic. Should I change the theme to accommodate this style more readily? I don’t know yet. We’ll see where it leads.

I hope you enjoy it. Of course, your constructive feedback is more than welcome.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Time Out

Bear, snuggly in his winter blanket, hangs out in his warm stall with ample hay.

Bear in his lair

With -20C wind chill it’s simply too cold to ride, so Bear and I are on a time out.

In fact, it’s been a week since we last worked and it’s going to be at least three more days until we do.

Frustrating ~ especially since after our first two sessions with the new coach we’re already showing some progress.

I guess all there is to do is ruminate on the lessons learned and be ready to put them into play when the temperature gets more palatable.

[Sigh …]

My new mantra?

“Effort without tension; relaxation without collapse.”

Nurture what you love,

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, All Rights Reserved 2014

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

Settling In …

A quick update …

In spite of -20C temperatures Bear is settling in nicely at his new, cosy digs.

Perhaps the most astonishing development is how quickly he’s managed to make new friends.

Bear has a sociable nature, but never could I have imagined just how easy going he was going to be with this major transition in his life.

When introducing horses to each other for the first time it’s important to be mindful. Like people, horses either get along, or they don’t. When horses don’t get along it can be pretty distressing. So, that first morning, while figuring out what would work best for all concerned, the barn manager held Bear back in the barn. Her first inclination, as is common practice, was to put him out in a small paddock by himself so he could get a sense of his surroundings. He would go out on second rotation keep a sick and unhappy horse on stall rest with a sore leg some company.

But Bear wasn’t having it. He wanted to go out.

So, he was turned out with two horses who just happen to be two of his closest neighbours in the barn so he would have had all that first night to start getting acquainted. Out in the paddock and after some initial squealing, which is typical of newly introduced horses, they were right as rain.

I could hardly believe it when she told me. Bear’s not even in the barn 24 hours and he’s already made friends.

His new paddock pals are lovely.

The first is ZuZu who, you may recall, was mentioned in my previous post. She’s a young mare of the Canadian breed. (Has Bear ever been turned out with a mare before? Certainly not while I’ve had him. Of course, there was his mother … ;-)) She’s a feisty, self-assured young lady quite able, it appears, to hold her own among the boys. Bear is mighty fond of her already, and looks for her when she isn’t nearby. I’ve also caught them making eyes at each other across the aisle.

Oh, my! My boy has a girlfriend!!!

He also has a new buddy.

Jerome is an international show jumper in early retirement due to injury, and has been ZuZu’s paddock pal for a while already. He’s a real sweetheart and it’s clear he simply wants to be Bear’s buddy. I spied them grooming each other as I drove by their paddock and into the farm that first day. A good sign.

Needless to say I am thrilled at how quickly Bear has settled in.

So, proud of my boy. 🙂

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

It’s Time To Dance …

Well, you may have noticed that my posts have been a bit sparse of late.

I’ve had a lot on my mind.

I’m moving Bear to another barn.

Something's Up

As any horse owner will tell you this can be a stressful change, especially if you’ve never done it before.

I’ve never done it before.

It’s been stressful. 😉

The years of our lives pass speedily by.

It seems just yesterday we brought Bear home. He is my first horse; a dream come true. I remember the joy; the excitement; the desire to make good decisions on his behalf that would benefit us both.

Flash forward almost eight years. We’ve coursed our hills and valleys together. Forged a strong, trust-based relationship. It’s been a journey wrought with trials and tribulations; joy and happiness.

But he is now 12 years old and in his prime, and I am … well … I am well into middle age.

I have felt, for several months now, maybe even the last couple of years, the urge to change things up. While I appreciate, and needed, all the remedial coaching I’ve received in the past few years, I feel ready to up the ante. To step boldly into the dream of the dance that is dressage.

Bear and I are ready. More confident; more relaxed than we were even a few months ago. Sure, there are plenty of kinks to work out yet, but it’s time for a new perspective.

A new perspective requires change

So, at the beginning of January, I’m moving Bear to another barn. A small, low-key, dressage-oriented barn just 10 minutes further away from home. Somewhere we can work with a new coach and a new vision of what’s possible.

It’s a decision made after a month of deliberation ~ of talking with people I trust; writing down and considering the pros and cons; cogitating; meditating and, yes at some level, praying.

