Things Are Getting Silly Now … and a Sonnet

Meeting Lucky

Bear meets his lucky charm for the first time …

~*~

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

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

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

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

Lately Bear’s been learning how to bow

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

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

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

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

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

Bowing

Carrot, please …

 ~*~

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

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

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

At least we finish with smiles.

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

And now … a Word from Poet’s Paddock

Meditation 2

Shakespeare musing …

~*~

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

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

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

~*~

Sonnet XXVII

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

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

~*~

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

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

I’m hopeful.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Going With The Flow

 

Shadow~*~

It’s day 18/120.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Routine …

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

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

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

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

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

Not spoiled at all.

The Perfect Day … New Shoes and a Massage

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

Who indeed? (sigh …)

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

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

Egg-zactly what the doctor ordered …

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

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

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

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

… and a massage, just because …

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

spa time

 

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

Yes, indeed. What about it?

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

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

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

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

Nurture what you love,

Dorothy
Horse Mom

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

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

 

From Shock Waves to Opportunity

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is also sometimes a matter of opportunity.”
Hippocrates

~*~

So, another leg of the healing path lies before Bear and I and what a wobbly pair we are. He and his bum ankle and me and my shaken sensibilities.

Naturally learning of Bear’s injury last week was a shock to the system. For days I felt the sting of his diagnosis and the disorientation of having had the rug pulled out from under my dressage dreams.

Yet, all the while I believed that in its place, when I was ready to see it and step up, a door mat to opportunity would appear ~ that all-important cloud’s silver lining. I still believe it.

But first, the “five stages of mourning” experience, which I liken to shock waves, had to flow through ~ a time of quiet (and agonized) introspection and self-care.

The first shock wave arrived by way of denial, and lasted about 24 hours. A fog seemed to settle in my mind, clouding my ability to see everything exactly as it needed to be seen. Dissociation, if you will. I simply found the information too overwhelming. After an hour and a half spent with the vet and learning of the diagnosis I made my peace with Bear and left him in the kind care of the barn manager. I needed space and time for the new reality to sink in. A pre-scheduled casual appointment gave me the opportunity and I took advantage of it knowing that Bear was in good hands. Even so, I floated between the comfort of knowing the source of his distress to the discomfort of uncertainty with respect to how he would heal. Denial disappeared when I returned to the barn the next day to find Bear in standing wraps tussling with his hay in the nibble net. It was then I understood that this experience was real.

After denial the second shock wave, anger. Why Bear? Why now, after all the progress we’ve been making? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Still, even while I was going through it I knew there was no point in holding on to this negative energy. Anger is an emotion that must flow in and out of the picture, like any other. It’s message ~ to help us grasp the fact that a boundary has been crossed and that we need to do something to mend that hurt. Anger is not the focal point. Horse hooey happens. It needs to be mucked out and released. So, that’s what I did.

The third wave of shock, bargaining. If only I’d been more in tune with Bear’s needs; if only I’d called the vet sooner; if only Bear could talk! … I know better than to beat myself up about things over which I have no control, so this stage did not last long either. I have been a steward of Bear for the past nine years and always done the best with the knowledge I had at my disposal. Lamenting over what was and berating myself over not being smarter/a better horse person/a soothsayer doesn’t help. Still, it’s one of those things we apparently need to do to get through to the other side of grief.

And then yes, a wave of depression because of what is lost. Bear and I have been progressing so well and now our training is set back several months … or perhaps forever if this injury doesn’t heal. (I believe it will, but there are no guarantees, as the vet reminded me.) So then, what of my riding? Is it time to give that up? When I consider this option my eyes well up and my heart races. No, it can’t possibly be time to let go of an activity that brings we such joy. I’m always happiest with the wind in my mane. Happiest when Bear shares his wings with me. Oh dear … here come the tears …

And then, finally, the wave of acceptance. I’m getting there. The silver lining is peeking through this heavy, dark cloud that has shrouded my week and the light is beginning to show forth. I’m getting stronger again and feeling like I can perhaps cross the threshold of an open door to opportunity, even if I don’t know exactly what that is yet. Bear needs time off, this is evident. Perhaps a change of career is in order for him. This remains to be seen. In the meantime, I need to focus on what I can do. Expand my world. Draw on my adventurous spirit. Open my mind and heart to the idea of adding to my herd.

My dressage dream still stands. I want to create my own freestyle choreography and test it at Prix St. George level. (Hey! I’ve never voiced that before!) I have a great trainer now. I still have a lot of good years ahead of  me and want to make the most of this opportunity.

Still, time will tell. In the meantime, I focus my attention on Bear’s boo-boo and do the best I can to keep him comfortable and entertained while he’s in rehab.

And how’s Bear doing?

We’re at day 9/120. Bear’s in good spirits and being sensible about the new routine.

On Friday he had his first round of Shock Wave therapy ~ a non-invasive treatment that uses shocks of energy to stimulate the injured cells back to wellness. Since then I have been responsible for the daily changing of his standing wraps (both hind legs including a sweat on the injured fetlock), and hand walking 1-2 times daily for 10-15 minutes each time. It’s been obscenely cold in southern Ontario so there’s no time for imagination. We simply walk. Bear seems wistful about it. It’s as if he understands that something is lost and that the new normal, however temporary, is just what it is.

