Sunday, February 2, 2020

ALL THEY WANTED WAS A CUPPA TEA

There is a story about Buddha fighting the Demon God, Mara, on the eve of his enlightenment.  Instead of denying his existence or driving him away, Buddha calmly acknowledged that the demon was there, "I see you, Mara".  He invited Mara in for tea and served him like king.  Mara drank the tea and then left, bored with Buddha’s response.

Well, I think we all know that I am not Buddha, that I am not on the eve of my own enlightenment and, calmly is not always the way I greet my demons.  And often, when confronted with my demons, I don't have the self awareness to invite them in for a cup of tea.  And if I am really honest, my demons sweep in like over-caffeinated Dementors out on the town looking for some rip roaring fun.

Today I jumped my Lil Redheaded Girl.  I've been eyeing a jump set up for a lesson earlier in the week.  Every day, I'd look at it and say, "I can do that!"  And another day would pass, "Shanti is a bit too excited, I'll jump it tomorrow."  Tomorrow came and I thought, "Well I have a lesson in the morning, I'll jump it then.  I know I can do it... tomorrow."

Its been weirdly bi-polar.  I know I can do it.  I watched so many old videos of Sugar and I doing it.  And when I talk about Shanti being wild, her worst  is really just a level 3 on the Sugar 10 point scale of exuberance.  And you know what?  I competed Sugar often at a Sugar level 8 and cliniced on level 10s.

Getting there slowly
And yet this morning, when I entered the indoor, the Demons swept in very Dementor-like.  I didn't know what hit me, my anxiety level was at a 10 and all the strength was drained out of my body.  WTF just happened?  I felt fine, actually great, until I saw the "JUMP" that was so easy.

God Bless anyone who teaches me...  I wouldn't know how to deal with this kind of anxiety...  Wait, I actually do.  I spent so many years learning coping skills that I teach this stuff.  Oh, right...  I did no prep work for my "big" jumping lesson.

Like the Buddha, our trainer did not ignore or deny the anxiety...  We invited Anxiety to acknowledge itself, invited it to watch (with a cup of tea, kind of) and continued on.  Eventually, bored, Anxiety left.

I KNOW I CAN!
I jumped Ms Shanti... we're still not going big but I cantered over the "Jump" that had been calling my name.  And, I have a pony who is bred to jump.  When I finally reacted and ask her to balance around the corners while sitting on her haunches, I understood the difference.

There is amazing power and grace when she comes around a corner and seeks the next jump.  Her powerful hind quarters are under you and her front end is lighter and lighter - bold and eager - you know, there is a heaven and you're riding it.

Maybe my enlightenment comes slowly...  we are definitely working forward towards it.


For the full story from one of my favorite teachers, Tara Brach https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-true-refuge/201508/inviting-mara-tea

Saturday, January 18, 2020

"I THOUGHT YOU KNEW HOW TO RIDE"

Tonight the lottery is at $321 million dollars and yes, I have a ticket.  Some say that the odds of winning are so slim, why bother?  I say, "I have my ticket and that one person will be me.!"

And, as my mind wanders into all the wonderful things I would do with my winnings, it hits me...  If I got one dollar for every time someone asks me why I still take lessons or mentions that I should know how to ride by now, I would already have all those wonderful things..
Shanti and the Happy Young Professional

Tonight, almost 12 hours after I stepped up onto the mounting block in an indoor warmed to a blistering 10 degrees (fahrenheit), I am still wrapped in the euphoria of a lesson well done.

Can I get that feeling on my own?  Without recreational objects to ingest?

If we are talking about riding... um... I confess, sometimes.  Yeah, that's right!  Sometimes I hop off my pony and I think, "That was fabulous!"  And sometimes I revel in all those moments that felt spectacular and celebrate the things we did to get there.

The key word here is sometimes.  And, here is a god-honest confession, a good portion of my rides are done with a head full of self-doubt, a mind just a bit impatient for results, and an ego that still thinks that someone else would be doing a better job. 