And, while the new barn presents plenty of opportunity for me to delve into the culture of dressage and develop my skills, my primary focus must be the welfare of my horse.

Will he be happy? Will he make friends? Will he receive good care? Have plenty of turn-out? Eat well? Enjoy the atmosphere? Be safe?

I feel that he will. I’ve known the owner for a while now. She’s been in the business a long time and judging by the warm reception I’ve received by people who already board there it appears to be a happy place.

I’ve been to the barn a few times to get a feel for it. With only 12 horses boarded, it’s smaller than Bear’s current home. It’s also older and the arena is about half the size of the one we work in now, but it hardly matters. The barn is clean, and quiet, and friendly. As well, there’s access to 94 acres of hacking, including a complete cross-country course (which will be pleasant to look at ;- ) … ). There’s a proper dressage ring and a grass riding ring as well. More outdoor options. This is good.

Last week the owner gifted me a ride on Connor, her beautiful retired Prix St. George mount, so I could have a lesson with my potential new coach. He is a well-respected German master and member of the bronze-medal winning Canadian dressage team at the 1995 Pan Am Games. I wanted to see if I liked his teaching style.

Connor really tested my mettle and made me ride every step. The coach worked with me in every step. He has a reputation for being technical and thorough. I like that. The bottom line ~ I totally enjoyed the experience. It was the first time I’d ridden another horse since owning Bear, and it left me with more respect for my ability and a desire to see Bear and I reach our potential. A move to this new barn would present us with the chance to do so.

So, this past weekend I made my decision. I’m trusting my heart and taking the stall.

Bear will have the same farrier, vet, dentist and chiropractor. Things will be the same, but different. A change will do us good. 🙂

For my birthday my husband gave me something I’ve wanted for a couple of years now … an Inuit soapstone carving of a dancing bear. He bought it this past summer, long before this move to a dressage barn full of “dancing”horses was even contemplated. Seems rather symbolic and meant to be, don’t you think? 😉

It’s time to dance.

Stay tuned …

Nurture what you love,

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Confessions of a Coaching Intern: The Buck Stops Here … Part I

The second instalment of my Confessions of a Coaching Intern series in which I re-visit my experiences as an equestrian coach-in-training, 1995-1997.

Enjoy the ride! 

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Finding clarity with a pitchfork and a song is one thing. Finding your courage on the back of a misbehaving horse is another thing altogether.

In this post we’ll step back in time to the true beginning of this journey. A journey I didn’t understand until I was in the throes of the pitchfork meditation … and beyond.

This instalment will be broken into at least a couple, or even three, posts. It was an invaluable experience and I don’t want to cut corners in the telling of it. At some level it’s about meeting and conquering a nemesis … and I know I’m not the only one who’s ever had a run in with one of those. 😉

Before we begin, let’s hang out with Bear for a moment. He likes company …

The Face in the Mirror

The Buck Stops Here

My story begins in 1991, four years before I chucked in corporate life.

I was a naïve almost 30-something, struggling with my identity, married to a man who didn’t love me and forking over my hard-earned money to pay for his expensive Masters degree State-side. I was living in my mother’s house, childless, aimless, anxious and unhappy.

My sanity? A weekly riding lesson … and singing in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (but that’s a story for another blog).

Being around the horses kept me stable. (Ha!)

I was riding at the farm described in my last Confessions post (featured on Freshly Pressed), only at that time it was under different management and my intentions were much simpler. I just wanted to ride nice horses in beautiful surroundings and be happy doing it.

One of the things about learning to ride at a commercial equestrian facility is the variety of horses at hand. Each horse is different and has therefore, something different to teach you. The challenges from rider to rider, horse to horse within one group lesson are all different. A simple exercise for one horse/rider combination may be a total disaster for another. It’s all part of the learning, fun and, occasionally, frustration.

As it turned out, many of the horses at this riding school were re-trained off-the-track-thoroughbreds. They were purchased at a steal and given a second career, allowing more advanced recreational riders a skillful challenge and a cheap thrill. Most of these horses were fairly young. Many were ornery. Some were a joy to ride while others were downright unpredictable and posed a greater challenge.

I didn’t mind a challenge, but I didn’t want to get killed.

Peppered among the thoroughbreds were a few quarter horses, appendix quarter horses (half quarter horse/half thoroughbred) and a few non-descript ponies. Many were older, on loan from owners who needed their horses to have a job to maintain their upkeep.