The attached diagram shows where Bear’s injury (and Hershey’s just as a bonus) has occurred. The extensor branch of the suspensory ligament, where Bear’s injury is located, helps to support the fetlock to prevent over extension of the joint while in motion. Any number of factors could have contributed to the inflammation he’s experiencing in that area right now. I’ve given up speculating on it.

(It’s a funny thing … several years ago I had a mounting accident (yes, I wasn’t even on my horse yet) and severely strained the ligaments of my right ankle (hind!) when my foot flip flopped violently from side to side in the deep footing of the outdoor sand ring (it’s a long story … sigh … ). So bad was the sprain that I was black and blue from the tip of my toes to just below my knee, and I didn’t have full use of that ankle for several months. So, to some extent I can empathize with Bear’s situation.)

The recovery is going to be a long and slow ordeal. Four months to heal the injured area and, if we get the all clear, another eight months just to get him back to the fitness level he enjoyed before he injured himself. By that time he’ll be 14 and a half years old.

Will he make a total recovery? As I’ve said before, it remains to be seen. He’s getting the best of care and the rest, really, is up to him. In the meantime, he’s enjoying some R&R and I have an opportunity to establish a new equilibrium and expand my horizons.

From my experience, the shock waves of life can open the door to deep healing, and healing always brings with it an opportunity for growth and expansion. We just need to be open enough to see, receive and make the most of it.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

 

 

Stalled

stalled

We’re in this together …

 

~*~

Okay, so this is where everything I learned in the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning program least year is put to the test.

Feeling my feelings. Acknowledging. Accepting. Embracing. Releasing. Moving on.

The following pictorial is a summary of Bear’s visit with the vet on Wednesday …

Mr. Curious

Bear plays the role of Curious George as Dr. Maggie and her able assistant, Sarah, set up the x-ray equipment outside his stall.

Since I manage foreign stress better with a camera in hand, in this instance my iPhone, I take pictures.

~*~

x-ray

Sarah holds the x-ray plate while Dr. Maggie captures one of several images.
Bear was a good boy throughout the exercise.

~*~

bones are good

Eureka! Bones of the fetlock joint are in good shape. 🙂

~*~

Sore suspensory

Sadly … ultra unsound. 😦

~*~

The Trooper

Check the other fetlock for comparison.
Bear remains stoic.

~*~

sore

The end result …

Bear has injured the lateral suspensory ligament of his right hind leg.
This is a serious injury.
To prevent further damage (especially since it’s so icy outside right now) he is to be confined to his stall for 120 days to recover.
As well, he will be bandaged 24/7 with a change every day.
He’ll also be hand walked once or twice a day to give him really light exercise and help allay the boredom.

~*~

Nibble net

Bear is in good spirits and seems to understand that we are trying to help him. He’s a smart horse and amuses himself with the nibble net in which his hay is now fed.

~*~

I, on the other hand, am dealing with uncomfortable feelings right now. Even though I know what’s going on (and better to know), and welcome the experience of nurturing him back to health I am sad. Sad that Bear suffers; sad that our training has been stalled. As well, as this is Bear’s first major injury in the almost nine years since I welcomed him into my life, seeing him confined in this way, even though it’s for his own good, is difficult for me.

How did this happen? Who knows! He’s a horse. It could have happened anywhere. But I expect that learning to move correctly has put stress on an area of his body (the right hind) that is his natural weakness. With the time off and proper care he will quite likely come back feeling stronger and better than ever, but there are no guarantees. I’ve received a lot of encouragement from other horse owners who have been in this boat, and this helps me to feel somewhat better. Still, the uncertainty, I guess, is what unsettles me the most, especially since my life in general feels unsettled right now.

And yet, I remain optimistic.

Today I get a refresher course in bandaging, and Dr. Maggie is coming back to give Bear his first of three shockwave treatments which will be spread out during his recovery time.

Over the next few days I’ll begin to develop a routine and a rhythm that will help things settle again. A time of new growth; new opportunity; new learning. It’s a matter of taking one step at a time and having faith in the journey.

Perhaps you’re wondering about the expense?
Between the x-rays, ultrasounds, shockwave treatments et al, Bear’s recovery is an expensive undertaking. Fortunately, I have medical coverage from his insurer so most of it will be covered.

So, here we are, Bear and I, hobbling down another path together that will deepen even more the relationship we already share.

Every cloud has a silver lining and I can see the gossamer starting to appear already.

We’re stalled … but we’re fine.

Thanks for stopping by and remember to nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

One Journey Ends … Another Begins

Noble Bear

Shakespeare … aka Bear

 ~*~

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

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

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

~*~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

So, what’s next?

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

Sonnet XIII

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

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

~*~

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

May the world be yours.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Learning Curve

Bear

 

~*~

Learning curves do not move in a simple arc …

They are a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back, twisting, turning road that can drive us around the bend at times, motioning us beyond our comfort zones into a miasma of uncertainty and fear.

It’s little wonder people are afraid of change. And yet, if we do not go there we risk becoming ensnarled in our own traffic jams of negative thought and self-loathing. From my own experience, when we refuse an opportunity to venture into greater self-awareness and a deeper understanding of the world around us we deny ourselves the full capacity to embrace life.

