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

A Beautiful Thing

 

Bear's chillin' while the stylist does her thang ...

Bear’s chillin’ at the beauty parlour …

 

~*~

The last session of the Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning (FEEL) certification program is next weekend so life is somewhat hectic right now. Assignments to complete (including a new blog/website dedicated to the work … stay tuned!), Bear to organize for my six-day absence and, of course, gearing up for Christmas (which, for obvious reasons, is taking a back seat right now).

And what about Bear?

His spirits are as good as ever, and why not? It’s been a regular spa fortnight for my four-legged fuzzy boy.

First the chiropractor to get the hips back in alignment. We now figure, given the degree to which his hips were out, that he took a tumble in the paddock while chasing around with his buddy, Tango. Horses will be horses …

Then the massage therapist to fix the supporting structure. She prescribed a heating pad over his loins and hips before each ride to help warm up those muscles and get them to relax. Bear is now moving better than ever!

Then on Sunday, a visit from the stylist (used in the loosest possible way) to give him his annual winter clip.

It would be an understatement to say that he’s been enjoying the attention. ;-)

~*~

Something to ponder …

“If you’re to achieve the peace, joy and spiritual fulfillment that you want so badly, it depends on one thing and one thing only ~ your willingness to simply do something different.”

(from It’s Not About the Horse by Wyatt Webb)

For me, in recent months, the FEEL course has been that something different … and it has changed my life for the better in ways previously unimaginable to me. It has also deepened my relationship with Bear in amazing ways and given me an opportunity to see him in a brand new light. Not just as a companion in recreation and sport; and not even as a valuable life teacher (which he is), but as an incredible healer of the heart. It is a beautiful thing.

Remember … nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

Up For Air …

 

photo

Bear gets a hip adjustment while his cute new girlfriend, Heidi, gives me the wooly eyeball

~*~

My six-month course comes to an end the beginning of next month and, as you might imagine, I’m immersed in assignments and gearing up for the workshop my team is presenting at the last session.

Of course, I’ve spent plenty of time at the barn working and being with Bear as well.

He’s been off the last 1o days or so with an injury sustained while we were out in the hilly back fields hacking. Some of those hills are pretty steep and we’re still working to build up those big muscles behind the saddle.

The chiropractor was out today and immediately located the problem (his hips were out) and fixed it all up. I’m looking forward to getting back in the saddle tomorrow and starting some light work with Bear again. We’ve been progressing so well and been so happy in our work the last few months it’ll be nice to get back in the swing.

In the meantime, I thought I’d come up for air, just to check in and let you all know I haven’t forgotten about you.

Have a wonderful day and, of course, be sure to 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

 

 

Grin and Bear

Grin and Bear

~*~

It’s been a while since I wrote in my blog. My studies keep me rather occupied so I’m not able to do this as often as I’d like right now.

However, Bear says not to despair.

This horse mom will be back in the blogging saddle soon.

In the meantime, he wants you to know that he’s had his back shoes removed, has two new paddock buddies he adores and is on all-day turnout.

As well, his recent lameness issues are a thing of the past and he’s feeling better than ever!

Oh yes, his winter coat is coming in … (sigh!)

Gotta love that grin!

Until next time …

Nurture what you love.

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 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

Correction

Hands

~*~

A rare thing indeed … an image of Bear and I (taken by my husband) with our coach who, through the creative use of a shovel he usually uses to fix the footing, is showing me correct placement of my hands.

It’s a heavy shovel. He got tired quickly. Still, he held it there long enough for me to get the point.

Correct hand placement is an ongoing struggle but one I am determined to master. It’s obvious how much better Bear goes when I’m using my hands properly.

Bear is off this week with a lameness issue in his left hind. The vet is coming today to check him out. Nothing serious, I dare say. It’s just that now he’s moving more correctly his weakness there is more pronounced since he can’t mask it by over-compensating somewhere else.

We think it’s in his stifle area (the knee joint of the hind leg). I’ll let you know what we find out.

We’re both weaker to the left. A lot of correction going on.

More on the FEEL course soon. It’s difficult to write about while I’m learning so much.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

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!

To Every Thing There is a Season …

Since starting my FEEL (Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning) certification course a month ago I’ve been incorporating new ways of being and little challenges into my day-to-day experiences with Mr. Bear. He is an eminently patient horse and has indulged my flights of fancy quite willingly. Actually, I think he quite enjoys the extra attention and the deepening of our bond.

Having been forced out of the saddle for the past 21 days, or so, with a wretched back issue (see last post) I’ve been proactively making use of the extra ground time to incorporate a new activity into our routine … playing with the purple Pilates ball.

