Sunday, December 18, 2016

CHRISTMAS STORIES

It only takes one word, one look, one encounter to make a difference.  How simple is that?  If change is all about me and I truly believe that, how simple life would be...

I've been traveling and suffering a true relapse into Workaholism.  Soon I tell myself, soon I'll be able to rest, take care of myself, play with Da Boyz and ride Her Greyness.  Soon...  And, as each day passes, soon does not feel any closer but I lie to myself...  Soon, maybe this weekend... soon

The affect of that longing and that "holding off on living", is an increasing feeling of grumpiness, a slight intolerance when "things don't go my way" and a distinct lack of patience with anyone not working as hard as I.  I struggle with keeping an upbeat positive demeanor and when I fail, I isolate because I do not want my "failings' to be recorded by others.

So, in my second business trip of the week, I entered the plane noticing the crying baby, the little boy running up and down the aisle, the person with three bags (rather than the two allowed), groaned at the woman who could not lift her own overstuffed bag into the bins above.  I kept catching my anger and impatience and took steps to change my attitude but it was weak and relatively unsuccessful.  You see, I was grumpy pants and maybe, god forbid... pouty.

We landed in Detroit late.   It was snowing and 15F degrees.  I waited in the cold for 20 minutes before the hotel shuttle arrived.  I was starving and in no mood for niceties so I sat in the front seat and said nothing after thanking the driver for taking my bag.  The other passenger, a businessman, remained silent.

Our driver smiled at us, turned the radio up slightly and off we went in the dark, snowy night.  The van was silent, except for the radio tunes.  I watched the industrial complexes as we passed by and then, found myself singing (silently) Jingle Bell Rock and I smiled.  I wasn't on a sleigh and she wasn't Santa but the beautiful lights of the chemical plants, the snow falling and the Christmas carols  felt so homey and warm.

I broke the silence.  "Do you like Christmas carols or do you have to listen to them?"

"Oh are they bothering you!  I'll turn them off! I am so sorry!"

I love carols!  I was curious if she loved them or was required to play them for the season.  She told me that she loved Christmas.  She loves the lights, the color and begins to play carols on December 1.  When she is alone in the van, she sings "loud and clear for all to hear." She told me her story of car trips with her family and how singing brings her closer to all those memories.

Car Caroling is something close to my heart.  My mom and I love to sing along as we drive around South Jersey searching for Christmas.  And, I could feel my dad in that van as I remembered our Christmas car drives visiting my brothers and sisters way back when.  We shared stories and laughed.

Then, this voice from behind me, asks to be heard.  We had forgotten the tall businessman in the back seat.  He said to us both, "Can I tell you a secret?"  {OF COURSE!}  "I love Car Caroling and on the day after Thanksgiving, I'm listening to them and singing "loud and clear for all to hear!"  

LOVE!
She does not know it or may never remember that I said it to her.  That evening in Detroit, this van driver whom I never got a name, changed my dismal, grumpy self, into a human being full of love and gratitude.  And she united three strangers... Truly a beautiful soul and I am a so grateful for that encounter.

When you think your actions or words have no meaning or that your energy has no affect on others...  think about the beautiful souls who have touched your life and look for them.  Angels are everywhere in all forms.

I believe I hear a bell ringing... one is getting their wings right now!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

WISHING FOR THE WRONG THING

May our dreams come true!
Are you the wishing type?  Do you ever find yourself on the eve of the big lottery wishing for all the things you could do with the big win?  Or how about leaving for work just a tad bit late and wishin that the traffic gods are in your favor?  Sometimes I find myself wishin that Da Boyz will have dinner waiting for me... 

Maisy and I completed our very first Horse Trial together this Sunday.  Ok, it was a schooling show and I entered Advanced Elementary (2'3") but it was the first time in 2 years for me.  That is a big deal... a very big deal!

There may be a day in the future where I tell you that I greeted the day with lightness of heart and eagerness of mind and body.  But, it wasn't this day.  My morning's coping skill was tearfully asking the Barn Owner why I was doing this and what was the point of putting myself through such agony.  Yet, I still kept moving forward with the many tasks needed to just show up.

Hey, can I tell you something?  Maisy is not Sugar.  Wow!  Our dressage warmup was... boring.  Well, it was workman-like and flowing but without the airs-above-ground Grand Prix movements performed by a displeased Mariah Carey wannabee. 

When I finished my test, the Happy Young Professional asked me what it felt like to focus on straightness, the quality of the gaits and the accuracy of the test rather than containing or managing explosions.  WOW!

Shhhh, don't tell anyone...

As I walked cross country, I missed Sugar.  I wanted to be riding her over this course and not Maisy.  You see, despite all of our missteps, I knew what was under me.  Whatever version of Sugar that showed up, I knew I could handle it.  Maisy?  I was going into the great unknown.
The HYP riding Maisy's version of the Head of the Lake

"Dear god (not a prayer), it was only 2'3"!  Get over yourself!"

My pre-show pep talk was all about telling my Horse Peeps (and anyone who'd listen to me) that the worse thing that was going to happen was that I would be mad that I trotted everything.  I know that Maisy can trot a 4' wall.

I could feel the enthusiasm drain from my body as the anxiety flowed in.  Rescue Remedy and EFT (tapping) did not seem to be helping.  Anxiety, for me, feels like body weakness and the more anxious I am, the more physically weak I feel.

Help me stay present!