In fact, it occurs to me that our comfort zones can, if we’re not careful, become more like dead zones. As I’ve discovered while doing my own healing work, the comfort zone is a good place to escape to now and then when we’re feeling overwhelmed, but to dwell there all the time can be stultifying and render us stuck in patterns of behaviour that prevent forward movement and personal growth.

Any number of things can keep us stuck, of course. Fear, vulnerability, depression, etc. can leave us feeling unable to move beyond what we perceive to be our limit. Busting through that self-imposed boundary (especially when we don’t know why we put it there) comes only when we can find the capacity within ourselves to leap with faith into the unknown. The assistance of an objective third party capable of holding a safe space for us while we work through whatever’s blocking our way is important too. When I started therapy four and half years ago, I felt the stigma. But now I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to free his- or herself from a burdensome and painful past in order to step boldly into a bright future.

Changes happen at various stages along the curve. They don’t all happen at once or we would become overwhelmed. Old concepts of self must be shed little by little and new concepts added just as gradually so as not to shock the system. Certainly there are times when I wish things would unfold a little more quickly, but when I look back on the past few years of my life and the changes that have occurred since I chose to to step out of the confinement of a false self-perception I am satisfied that everything has unfolded the way it was supposed to in order for me to come out of the process feeling more whole.

My big breakthrough in the past week has been to be able to ride Bear out back in the fields without company. Not long ago I would have hesitated, but enough has shifted inside of me with all that I’ve been learning in the last little while that my confidence has returned and things I would not have attempted before I am comfortable to do now. It’s a confidence my horse can feel as I put my leg on his side and ask him to march down the steep and narrow gravel driveway, past the scary pond, across the little bridge that takes us over a running stream and up the grassy hill on the other side to 70 acres or so of corn-planted fields surrounded by cut paths around cross-country jumps set in rolling hills. We have gone from feeling frightened to having fun! So liberating for us both after years stuck in our fear caused by trauma and my shifting middle-age physiology.

Another important component when moving along the learning curve is being able to pull a sense of humour out of our back pockets. Being able to laugh when things go wrong shows our willingness to allow life to take its course. When my summer riding agenda was rudely interrupted by a lower back injury caused while struggling to remove a dressage boot from my right leg I had, in the end, only to laugh about it. What a ridiculous thing to do! When I was able to allow the initial frustration to dissipate, I realized this silly episode actually put me in a position to learn some deeper lessons about my life with Bear. It put me on a new path, one I would have missed otherwise.

Stepping onto a new path for the first time is likely to start with a messy puddle at the gate, but with the first splash into the unknown comes awakening. And with awakening our recognition of that dead zone in which we find ourselves, and the desire to move beyond it; to peek around the door of a self-imposed prison and see what else is going on out there that resonates with and, perhaps, heals who we are in here.

I’ve been on a heavy duty learning curve the past few months …

First learning the theory behind the experiential learning practice ~ lessons on how energy works; heart resonance; how the body processes and releases trauma; treating emotions as information; psychotherapeutic terms and explanations; the spiritual aspect; various aspects of horse behaviour … and on.

And then the practice ~ energy exercises involving the horses; observing and understanding how individual energy fields (human and equine) impact the environment and how to adapt or self-regulate in the face of fear and uncertainty.

And while I learn I process. Long-buried stuff gets triggered … stuff which, within the sacred space created by the group, (and in my therapist’s office and at home) can be recognized for what it is, honoured for the role it has played and that is no longer relevant, and released to allow for new, more life affirming information to be integrated and acted upon.

So many profound healing moments on so many levels. Growing self-awareness and mindfulness. Exciting and exhausting all at once.

In the midst of this experience I realize the road to self-awareness is one of the most exciting adventures upon which I will ever embark. It is the exploration of an inner world ~ climbing my own mountains; forging my own seas; walking my own forests. An opportunity to recognize the beauty of my inner landscape and to clean up the toxic emotional wastelands initially created by the dysfunctional people in my life and perpetuated by my unquestioning belief in the noxious myths they’d planted that threatened to lay waste to the light of my own truth. As I pull out their weeds there is room for my own truth to grow. It is a wonderful experience to see my Self in the light of day.

This summer has also been about recognizing and attending to Bear’s aging process …

It’s funny how we echo each other. As I watch my own body go through the mid-life “change” his is doing something similar. In horse terms he is still in his prime, but as soon as he turns 14 next June he’ll be considered “aged.” (Sigh …)

With us both getting long in the tooth there are many health issues to consider.

Sadly for Bear, my adrenal fatigue has had an effect on his life. My lack of physical strength has diminished his own simply because I have not been able to train and exercise him in the way he needed to maintain the fitness he (we) once had.

Since I am now feeling somewhat better and we have great support around us we can step up our game. Our summer of lameness is behind us and we’re both feeling more up for a challenge. With the help of his chiropractor, massage therapist and the lovely barn owner I need to figure out an appropriate maintenance program for Bear as we continue to grow together toward our potential.

Nine months ago I moved Bear to a new barn and together we jumped right into a mud puddle of possibility. Since then, we have ridden the learning curve and evolved and changed in ways that I could never have imagined.

And the journey continues.