At the moment Bear is learning to “be” in its presence.

The idea to introduce Bear to the ball came about as a way to deepen our awareness together. I knew that expanding Bear’s world to include the way of the purple ball would require more awareness on my part as I observed his reaction to his new inanimate friend. It wasn’t my intention to overwhelm Bear with this experience. I simply wanted to expand his world in a fun and controlled way.

It all began three weeks ago, the day before my injury.

The first thing I did was to set the ball up outside his stall and sit on it. No big deal. He sniffed around and then returned to his pile of hay in the corner.

Next, I propped it up against his doorway and left it there. I walked away and, with camera in hand, waited to see what would happen next.

~*~

Unsure

At first he was all “Hmmm, I don’t know about this …”

Getting acquainted

And then he got brave.

Bemused

And then he got bored.

No worries.

It was time to try “the purple Pilates ball in the paddock test.”

Again, after maintaining his initial distance he was fine with it.

Ball Outside

A week later, my lower back wracked with muscle spasms, I put Bear in the arena for some free lunging. He’d been off for a few days (because I wasn’t able to ride him) and I wanted him to be nice and loose for my coach’s ride on him the next day.

When Bear was done free lunging he ventured, without any encouragement from me, over to the purple ball which had been sitting in the middle of the arena the entire time. Of his own volition he began to play with it, rubbing his muzzle back and force across the top of the ball with all the familiarity in the world. I only interfered when it looked like he might pop out the air intake valve and bite it off.
Ball Boy

He was having fun with the ball! Again, the point was not to overwhelm him but to see if he could accommodate a completely foreign object in his life and maybe even learn to interact with it.

My hope is that at some point he’ll figure out how to kick it, however I’m not going to force him. I’m simply going to facilitate this learning for him. I’m really just so happy that he has been able to accept this new experience so calmly. But then, as I’ve said, it was never my intention to overwhelm him with this new information. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my own life, the learning stops and the dissociation begins when I’m bombarded with new information and too much stimulation. I imagine, given how sensitive my horse is, that it would be the same for him. Anyway, expanding my boy’s world by degrees is far more effective in the long run and a lot more fun.

The pleasurable things of life are not meant to be rushed.

And so it goes with his present under-saddle training which is, I suppose, a funny thing to say about a horse already in his prime. However, like me my darling boy is a late bloomer with low mileage and a willingness to learn. As long as we don’t overwhelm with the learning curve we’ll both do well and be fine.

~*~

A short update on my injury …

The aftermath of the saga of the bad dressage boots continues.

Finally, after two weeks of misery, I was able to get back in the saddle Wednesday of last week. Oh, joy! Bear is being so well schooled by Stefan and becoming so much more confident it’s like riding a completely different horse. I was so happy and felt so good after my brief ride that I decided to give it another go the next day.

Bad boots ... bad, bad, bad dressage boots ...

Bad boots … bad, bad, bad dressage boots …

So, Thursday arrived and I got on again figuring I wouldn’t push my luck but simply stick to good forward walk exercises as prescribed by my coach. Rode in the arena for a little time, then outside around the property and, as everything was going so well, finished inside again with about two laps of trot in each direction. In total about a half hour in the saddle. And then I dismounted … and that was it. Excruciating pain across my lower back and into my right SI joint to the point I could barely walk never mind bend down to remove Bear’s bandages or take off my half chaps. Thank goodness there was someone else around to help me get sorted or I don’t know how I would have managed.

On my way home (and I was driving which in itself was most uncomfortable) I stopped in at the chiropractor who gently popped everything back into place. After a dizzying Epsom salts bath I spent the evening resting in front of the TV watching Downton Abbey (my distracting panacea when I’m unwell) while alternating hot and cold compresses (thank you, darling husband) and loading up on anti-inflammatories.

The next day I was mobile again, but still quite sore, especially while sitting down. As the days progressed the pain became pretty much isolated to my right SI joint/hip and the muscles supporting it. Walking, stretching and rest ~ plus an additional trip to the chiropractor ~ was the order of the day.

I’m happy to say that today ~ one week later ~ I am feeling much better and am hopeful that I’ll be in the saddle again tomorrow for a short period of time. Likely after my coach has warmed Bear up so the effort for me will be easy. I can hardly wait!

In the meantime, Bear has continued his training with our masterful coach while I have learned through observation, which is an important and effective method for me. Together we’ll continue to integrate our energy ground work exercises for the FEEL course. Naturally, that includes playing with the purple ball. ;-)

To every thing there is a season, and I have entered yet another season of deep healing.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

(This post is re-posted and updated after I discovered it had mysteriously disappeared to a July 1 publishing date.)