Sugar and I (Photo used with permission)
Left too long riding by myself, (no lessons) I begin to "not work on that, I may mess things up" or "is she getting ewe-necked because she's not using her back" and then there is the, "Am I ruining her?  Better not push, better not try, better just walk and practice halts and the free walk."  {{{All my horses are halt and free walk rock stars, just sayin.}}}

Two Girls Dreamin
With Sugar, lessons were strictly marriage counseling - bringing an old couple together to hash out their issues and bring harmony.  With Maisy, it was mostly about tapping in all that movement and helping us use her body well.

And, Shanti... wow.  She is young, appropriately green for her age, with move movement, suppleness and enthusiasm with just a hint of...  "If that's all you want, fine by me!"

Lessons remind me that I do know how to ride, they break the over-thinking log jam in my brain and they inspire me to do more.

Today, in the frigid cold, Shanti and I danced together, encouraged to ask for more and pushed to be better - together.  Our last canter, her hard direction, was light, powered by her hind end and floated up and through my body.  For the time we held it, I was in heaven...  This is what it should be...

Yeah, I still take lessons!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

THE HARDEST THING

Each night at my Writer's Retreat we had a prompt and the writing from that prompt was limited to 15 minutes.  My mind would search memories and like a spinning roulette wheel would land on something and the writing wrote itself...  The Hardest Thing...

When is it time?  When is it giving up?  When is it my time and not his?

They tell you that you'll know...  that they will tell you.  Then someone slips in the clinical signs, "can't get up, won't eat, incontinent - any one or more of those things may mean its time.
The Happiest Dog

A wise vet told me that she would rather do it "one month too early than a day too late."

Jonah is my friend and he's been through so much with me.  He was never the favorite - a shit head puppy, the Convict - kicked out of every barn in New England.  Oh, they loved him as they banned his eager hungry self for his gift for finding food was legendary.  I almost went broke reimbursing friends, neighbors and barnmates for all his stolen loot.

If Jonah had been a man, he would have been the BFF I should marry - loyal, eager to please and always there when I needed him.  But alas, he always remained the BFF while the Bad Boy, Chandler was the pup I married.

It's just a cough and yeah, its harsh but he's fine when its over.  And yes, sometimes its so violent that he loses control of his bowels but really, its ok...  Not much of a mess, just hard little balls of poop.

There is not a more joyful face than Jonah's.  His eagerness to please is palpable.  There is no greater expression of that joy than the greeting he gives when you come home.  It's a complete physical experience - a wiggling body, a wagging tail whipping trinkets off the table as he weaves between your legs.
Jonah and Chandler

Not now, look how happy he is.  Look he is eating with gusto.  Not now, not yet.

But that cough - Maybe in a week or two...
But that cough - It really isn't that bad, right?
But that cough - "Jonah, please breathe, come on boy, just breathe..."

One month early versus a day too late...

I hold his face in my hands.  I tell him the story of his life.  I apologize for not loving him as much as he loved me.  I stroke his thick black coat and I promise him peace....

Is it one month early?  I pray that is really isn't a day too late.

Rest In Peace - Nightwinds Sweet Jonah - 11/25/2005 - 10/14/19
I was lucky to know you!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

I AM WHAT I AM AND WHAT I AM IS BACK!

Hmm, that title seems to be a bit bold, a bit of a pronouncement and perhaps a teeny weeny bit of braggadocio.  And then one must remember the saying... what you think, is what you are (or something like that).



So, today I think that I may have found myself again.  Maybe its too much to believe that the self that has been found is the pre-tree incident self. And yet, this self that sits in front of the computer typing is a being that cannot contain the joy and enthusiasm found in today's jumping lesson.

You see...  I jumped.

That alone is not a pronouncement from most and from me, it's been more regular since Eventing Trainer gave me a prescription that said - jump!  Jump every time you ride until whatever it is that you jump feels normal.  Every time, jump.