Now, as luck would have it, I just received a link to a new and beautiful short video filmed at the farm where I’m taking my course. Spend a few moments with 12 year-old Olin who, through the healing power of the horse, begins to overcome his anxieties and find his feet in the world. Here’s the link:

Free Rein ~ Olin’s Journey ~ click on the video at the bottom of the page “Free Rein Part 3: Horse Connections.”

Enjoy!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2014

 

 

Healing Work(s)

 

Chillin'

~*~

It’s been just two months since I embarked on my Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) journey, and the rate at which new information and change is flowing in, through and around me is nothing less than astonishing.

So much growth in just eight weeks and on so many levels it’s put me into heavy duty integration/processing mode. However, this makes writing about it a challenge.

Even though the information I’m learning resonates with me at a deep level, the facts and feelings are still finding their way home. I’m looking forward to the day when the words just trip from my finger tips onto the keyboard and into my blog posts, because for now it is an arduous task at best. Clarity is important when sharing this incredible work. I want to do it well.

Having said that, I’ve written a short piece of fiction in three parts inspired by a prompt and a few supportive blog followers, that touches on one of my experiences from the first FEEL session in July. Here’s the link to the beginning: Lost and Found … Part I in case you’re interested in reading it. Parts II and III appear in consecutive posts. The setting and characters are fictitious, of course, but the work is not.

My experience doing Reflective Round Pen work at that first session turned into an incredible life altering moment for me. I was not planning on putting it into any written form, at least not yet. But then the prompt came and sometimes you just can’t plan for these things. I like the way the story turned out. I hope you do too.

Of course, behind every experiential learning activity is a wealth of research and background information to support it. I’ve spent a good deal of time reading from a number of books and resources that help to bring the work to life.

For instance:

Institute of HeartMath ~ is an “internationally recognized nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to helping people reduce stress, self-regulate emotions and build energy and resilience for healthy, happy lives. HeartMath tools, technology and training teach people to rely on the intelligence of their hearts in concert with their minds at home, school, work and play.” I’ve really enjoyed learning about this and plan to become really conversant in it.

Institute of Noetic Sciences ~ founded in 1973 by Apollo 14 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell ~ “a 501(c)(3) nonprofit research, education, and membership organization whose mission is supporting individual and collective transformation through consciousness research, educational outreach, and engaging a global learning community in the realization of our human potential. “Noetic” comes from the Greek word nous, which means “intuitive mind” or “inner knowing.” IONS™ conducts, sponsors, and collaborates on leading-edge research into the potentials and powers of consciousness, exploring phenomena that do not necessarily fit conventional scientific models while maintaining a commitment to scientific rigour. … The Institute’s primary program areas are consciousness and healing, extended human capacities, and emerging world views.” I’m just learning about this. It’s fascinating.

In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness … by Peter A. Levine PhD ~ this has been an incredible source of understanding for me with respect to how early childhood and developmental trauma has shaped my life, and provided greater awareness concerning how trauma may be managed and released. Many lightbulb moments here. And lots of processing.

The Way of the Horse … by Linda Kohanov ~ I reflect on a chapter a week, depending on which of the cards call my attention. It’s amazing how the information I read reflects so accurately the place I am in my life in that moment. A great learning tool and beautifully presented.

Reading and connecting to the information presented in these resources alone (and I’m just barely scratching the surface here … there is so much more) has been heart and mind opening to say the least. My understanding and experience of life, and my Self in it, has deepened dramatically. The amazing thing about this work is that as I learn I also heal. It’s so profound. I’m finally integrating the idea that my past is not my future. Emotions are information, not prison guards. Allowing them to speak; listening to what they have to say is the beginning of healing and letting go. When we are stuck in our emotions we are stuck in the past; stuck in our lives. Debilitated. From my own experience I know this is not a nice place to be.

Of course, learning to treat emotions as information takes time and practice. From what I’ve experienced so far, it’s worth it.

For instance, the incident with the dressage boot was extremely painful on a physical level, and frustrating in other ways. However, as soon as I started listening to and considering the deeper body-held message of trauma real healing ~ physical and emotional ~ was able to begin. Lifelong trauma held in my hips finally released. In fact, my hips have never felt better. What I realized was that looking at the issue as more than just physical; being willing to recognize the emotions that sat in the background waiting to be acknowledged and released was an important part of the healing process. It IS an important part of the healing process.

All of this simply confirms for me that unless we are open to the lessons life has to teach us in the moment, they will be repeated until we finally make the connection and do the work to heal.

Awareness is key.

Bear’s Boo Boo

At RestMeanwhile, Bear’s in recuperative mode.

In my last post I mentioned some concern about a possible issue with his left stifle. Flexion tests showed that Bear’s issue was acute rather than chronic, though we do need to keep an eye on a couple of things. He’s been put on a joint supplement that will help and he’s been only in light work of late. Today he had a chiropractic adjustment ~ his first in almost a year ~ and this should make a big difference. He certainly enjoyed it.

The thing I’ve realized is that he’s processing, too. Like me, Bear has absorbed a lot of new information this year. His body is being asked to work in a new, more correct manner, and the old ways must be released. This is bound to cause some strain. Like breaking in a new pair of shoes there’s bound to be some discomfort for a while until they’ve moulded to your feet. Bear’s body is moulding to a new, more aligned way of being and it’s taking some toll right now. With patience and lots of pampering he’ll be his new self in no time.