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Bad Boots … Bad, Bad, Bad Dressage Boots

 Bad boots

… Bad dressage boots …

~*~

Silly title. Silly story. A moment of tragic(?) nonsense that shows that sometimes it just doesn’t matter how well you take care of your equipment things can, and do, go wrong.

Don’t worry. It’s not about Bear. He’s in ship shape shape.

No, it’s about a sad state of affairs relating to me and my custom-made dressage boots.

Okay, I bought them almost 10 years ago and for about seven of those years (up until fairly recently, in fact) they sat in a boot bag at the back of a dusty closet. Why? Because a sprained ankle all those years ago made it impossible for me to put the darn things on and once out of the habit of wearing them I just couldn’t be bothered.

Read on …

And then I moved to this dressage barn and, come spring, everyone was casting away their winter footwear in favour of dressage boots. Boots designed to give the leg a steadier more effective contact with the horse’s side. Plus, their stylin’. So, I decided, “Me too! I’m going to start wearing my dressage boots again. It’s time.”

So, I fished them out of the closet and took them to the barn. I located my boot hooks (because the only way to get these darlings on is to insert boot hooks to boot loops on the inside of said boots … and pull!!!) and went to work.

And, wouldn’t you know it? The darn things were so stiff from lack of use I couldn’t get my foot anywhere near the bottom of the boot. Not only that, they were really, really tight.

I talked this over with the other riders who commiserated on this state of affairs and offered some helpful advice:

“Take them in and get them stretched and, while you’re at it, get the shoe repair guy to put a zipper in each boot so it isn’t such a struggle to put them on.”

Hmmm … zippers. A novel thought. I’d noticed that many of my fellow riders, including my coach, had done just that and that they’d all gone to the same zipper putter inner at a shoe repair shop not far from my home. Eureka! That’s what I would do.

So, I packed my boots back into their bag and took them to the shoe repair guy. I explained to him what I needed.

In his thick middle European accent he said, “No problem with the stretching, but not the zipper. These are very good quality boots. Well made. Custom, yes?” I nodded. “You should try first the stretching and oil them to soften the leather … and get inserts to keep them from collapsing. If this does not work, then we try the zippers. But first,” he repeated with a knowing look, “stretch the leather. Yes?”

“Yes, I guess so,” I responded, unsure but willing to lean on his expertise.

So, I left the boots and hoped for the best.

A week later I picked them up and took them home to shine and polish according to the shoe repair guy’s explicit instructions, focusing especially on the ankle area to soften the leather.

Excited about trying them out, I took them to the barn the next day and, after dousing the insides liberally with baby powder I inserted hooks into loops and attempted to pull the right one onto my leg. It was a struggle at first, but eventually I got it, and the left one, on. I rode. Awkward doesn’t describe it. I hadn’t ridden in them in years. Still, I thought, the more I wear them the easier it would get.

Fast forward through the month of June (away) and most of July. I rode in my half chaps mostly, due to the heat, but on a cooler summer’s day, Tuesday of last week, in fact, I struggled into the boots for a lesson. Things went swimmingly.

“Do you see a difference when I ride in these boots?” I asked Herr Coach.

“Absolutely!” he responded.

So, I reasoned, I must wear my boots.

Removing the boots was a struggle. Bootjacks are an absolute necessity when extricating oneself from the vice grip of a close-fitted tall boot, and I had to wriggle myself free of both boots with a great deal of care.

The next day my hips were really achy. I asked the barn manager, “Do you think my hips are sore because of the different leg position my dressage boots put me in when I’m riding?”

“It’s possible,” she said. “The leg does hang differently in those tall, stiff boots.”

Hmmm … the only way to get used to the new leg position was to keep wearing the boots.

So, on Thursday last week four of us went out on a lovely hack in the fields. I wore my dressage boots to continue breaking them in.

When we returned to the barn and after I’d untacked Bear and made him comfortable, I went to my locker to fetch my bootjack so I could remove my boots. Once again I had liberally sprayed baby powder into my boots before putting them on, so I anticipated they’d slide off with ease.

Right boot ~ with the heel of my boot wedged in the curve of the bootjack I started pulling my leg free. My foot began its slow migration up the boot … and then it got stuck.

“You stuck?” A concerned fellow rider enquired as I clung to the doorway between efforts, a contorted look on my face.

“Nothing I can’t handle,” I said with more confidence than I felt.

“If you need a hand, let me know.”

“Thanks … I’ll do that. Appreciate it.”

Then I tried another tac, wiggling my foot up and back and up and back. Finally, it came free.