Horse assignments were non-negotiable.

For the most part lessons were great fun …

I was in a group of four adults of similar riding experience (intermediate/advanced, whatever that means) and we all gathered on Saturday at 9 a.m. for a jolly good time.

Every week was a jumping lesson ~ indoors in the winter and outdoors, my favourite, in the summer. Out in the hunter fields with all the fixed obstacles, the horses had to jump big and bold and we once-a-week recreational riders had to muster courage. The adrenaline rush was something else. Looking back I wonder what I was thinking.

Our coach was a temperamental fellow of Eastern European extraction, a throwback to the cavalry. He growled a lot; lost his cool all too easily, and threw keys at the back legs of a horse if its rider wasn’t making him go fast enough. I didn’t like him. And I hated the keys. But his lessons were entertaining enough so, along with the others, I hung in.

(For the purposes of this post we’ll call him The Grumpy One).

I got to ride many fine horses; horses that suited my skill level. Horses like Soubrette, Raven and Finesse whose joie de vivre helped me to feel whatever existed of my own. Horses that allowed me to think and feel like I knew what I was doing.

And then there was Buck …

Buck was a four-year-old bay thoroughbred gelding. I don’t know if he’d ever made it to the track. He was lopsided ~ knees at slightly different heights, feet of different sizes … other things. He was also a bucker.

He was the horse that would show me how broken I was.

Me with Buck. He may look like Bear, but my Bear he wasn't.

Me with Buck, my nemesis. He may look like Bear, but my Bear he wasn’t.

When he was new to the riding school, he was ridden by far more advanced riders than I to get him ready for his new job. And then one day, after he’d been in the school for just a few weeks he was, to my disbelief, assigned to me.

I was fairly confident of my riding abilities. After all I’d ridden most of my life and been aboard many horses who’d enjoyed kicking up their heels, however inappropriately. I’d been dislodged by a few of them too, but always got back on ready to give it another go. But from the moment I met Buck I felt a distinct unease.

It was a brisk February morning. As horses and their riders trotted around the indoor arena The Grumpy One, from his position in the centre of the ring, barked instruction.

“Halt!” “Turn-on-the-forehand!” “Trot!” “Faster!”

Vapours of warm breath drifted from blowing nostrils (horse and human) and sparkled off the sunlight in the frigid air. Hooves brushed through sandy footing, saddle leather creaked against cold and horses chomped absently at the bit. Half an hour in and all was well.

And then a shift …

With an unexpected heart-stopping leap my happy place became a house of horror. From nowhere and for no fathomable reason Buck was all fours off the ground and kicking his legs out behind him. He landed on terra firma with a bouncy thud and planted his feet. He snorted.

Somehow I was still on board, the drum of my heart sounding an alert while a rapid pulse of terror coursed through my body.

The Grumpy One looked over. He growled.

“Get that horse moving!”

I saw keys.

“Okay,” I remember thinking, “I can handle this. Perhaps this was Buck getting it out of his system.” (Or perhaps, I wonder today, he was just too darn sore and conformationally-challenged to do the work. … Or maybe I just wasn’t riding very well. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s rider error. Buck may have been the exception to that rule … or maybe not. Who knows with horses … )

Taking a deep breath, I pressed Buck forward into trot. We were on our way once more, moving in the maelstrom of the group dynamic.

The Grumpy One growled more instruction. On high alert now, my attention was divided between what he wanted and what Buck was willing to give which, it appeared, was up for debate.

Because it wasn’t long before he bucked again … and again … and again as if he was some manic rodeo bronc.

Certainly, I was not happy nor was I comfortable with this situation.

What was I doing wrong? Why was this horse being such a bully? What needed to happen to make it stop?

I looked to The Grumpy One for some guidance. The scowl chiseled into his late middle-aged face told me I was out of luck. I would have to figure this out on my own. But I didn’t know what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks I was doing! Years of once-a-week recreational riding had not prepared me for anything like this. I didn’t want to end up broken in a pile of frozen horse manure.

With no support or guidance, and a total lack of interest from The Grumpy One with respect to my plight, I felt my nerve, and my courage, drying up; the colour in my face draining.

Frustration mounted as Buck, sensing my discomfiture (which horses always do), took full advantage and refused to move.