I’m excited for the possibilities that lay ahead for Bear and me, but am in no hurry. Everything has a process that must be respected or we just buy ourselves more unnecessary misery. By my observation the only thing that’s ever in a hurry is the ego.

Remember the Titanic? 😉

When Harry Met Dorothy

Interestingly, while Bear’s been off I’ve had the opportunity to ride another horse.

Harry is a 20-year-old chestnut Trakehner eventing horse whose mom doesn’t make it up to the barn very often right now. A few of us have been offered the chance to nurture and exercise him, and I am participating. (The fact I would do this indicates how far I have come since last year when the adrenal fatigue was still so in control of my life I was only riding Bear three times a week. Now I’m riding two horses ~ Bear five times per week and Harry two to three times per week!! :-))

Harry and I have been an item for the past two weeks or so. Bear’s good with it. He knows there is enough love to go around and that no one can take his place in my heart. (Horses do need to know these things.)

My first time out with Harry was disorienting, to say the least. He and Bear are so different. However, as we got to know one another and our relationship progressed both on the ground and in the saddle we found an understanding.

Like any new relationship I had to find my place in his world. Had to release any expectation and embrace the new experience. Riding Harry the same way I rode Bear was not going to work. I needed to adapt to Harry’s needs; learn the language he understood before piling on any new information that was intended to make his working life a little easier. Slowly building a synergy with Harry was my primary goal ~ first at walk and then trot and then, when completely comfortable, the canter. My intention whenever trying a different horse is to feel what they need, not demand from them what my ego wants. Proving myself is not the point. Creating a good working relationship with a horse that has allowed me to take up residence on his back for half an hour is the goal. It’s better for both of us.

I’m pleased to say my approach has worked well. Together Harry and I have grown, and what I have learned from Harry I am adapting to Bear. It makes a difference.

But that’s what moving beyond our comfort zone does, isn’t it? It gives us another perspective that we can integrate into other areas of our lives. Sure, anytime we move beyond what we consider to be normal there is a period of disorientation. How we move through that momentary feeling of imbalance and confusion depends largely on how aware we are in the process and how open we are to change.

Harry has proven another wonderful catalyst for change for me. He has tested my skill and expanded my comfort zone in a way I was not anticipating. That said, I appreciate any horse ~ any person~ who, without agenda or judgment, is able to help me find a missing piece of my Self.

When Harry met Dorothy her life changed … again.

The healing journey continues.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

When Life Takes Us Full Circle

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the past several years it’s not to judge the process.

When we launch into something we often have a pre-c0nceived notion of how things are supposed to unfold.

It’s simple, right? Have a dream; set a goal; plan a destination and that should be enough to get us on our way.

Well, it is, and it isn’t.

John Lennon famously said that “life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” Often what we don’t understand is that life, no matter how topsy turvy and mettle testing it is at the time, is unfolding as part of the plan to reach our dream. It’s why it’s so important to acknowledge the journey and be immersed in it wherever it takes us. We may reach, or even exceed, our dreams if we just hold on tight and don’t let go.

Good things comeThis is all very philosophical and a round about way of getting to my point …

Eight years ago, after reading “Riding Between the Worlds” by Linda Kohanov, I had a dream to acquire the training I needed to help people heal through the way of the horse. I was already a nationally certified equestrian coach so this would be a natural extension of what I was already doing. In my innocence (or ignorance) I thought achieving the dream would be a simple case of signing up for Linda’s course in Arizona and, once completed, setting up my shingle somewhere here in southern Ontario.

Nothing could have been further from the truth … because I was disconnected from my truth. At the time I was in my early 40s and struggling with life on so many levels, looking for escape. My focus was on running away rather than walking steadfastly toward something.

The dream identified, life unfolded ~ a veritable roller coaster ride:

Down ~ Within months of formulating this dream I was restructured from my job as an advertising copywriter and went into a depression.

Down ~ Six months later the horse I’d been part-boarding for two years died of cancer.

Up ~ Four months later, after a relatively easy search, by all accounts, Bear cantered into my life.

Up ~ One month later training began with Chris Irwin ~ my introduction to healing with horses through his Train the Trainer program and Equine-Assisted Personal Development. This was when I started to realize how broken I was and led to eighteen months of art therapy.

Up ~ In the meantime my partner (now husband) and I enjoyed four years of twice yearly world travel to places I’d never imagined going. (2008 to 2012)

Down ~ A trip to beautiful, battle-scarred Sarajevo in 2009 sent me into five years (and counting) of psychotherapy ~ my own life battle scars screaming for attention.

Down ~ Then early-onset menopause and all the joy that brings took its toll. (2010)

Down ~ Adrenal fatigue and its bitter anti-social pill insisted I shut down my life and focus on healing. (2010 to present)

Down ~ No more public singing performances (my adrenal health couldn’t support it) (2011)

Down ~ The attempted suicide of a family member and resultant trauma threw another curve. (2012)

Up ~ Our beautiful wedding brought immense joy. (2013)

Up ~ A barn change signalled a new beginning for Bear and I. (2013)

Up and down and up ~ The death of old friendships and the birth of new ones tested my emotional resiliency in ways I had not expected.