“Hallelujah!”

One down, one to go.

Setting my left heel in the bootjack and resting my right foot (now sporting a paddock boot) on the base of the jack for leverage, I grabbed once again onto the doorway and began the ordeal.

Once again my foot slipped from the bottom of the boot and got wedged at the ankle.

Hmmm … that hurt. Try again.

Okay … breathe and heave. No movement.

Again … breathe and heave. And this time I noticed how the torque in my body was putting uncomfortable pressure on my hips and in my right groin area. “Oh,” I muttered aloud, “this is why my legs and hips have been aching the last couple of days. From the effort to get these boots off.”

A light bulb moment, to be sure, but useless to me at the time as the only way to get the boot off was to continue what I was doing.

I rested for a moment. Regrouped. Surely just one or two more tugs of my foot would extricate it.

One … two … heave …

Like the crack of a whip I felt a sting across my lower back.

“Uh … oh! That’s not good.” I exclaimed aloud as I grabbed the back of my waist and winced. “Now I need help,” I said to the concerned rider as she once again walked by.

Seeing my distress she escorted me as I hobbled across the aisle and into the tack room. I lowered myself gently into the well-worn blue leather two-seater couch, and breathed.

“Now,” instructed the concerned rider, “give us your foot and we’ll pull this thing off for you.”

Yes, it took two people to pull the b(**&y thing off.

After the ordeal I attempted to stand up … straight. Impossible. So, after taking care of my equipment (including cleaning those evil dressage boots) and seeing to Bear’s needs, I went directly to the chiropractor for some attention and then home for an Epsom salts bath.

The next day I felt a bit wobbly, but got on Bear anyway just to see if a walkabout would help massage out the kinks. Not a chance. It was actually a pretty foolish thing to do. If my darling boy had spooked I would have been toast.

For three days I could barely walk. I spent the weekend sitting on a heating pad and taking anti-inflammatories. By Sunday evening I was in so much discomfort I finally booked an appointment with my massage therapist who, fortunately, had some time available on Monday. After spending quality ground time with Bear, albeit hunched over like the fellow of Notre Dame legend, I went for my massage.

Afterward I felt freer in the hips, but still wobbly, and the ache in the depths of my lower back was still keen.

“No riding!!” the massage therapist warned.

“No problem!” I answered, resigned and sad.

So, my coaching scheduled for Tuesday was turned into a training session for Bear with Herr Coach. I watched from a chair in the corner of the arena with admiration and envy.

I wanted to ride.

~*~

Bear today

… Bear …

~*~

Wednesday rolled around and Herr Coach rode Bear again. I had my camera with me and took a few photos, including this one. I marvelled at how much my boy had changed and developed since January. His uphill movement giving him a bearing of lightness I’d been longing to see for years. And he looked so beautiful.

“I hope to ride by Friday,” I told Herr Coach optimistically before he left for vacation, “but if I can’t he’ll get the time off and be ready for you to pop on him again next week.”

Herr Coach thought that a good idea. There would no point in riding with sore hips and undermining what had been achieved in the two training sessions. Bear would simply get confused.

I went to the chiropractor again. He worked his magic and I felt a little bit better again.

“No riding!!” he warned.

“Of course not,” I sighed, disappointed but resolved to doing what must be done to heal.

And then this morning, after several days of being stalwart and philosophical about it all I finally had my little feeling-sorry-for-myself meltdown. And it wasn’t that I really felt that sorry for myself, it’s just that I was soooo frustrated that my life had been derailed by a pair of stupid dressage boots. Had the shoe repair guy put the zippers in when I asked him to this would never have happened. As well, in the middle of all of this discomfort, and in my darkest moments, I was haunted by the idea that the pain might never go away and I’d never get to ride my beautiful horse again!!! (Wah!)

Still, it was only a short, dark period of self-indulgence, and then I let it go.

This afternoon I went to the barn and spent a few hours with Bear, reviewing exercises from the FEEL program and playing with him in the arena. It was a lovely time and I soon felt much better. I even began to look at this unexpected hiatus and “hip adjustment” as another opportunity for growth. Maybe, by some miracle, it would mean my hips would be looser and more cooperative in the saddle once I climbed back in.

As for the bad boots … the bad, bad, bad dressage boots … I took them to the shoe repair guy and, as I stood there clutching my aching back, demanded he put the zippers in notwithstanding his admiration for the original workmanship. Custom-made, last-you-a-life-time dressage boots or not, they’re garbage to me without this important mechanical adjustment.

I pick them up August 2. I sincerely hope I’ll be riding by then.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014