HYP riding, not me!
For me, I should add - I jumped, I laughed and greeted the newness of Shanti and I's relationship with curiosity - not worry and fear.

Let me repeat, I jumped and laughed when she took a long spot, was so excited that I saw that she was going to take the long spot.

I squealed with delight when we cantered over it again and her jump went up and through me.

I jumped and for the first time in a very long time, I greeted my mistakes with a smile and patted the Lil' Redheaded Pony with an apology and did it again.

And, that little demon peeks out occasionally and notes that it wasn't a course and the vertical was "just" 2'3" and whispers gruffly - you should be doing more, you should be better.  Today, I acknowledge the demon and asked him to leave.

I am what I am and what I am is BACK!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

TELL ME YOUR STORY

Warning - Non Horsey Post.  The writing prompt at my very first Writers Workshop was "What I didn't tell you then..."  After combing my life for something, meditating and dreaming of some subject matter, this is what flowed:

Yes, I am that person. There is little I leave unsaid.  As a kid, I was the Hermione Granger of my class.  A teacher's question and my hand shot up - "Me! Me! Me!  Oh, please choose me!"

Oh I could give you a million stories on why I needed my voice to be heard - a silenced child, a body born into a family of so many bodies - all loud and craving to be heard, a girl amongst men whose voice always seemed to be trodded on.

" You will hear me." screamed a voice threatened to be lost.

So I am that person who has no trouble confronting an angry soul, saying goodbye to the dying, and I have little fear of saying things that need to said.

Oh, did you notice the use of the words "little fear" because that was intentional.  And the use of the word "little" was kind of a lie.  I say things, appropriate things (I think) and I then worry if those things that were said were things that were the right things to say.

So, I am that person today more likely to silence my voice as my words get clouded with thoughts and fears all of my own making.  "OOO, what will they think?"  "OOO, she is so much more articulate than me."  "OOO, that was so beautifully written, so wonderfully read, I can't do that!"

And then, the words get hidden, stuffed in a brain churning with thought, brimming with stories and held captive by fear and self-doubt.

Oh, wait a minute, this writing was supposed to be about you, about the words I don't want to leave unsaid and not about the stuff holding me back.

YOU are your own words.  You are your own story and for every word, every story there is a reader.  Words heal, stories that are released from your heart, told honestly from your essence are perfect in every flawed way.  Be courageous and let your life become someone's lifeline.  Let someone say, "I thought I was the only one until I read this."

The hardest critic, the harshest comments, your silencer is not that girl who criticized your blog post and then linked to it for "ALL" to see.  Your silencer is that voice inside that says "I am a "writer" with heavy emphasis on the quotes.  The warden of your words is not the person who liked your blog but stated that it was a bit whiny.  Your warden was the person inside who believed it.

So be free with your writing and know that someone, somewhere needs to read it.  And that is good enough.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

WHEN HAS BECOME NOW

Oh I do need to start this with a confession and apology... you see, I silently judge and when I'm wrong, I must acknowledge the wrong, publicly.
Puppy Jonah

When I see an elderly animal being held together by every means possible, I (silently) wonder why that person can't let go and allow their beloved friend a peaceful, loving end.  I'd muse with an intensity that went from observation to anger, "Can't you see that the tail wag is for you, that the brightening of their face and body is an expression of their love, that living in the moment means that those expressions are just that moment... what about all the rest of the time when they are suffering only to brighten once again because of that love."

No one has a right to judge until they have walked a mile in your shoes.  I am humbled and need to honor your path, your decision because I walk that path. Tomorrow, one month short of his 14th birthday, Jonah (aka The Convict, SHP - Shit Head Puppy, a member of the Lancaster Pack and cofounder of the adventuring group - Da Boyz) will be laid to rest.

A vet once said to me, "I'd rather do it one month too early than a day too late."