Yes, life happened; demanded I pay attention; tested my resolve, strength and commitment to the ups and down; the highs and lows of the healing process. Could I weather the storms I was intending to help others with through healing with horses?

It was an honest enough question. How could I facilitate in others what I had not experienced for myself?

These experiences have, indeed, brought me full circle to the point at which I am happy to announce that I have registered in a six-month Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) certification program which begins at the end of June. It’s a program based on the teachings of Linda Kohanov and, as luck would have it, the sessions take place just a half hour away from home.

It’s a big decision made after much considered thought and meditation. However, I feel that it is the right move for me as I continue along my own healing journey. I am confident this course will teach me much about how I relate to the world and will help to heal aspects of my inner world still requiring attention. And, of course, it will take me another purposeful step closer to realizing my dream of helping people heal through the way of the horse.

I’m ready for this new step but am not kidding myself ~ it will be another intense period of growth bringing with it the inevitable roller coaster of emotion.

Still, I’m game.

What’s another roller coaster on the circle of life when it takes us closer to our dreams?

I firmly believe our heartfelt dreams never die. When a dream is meant to be it seems that life provides the experiences we need to create the environment the dream needs to come true. It’s why we must never judge the process or how long it takes … or quit.

Hold fast to your dream. It may be closer than you think.

~*~

I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks. When I return my plan is to post regular updates as I proceed through the FEEL certification program and, of course, share the cheeky shenanigans of my beautiful Bear.

Of course, life unfolds as it should. 😉

Always remember to nurture what you love … and that includes you.

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Horse is Never “Just a Horse”

 Weekly Writing Challenge: Student, Teacher

~*~

Bear Boy

Bear

~*~

As a writer I know I share at least one thing in common with anyone who puts pen to paper or finger tips to keyboard ~ we want to move people in some way.

Move them to think; to act; to change; to believe; to hope; to aspire; to learn; to grow.

Perhaps there are some with other more nefarious objectives but my goal, particularly with this blog, has always been to inspire, and perhaps teach, through the way of the horse … okay, my horse.

The lessons I’ve learned in the past eight years with this incredible equine companion have altered me in so many amazing ways I cannot even begin to number them.

Bear is among the kindest of souls and endears, with his gentle and comic personality, all who meet him.

Perhaps the most important lesson he has taught me (so far) is the importance of self-awareness; to be in the moment. To wrap myself in the now and be fully present in every experience, even the ones I don’t enjoy so much.

As one who has lived most of my life in a disassociated state this has been, as you might imagine, a most valuable and, at times, uncomfortable, lesson. A lesson I have explored both on the ground and in the saddle and thoroughly reviewed and attempted to integrate every week, for the past five years, in the therapist’s chair.

Reclaiming Self is a serious business.

When I go to the barn and look in Bear’s big baby browns, and he curls his lip in greeting and nickers for his carrots, I feel invited into, and an important part of, his world.

Being disassociated means not feeling safe, never mind special, in anyone’s world, not even your own. The only way to survive is to create distance; to be there, but not be there. To trust no one, often not even yourself. The flight/fright hormone is engaged all the time.

Horses will not tolerate this dysfunction in anyone since it triggers their own primal instincts to flee, i.e  disassociate. It’s why horses are wonderful mirrors during the healing process. It is possible to know almost immediately how well you are doing by the response of the horse sharing your space ~ that is as long as you are aware of the impact you’re having on them in that moment.

I’ve been around horses most of my life but Bear is the one who has shown me who I am and helped me recover my life.

He’s been the equine therapist and a valuable teacher to this soul long lost, and I am blessed.

Equine-assisted therapy has, in recent years, become widely accepted as a recognized healing practice

My introduction to equine-assisted therapy came in 2006 at an Equine-Assisted Personal Development workshop with noted Canadian horse trainer, Chris Irwin. During the four-day closed session 10 of us participated in a variety of exercises designed to promote self-awareness ~ the horses engaged as remarkable catalysts for personal growth and learning. All exercises took place on the ground and within the safety of the round pen. To interact with the horse in this new way changed my life. It was the true beginning of my journey to healing and it made my interactions with Bear, who was new to me at the time, all the more meaningful.

I’ve also had the privilege of attending a workshop conducted by Linda Kohanov ~ internationally-recognized as the innovator of Equine Experiential Learning and author of four powerful books on the journey of healing with horses ~ “Riding Between the Worlds,” “The Tao of Equus,” “Way of the Horse” and “The Power of the Herd.”

Both Chris and Linda have been developing global networks of qualified equine-assisted personal development/therapy practitioners. Naturally, I cannot recommend one over another, but if you are interested in exploring equine-assisted therapy as a healing option or you have a background with horses or in psychotherapy and would like to familiarize yourself with this work I recommend a visit to their websites to get started.

Certainly there are other practitioners in the emerging field of therapeutic healing with horses. Many programs are adapted to provide specialized leadership training, while others are tailored to help troubled youth and prison inmates, and still others are designed to address issues of abuse. For many years special “riding for the disabled programs” have been integral to helping the physically-challenged gain a sense and awareness of their own bodies in a way that conventional physical therapy cannot.

Dorothy and BearOver the years horses have evolved from farm and war machines to recreational and healing partners. All the better for them ~ and us ~ as long as we proceed with awareness and don’t abuse this privilege.