This was supposed to be my happy time; my time away from the complete shambles that was my home life. I didn’t need this horse to give me a hard time. I didn’t want, or need, this challenge, especially without appropriate instruction. I wasn’t there to be tortured.

After a final desperate appeal for help, and another growly disinterested response, I did something I’d never done before ~ I gave up. Choking back tears of frustration and deep humiliation I walked Buck to the middle of the arena and dismounted. The Grumpy One grunted. I lead Buck back to his stall. Untacked him. Left the barn.

I was done.

Buck had tested my mettle and I’d failed. What was supposed to make me feel better had left me feeling worse.

All I wanted, needed, was a little guidance. All The Grumpy One had to do was show a little  interest in helping me to work it out. All he wanted to do was growl and throw keys.

It reflected a pattern of repeated negative interactions with the males in my life (human and horse, apparently) that had become all too familiar.

Later, at home, I relived the experience in my head over and over, wondering what I could have done differently. Without appropriate instruction there was nothing to be done. Buck had hit a nerve and, in the interest of safety, my reaction had been to cut and run.

I realized that The Grumpy One was not a good instructor for me. Perhaps worse was the notion that Buck would be assigned to me again.

The apprehension around that thought was more than I was prepared to handle. So, with no apparent other alternative, I put my passion for horses on permanent hold. I was done. It was a childish pursuit anyway, I reasoned. Time I grew up.

Was I too easily discouraged? Possibly, but as a person with serious trust issues at that time, I didn’t know where to turn or who I could talk to. Obviously The Grumpy One had no interest in being the nurturing teacher I needed. As well, no one in my family understood my passion for horses, so there was no point in bothering them with my dilemma.

Could I have moved to another barn? Absolutely. But my heart was no longer in it. My nerves were too frayed.

Thereafter followed four of the most miserable years of my life, during which I experienced three failed attempts at in vitro fertilization; the continued downward spiral of my marriage  and the moment that changed everything … the death of my grandmother.

Which takes us to the internship …

Stay tuned for Part II of “The Buck Stops Here …”

~*~

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

The Escape Artist …

Something a little light-hearted from the hallowed aisle of Bear’s barn abode.

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The boy has proven, yet again, that he belongs in the Houdini Hall of Fame.

Either he is supremely, easily and utterly bored after dark … or too smart for his own good.

I believe it’s a combination of both, which is interesting because ol’ rubber lips has worked out the combination of moves required to, once again, make mischief.

It appears that during the still of the night when all is quiet and there isn’t a meddling human in sight, my darling all-too-clever-German-bred-boy-wonder has figured out how to open the feed door to his stall.

Bear and his neighbour, Robert, enjoy a chin wag

Bear and his neighbour, Robert, enjoy a chin wag. … Note, his feed door is open. How smooth and debonair he looks … like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. … Yeah, right … 😉

Perhaps it’s my own fault.

I have, over the years, indulged Bear’s social nature by making a habit of opening his feed door so he can stick his head out and engage with the world while I’m there. This is particularly true in winter when he spends more time indoors.

From here, Bear enjoys visiting his neighbour, Robert. He also eagerly awaits the filling of his bucket, which hangs on a hook beneath the feed door, with his beloved carrots. I, being his doting mother, of course, am only too happy to oblige. I just want my baby to be happy.

Recently, however, there’s been a development …

Bear has, indeed, figured out how to open this lever-less door on his own.

In and of itself this not a huge problem.

What has become an issue is the fact that my closet mechanical engineer has also figured out how to unlatch Robert’s door and push it wide open … all from his perch at the feed door.

So, not only is Bear adept at creating his own escape opportunities (see The Party Animal) he is all too willing, and able, to create these opportunities for others.

Fortunately, Robert is too old to be bothered with making a run for it and has, in fact, been discovered in the morning standing at the back of his stall, perhaps a little confused as to why his stall door is open at all.

How to curb Shakespeare’s quick wit?

Management has put a chain in place so Bear, while he’s still able to dislodge the mechanism, can no longer push open the door and lean over to mess with Robert’s latch.

Robert indicates the chain now in place to thwart naughty Bear's attempts at mischief ...

Robert indicates the chain now in place to thwart naughty Bear’s attempts at mischief …

However, don’t be too concerned …

… cos Bear certainly isn’t …

Here's laughing at you, kid

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

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Next time … the next instalment of Confessions of a Coaching Intern

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013