He has a degenerative condition - canine laryngeal paralysis which showed up in May 2018.  I adopted Maggie because I was sure that he was on death's door and I needed another dog to keep Chandler happy.  {{{Um, one should always check with the vet first before assuming that Dr Google and Barn Peeps are diagnosticians.}}} Maggie was finally the doggy-buddy that Jonah always wanted and they are fast friends.

Is it time?  When is it time?  Keep him from over exerting himself and cool, that will help his coughing.  The Lancaster Pack enjoyed their air conditioner and ice water throughout the summer. And, his travels around the yard were so slow... he was my black snail slowly doing the job of looking for rabbit pooh to enjoy his vegetarian snack.

His bouts of coughing have become more intense and are so violent that he loses control of his bodily functions.  I also suspect that he isn't sleeping much at night when the coughing attacks are most frequent.  Yet, when he isn't coughing, he is demanding his meals, playing with Maggie and following me around like the loyal friend he is...

Da Boyz

Is it time?  When is it time?  One last treatment, one last pill that has shown to help dogs with this condition.  And for a full week, it felt like a miracle.  He rested comfortably and trotted around the yard greeting the neighbors eager to meet new friends.  No messes...  he was fully present.

When has become now...  and while I am comfortable with the decision, I do have the lingering, ever present thought...  maybe postpone it til next week.  He still wags his tail, he seems happy when he isn't coughing, and look, he is eating food and still searching the yard for rabbit pooh...  maybe next week.

Every time I've had to make the decision to euthanize, it has always been clear - Bruno's body collapsing violently, Sugar's traumatic injury, Maisy's inability to breath and sustain life.  Those decisions were extremely hard, painful and heartbreaking but the timing was not my own.  The timing was critical and immediate - God's time.

Jonah's Gal Pal
But Jonah, he still wags his tail, he still looks at me adoringly, he still follows me around the yard, he still hunts for food.  He has always been in the shadow of the one before, Bruno and the one after, Chandler.  Love is infinite and Jonah has been loved deeply... by me and so many others.  He is truly a good boy, the best boy!

One month too soon versus a day too late.  It is time... a day, a week and maybe a month too early.  To hear him is to know...  It is time.

Thank you God for the almost 14 years of his life... I have been lucky to know him.




Sunday, September 8, 2019

TO BE OR NOT TO BE

As I told the story of my epic weekend, my friend laughed like a hyena and said, "Oh you have to write about this one!"

"Everyone" has these moments, "Everyone" can relate, "Everyone"... And I wonder, who is this "Everyone'?  So, I put it off, tried not to remember, eeked the story out to some trusted souls - barn folk, friends who step in as your non-licensed therapist and maybe a work mate or two.  And yet, this nagging need to confess is so strong, like if I tell you, it will have never happened.
Shanti and with the Happy Young Professional riding

Maybe this "Everyone" is some horsey counselor who will heal my wilted aching ego...

In short order, some folks have said that I am unlucky when it comes to horses (I can argue that but its off topic now.)  In short order, after Maisy passed, I got another horse - a five year old Canadian Warmblood who just keeps growing.  She is the sweetest thing, as fancy as Sugar and Maisy with the brain of an old campaigner.

Three weeks after getting her and heading out on our first off-farm adventure, I break my knee cap (another long story and no, I didn't fall off).  12 weeks later, I am ready to get going again and Shanti puts her foot through farm equipment and is stall bound for 2.5 weeks while her wounds heal (another story).

Here comes the epic weekend. This Lil Red-Haired Girl is so sane, I am ready to go xc school (little stuff but something) with the Bestest Barn Owner Eventer.  We choose her quiet, seen-it-done-it-and-it's-all-good Prelim Pony to be our companion.  The theme of the day was to just have a quiet, good time.