I’m presently contemplating taking my journey of awareness to the next level by working with a qualified equine therapy practitioner in my area to address some lingering post-traumatic stress issues. This came at the recommendation of my new GP who practices Integrative Medicine. I just about fell out of my chair when she suggested, during our first meeting last fall, that I explore this healing option.

Life is an ongoing journey and for years I believed my survival depended on me going it alone.

The horse ~ my horse ~ and the amazing people drawn into my life because of him, have taught me to believe otherwise.

A horse is never “just a horse.”

~*~

If you’re interested in learning more about the magic of healing with horses, check out the links below and other resources on the internet.

Further Resources

Horse Therapy Helps People Surmount Personal Obstacles (Toronto Star)

Horses4Heroes

National Association for Equine Facilitated Wellness (Canada)

PATH International

FEEL Alumni

EAGALA

 

~*~

And now for something completely different …

 

onelovelyblogawardMy thanks to Ivy of Ivy_Mosquito|Love is free for nominating “Musings of a Horse Mom” for the One Lovely Blog Award. Ivy is a more recent follower of my horse mom musings and I’m touched that she has been so quick to pin a  ribbon to my wall. Thank you, Ivy.

Seven things you won’t know about me (and Bear):

  1. Bear receives a lavender aromatherapy facial massage at the end of every grooming session. Yeah, okay, I spoil him rotten. The fact is it’s a habit I started the first day he became mine. I wanted him always to be able to associate me with a pleasant experience, no matter what. He really enjoys it. 😉
  2. Bear’s bridle and dressage saddle are both Canadian-made by master craftsman Martin York of York Saddlery and Harness. I can highly recommend his incredible work.
  3. I’m OCD about Bear’s polo bandages and my shirt matching or at least complimenting each other. Coordination is king!
  4. Bear’s bit is a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra Loose Ring Snaffle. I’ve used nothing else and he loves chewing on it.
  5. Bear has no vices … okay, he may enjoy his carrots just a little too much. 😉
  6. I always wear a helmet when I ride. My preferred brand is Charles Owen.
  7. Hat hair is the bane of my existence, but I’d rather be safe than sport the perfect coif. 😉

Here are seven lovely blogs I nominate for the One Lovely Blog award.

 Apronhead Lilly

Living Soulful

Building a Life of Hope

Capital Cowgirl

Crazy Train to Tinky Town

Horse Listening

Virginia Views

Thank you to all who follow and “like” this blog. It means a lot to me that I can touch souls through my musings about life with my horse and beyond.

Nurture what you love and enjoy the ride!

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Remember Who You Are

 

~*~

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

 ~*~

Since moving to the new barn almost four months ago I haven’t had much to say about training. It’s been a rather intense period of re-configuring my relationship with the world equine, and often when you’re in the midst of something like this and you can’t see the light for the tunnel you’re travelling in, it can be an impossible task to describe the experience to others. These moments are deeply personal and life-altering and the moments must be fully lived in to reap the benefit.

I am aware that not all readers here are horse people. Still, the lessons of life ~ whether you learn them with reins, rigging or a nine iron in your hand ~ are universal. It’s the language of whatever we have identified as our passion that will speak the magic words of life’s meaning to us. It is up to each of us to pay attention. So, while endeavouring to grasp the language of the horse as interpreted by my new trainer, I’ve been doing my best to pay attention and take it all it in. Of course, there are plenty of old ideas to release before the new ones can take hold. I’m learning to forget who I was told to be and am finally getting a profound glimpse of who I am (never mind remembering.)

Being a “woman of a certain age” already managing the baggage that particular trip to self-awareness brings, this is no mean feat.

Finally I’m seeing beyond the limitations others had established throughout my life and am moving into a more expansive, authentic way of being. My awakening horse, the new nurturing barn environment and a trainer and yes, barn owner, who support my potential and judge me not by my past, have already, in just four short months, made such a huge difference.

There certainly have been, and continue to be, struggles, of course. One cannot extricate oneself from old patterns of behaviour and belief without profound moments of discomfort, doubt, sorrow and trepidation. Change means challenge, but being stuck in a frustrating and debilitating rut is, as far as I’m concerned, far less desirable.

There are moments when I wonder why Bear and I had to wait so long for this opportunity to expand. But then I remind myself that everything unfolds as it should and bemoaning what was only uses up whatever precious energy is available to enjoy what is.

The fact is, timing and preparation met opportunity. Bear’s current home, as it is now, didn’t even exist 18 months ago, and I was not ready to take this step. The cosmic tumblers hadn’t fallen into place. Last November things began to click and the transition from old barn to new happened in less than a month once I’d made up my mind to move.

Yes, life unfolds as it should; things happen when they’re meant to; when the student is ready the teacher will appear. Truth in abundance.

But enough philosophizing.

The reason this has come up is that last Thursday I was almost ready to put away my riding boots for good …

Any equestrian with a true passion for their sport and a love for their horse(es) will tell you that there are days when the effort just doesn’t seem worth the reward. You have an off day. The horse has an off day. You both have an off day at the same time. Conditions are too cold; hot; wet. There are so many variables. A horse has a mind of its own and on any given day he might just tune out and leave you feeling like you’re sitting on a brick wall for all the connection you have. Getting doggedly through these moments without berating yourself for being a crap rider and having a meltdown can be a challenge at times. Riding horses effectively and sympathetically isn’t all happy trails and fairy tales. It’s mentally, physically, emotionally, financially and, for many riders I know, spiritually challenging.

And just to set the record straight, not all horse people are sitting on piles and piles of cash. Many make great sacrifices to ensure the health and safety of their animals and to pursue their passion. Still, I’m happy to sacrifice a pair of fashionable shoes that’ll last me a season for a training session in classical riding with a Master instructor that’ll last me a lifetime. Prioritizing what’s truly important is all part of the experience. Is that not a life lesson?

So, getting back to Thursday, in spite of the fact Bear and I have made great progress during the previous almost four months I felt, on that miserable day, as if we were going backwards. He wasn’t moving off my leg. He wasn’t paying attention. He wouldn’t walk down the lovely lane by the pond we’d conquered the week before. And he wasn’t being particularly nice about any of it. It was old stuff ~ old stuff I thought we’d left behind. Bear was being a bear, and I was frustrated.

I blame some of this on his hierarchal arguments in the paddock. He’s established himself as alpha out there, so possibly he was laying a challenge for me. In the end I made it work but honestly, it felt like any progress since our move had been lost. It was one of those two-steps back kind of days. Argh!!!

After a few moments of weepy frustration (as we equestrians are wont to do at such times) I decided that rather than get mad I’d get even. Instead of riding, which I had no desire to do anyway, I would school Bear on the lunge line.

The lunge work, with Bear in side reins, helps him engage pushing power from behind and get him stretching over his top line and into the contact, which he generally finds creative ways to avoid. No contact, no connection. Just 10 minutes in both directions was enough to achieve the desired result. Bear’s a smart horse. He picks up on cues and signals quickly when I work with him on the ground.

Now, if only I could engage that in the saddle.

After our excellent lunging session I walked Bear, in-hand, down the lane past the bank barn, past the pond, over the bridge, back over the bridge, past the pond up the lane way past the bank barn and back to his stall. He was such a good boy. The more I can get him used to this routine the more enjoyable it will be for both of us. My intention is to get out in the fields and ride this summer, not spend every day in the hot sand ring so, he must learn to be brave.

The next step in this little remedial moment was for Stefan to ride Bear on Saturday.

Stefan rides Bear past the scary pond ...

Stefan rides Bear past the scary pond …

Stefan riding Bear is like Wayne Gretzky manoeuvring a hockey puck across the ice ~ effortless and intuitive. For an hour or so I watched as Bear was put through his paces by this great horseman. I watched closely the master’s technique. The pace and rhythm he created. Bear went so beautifully for him. Sure, my horse needs to continue to build strength from behind, but he was putty in the gentle master’s hands. I can hardly wait to see the difference a few months from now. 😉

Hands together and stationed just above the withers seems to be the most important thing I can remember right now. My hands have a tendency to get a bit busy. This impedes our connection and allows Bear to be evasive. Imagine if you’re driving a car and you keep moving the steering wheel unnecessarily ~ you’d be all over the road, right? Busy hands create confusion for the horse. A proper connection cannot be established like this. If I don’t commit to stillness, he can’t commit to straightness. It’s quite simple.

So, Sunday I took Bear out for a spin, determined to duplicate what I had witnessed the day before. My experience was night and day compared to Thursday. No, it wasn’t perfect, but working from a higher level of awareness and with my boy tuned up I felt like I was on the moon! This continued into my lesson on Monday, my coach and I quite encouraged by the profound progress made in just one week.

Of course, it’s one thing to find the connection but another thing altogether to maintain it …

This will come with time and practice. For one thing, both Bear and I need to rebuild our endurance. During the last couple of years, with adrenal fatigue my miserable companion, my stamina all but disappeared. I’ve been feeling better these days so I’m hoping that over the coming months I can, through riding and twice-weekly Pilates sessions and more walking, build this up again. I still need to manage my energy stores carefully. Pushing myself beyond endurance creates an energy deficit that my body can only manage by foreclosing for 24 hours. Still, I am stronger and this is most encouraging.

For Bear’s part, he’s on all-day turnout with his buddy, Dream, and the paddocks are large and rolling, so he gets plenty of exercise when I’m not around. That, and the new work we’re doing, will make him plenty strong.

Apart from that, this classical style of riding requires the creation of new muscle memory in mind and body. Building that takes time, effort and practice.

So, while things looked pretty bleak on Thursday it was, in fact, a pivotal day. And now, we rest for a few days to replenish our resources.

It’s said that things are always darkest before the dawn. It’s also said that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Crossing the threshold to a new way of being can be a tough and miserable business. However, with the appropriate, knowledgeable help and a determination to get through the rough patches, the transition of old ways of thinking to new and the adoption of fresh ideas that more deeply resonate with our personal truths can mark a glorious beginning and reclamation of self.

Putting away my riding boots for good would not have been the answer. Symbolically, however, I traded in the beat-up steppers for a sturdier pair, tailor-made for striding positively, purposefully and powerfully into a future where I finally get a chance to remember, be, and embrace who I am.

Bear SmilesAnd all because of a horse.

What helps you to remember who you are?

Nurture what you love.

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014