This dear sweet, quiet Prelim Pony really decided that we were too slow in getting ready and he wanted to get going on his time.  So... he sat back on his hind legs and jumped out of the trailer while I was putting the bridle on Shanti who was in the stall next to him.  Wait, did I really emphasize that he sat back and jumped...  when he hit the end of his halter, it tore but slowed his trajectory but not his desire.  Hanging on the breast bar, he sat back again and finished the job galloping away with pieces of his halter streaming behind him. 

Shanti was cool as a cucumber.  She was not going to let some inappropriate jumping stop her from exploring.  My Big Girl Panties were probably dangling from the pieces of his halter strewn about the parking lot so xc schooling became a quiet trail ride.

In discussing the day with the Goddess of Equine Yoga, she suggested that a day like that required shots of the alcoholic sort.  Instead, she invited me to join her and a friend for a woodland jaunt on two trusty, non-reactive steeds just a short trailer ride away.
Sigh...  I have no clean Big Girl Panties.  But, this is Shanti and she is so easy, so confident, so calm.  I must do this or become just another middle aged woman doing ground work and riding in the indoor for the rest of my life.

Someone posted on my FaceBook page, "You better be careful!  Things always seem to happen to you!"  Sigh...  Really?  I have enough Demons lurking in what appears to be a sound mind and you need to bring that up?  Sigh!

Is this where I tell you that I forgot to release her from the trailer and when she unloaded (self), it snapped and she slipped off the ramp shaving hair and skin off her recently healed leg?  Do I tell you that she was bloody and I was sure I ruined her?  

And so begins the catastrophicism...  Release the Demons!   "Your fault!  Your fault!, Your fault!"  "BAD day!" BAD Day!"

The Goddess of Equine Yoga came over and said "She's ok!.  I'll hold her still so you can get on". And we went out for a ride. Two Dependables (horses and humans) and UL Event Rider (local) whom I admire and hero worship a bit.  I want to be the cool event rider just like her.

As we ride alongside a 5 acre of so pasture, UL Event Rider casually says that the two mares in the field may come galloping at us.  The Demons scream, "WTF!, we are going to die!"  

The mares come out of their shed, tails flagged, screaming and galloping straight at us.  Shanti tightens for a second and then looks at them.  And off they go to do one more round just a bit closer to us.  And Shanti just looks at them.  And off we go.

We ride along a shallow river and UL Event Rider tells me that she would do gallop sets in the river.  My hero worship and longing grows. I tell worn stories of Sugar and I (as eventers are known to do) and I feel that I belong to this club.

At a stream crossing in the woods, I am sure that Shanti is going to launch across and the Demons are reminding me that "things always seem to happen to me" and I have the vision of her launching and me falling off and so on.  So, as we cross I feel her gather her hind end and I see saw the reins to prevent the leap.  

Shanti stops and for the next 40 minutes, I cajoled, encouraged, imitated Tik Maynard, spanked, circled and leg yielded to no avail.  The horses left and Shanti remained planted.  My uninvited "friends" kept screaming in my head that this was going to end up a disaster.  I was tired, my recovering knee hurt and it was fruitless.  

At one point, she spins and slips in the mud...  {{{Please "Everyone" be gentle.}}}  I lost it.  Now, I didn't quit or curse or storm off and go home.  No, I bawled like a baby, sobbed uncontrollably while weakly saying, "I can't, I can't, I can't".  Heaving chest, sobbing, tears streaming down my face which was buried in her mane or as low as I could get.

I didn't quit.  I was just humilated... totally and completely humiliated.  Ego?  There was no ego left and I am not even sure I have one now...(I do but that is another story.)

Finally, with a lunge line attached to her bridle, the Village, "encouraged" her to cross with me still snifflling and maybe crying.  She launched.  I stayed on and we continued with the trail ride.

As I gained my composure (well, I don't think I can ever face them again), it was a very beautiful ride, with good conversation and lovely company.  I began to feel like myself again and able to send the Demons away.

Then, someone said...  "Do you remember the time we hit the ground bees?"