Did I mention that Maisy is not Sugar?  I have never ridden a horse who just jumps whatever is in front of her without spooking either at something around the course, near the jump or over the jump.  She is enthusiastic and sometimes charges the stadium course... but...  Wait!  She jumps!  Everything!
video
So proud of this! 

I lost my grrrrr after SJ and did trot most of the XC course...  And, I do think... I wished I cantered more!

BUT,  I. CAN. NOT. WAIT. FOR. 2017!!!!!  That kind of wishing... is the good kind of wishing.

Rest in Peace my beloved Sugar, loving you for all you were will never change.  Now it's Maisy's turn!


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

So, this little confessional could simply start out as an apology to the blogging gods for falling flat on all the stories left untold.  Yet to do so would assume that what I write is something someone would miss.  And really, a little humility goes a long way... 

And, I'm not really sure that going on about my confidence issues or the little PTSD moments that find a way to surface or acknowledging the demons that still live in my brain are even remotely interesting anymore.  You see, even I grew tired of their presence... 

So, no apology..  just a picture...

Used with permission - Spotted Vision Photography
This is the moment, our first competition together, that I realized that I was riding Maisy...  really riding Maisy and not the ghost of my beloved Wild Thing (may she rest in peace).

I was galloping cross country on a horse who sees the world as a curious place.  Her body held eager anticipation of fun and of the joy of jumping da jumps. 

There was no fear, nor were her ears on high alert for danger.  She was happy to be outside on a beautiful day and looking for the jumps. 

I started the course with tense anticipation, worried about whether I could balance her or if she would jump me out of the tack in a green moment and I wondered what I would do if she stopped.  I worried out of habit.  For ten years, I had to have my honey badger grrrrr going on to convince Sug that cross country schooling was fun and that the zombie apocalypse would not happen over a jump.

That smile says it all.  The door has opened wide and I can't wait to gallop through!

Used with permission - www.connecticutphoto.com
So, our start for recognized events will be next year.  The Happy Young Professional has done an amazing job teaching Her Greyness the eventing ropes.  She still has some serious green moments that need some aging.  Like jumping off a Novice bank like its the Head of the Lake.

I believe there will be a schooling horse trial in October on my radar...  Yeah, I think that would be good!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

ATTENDING THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY INDOOR

The barn was quiet this early Sunday morning... a beautiful, cool, dry, bugless early summer New England morning.  The barn girls were busy and almost silently going through the morning chores with their ear buds tightly replacing the songs of the morning with the sounds of an iPhone playlist.  {{{Or, maybe, just maybe they were avoiding my overenthusiastic early riser good cheer... hmmm}}}

Where was everyone?  Why sleep when the very weather screamed for one to get up, get out and play?  Rainy or hot and humid days call for longer bedtimes or house elf activities.  The gloriousness of the morning can not be wasted behind four walls.  It must be savored with all the beauty of a barn, the power and grace of one's pony partner...

Wait!  Isn't it Sunday?  If I recall, some people refresh their spirit in a House of God.  Perhaps, my barn peeps were somewhere quietly or joyously celebrating the morning... um... at Church.

Hmmm, I just completed my first year in Seminary and am now an Initiate for ordination as an Interfaith Minister.  {{{Don't ask me what I'm going to do with it.  I still don't know.}}}  And yet, here I am grooming Ms Maisy and preparing for some dressage butt kicking (mine not her).  What does that say about me?  Do I confess this lapse (among many) to my fellow seminarians?

Do you know that feeling when you open the door of the indoor and the footing is newly groomed and watered?  Our steps will be the very first and everything we do will mark the start of a new day with all its new possibilities. In honor of the moment and the glory of the day, I tune the radio and allow Gospel music to guide our way and set our pace.

Our kick off song:



Maisy and I had a wonderful ride being lifted lighter in gaits and in song.  It was a perfect way to celebrate the goodness in life and be grateful, truly grateful for the good in life. 


God can be found any where as long as you look for him.  So, for me, God is at the barn and makes days like this even holier!  TYG!  

Sunday, June 12, 2016

THE LAST CROSS COUNTRY WALK

Smiling with a zest for life albeit a bit slow
Jonah got up this morning with his tail wagging, his eyes eager for the adventures of a Sunday morning and lame in his right front foot.  His breakfast contains a pain reliever and his dinner a glucosomine/chondrotin supplement to support his aging joints.  He is a 10.5 year old Labrador Retriever who is living in the moment while his person is staring at the twilight of a long adventurous life.

Way back when!
Yesterday, I believe, that this gentle soul with a huge eating disorder and selective hearing walked his last cross country (XC) course.  It makes me sad to have to be the responsible parent and take care of him when it is his very nature to go to extremes until he is exhausted or worse, hurt.  Yet, yesterday, I wanted to give him that one last time to walk the course, bathe in the water jump and greet everyone walking by.

Another lab testing out the water complex!
Jonah hurts today and as a dog, he lives in the moment.  As a human, I feel ok with giving him that one last XC walk even though there is a hint of guilt at seeing him so lame.  He is not going to remember this last time when I leave him home with his beloved dog sitter while his young brother walks many, many more courses.  No, he lives in the moment.

Sometimes and somewhat reluctantly, you have to be the parent.  And sometimes, I just want to be the neighborhood kid that gets everyone in trouble and then, goes home without a care in the world leaving chaos in her wake.

Today, I am the responsible one and acknowledge that my beloved Convict may have completed his last cross country course walk.  Today, I am the parent and grateful for that one last time.

Parenting is tough!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

SOMETIMES, IT JUST HAPPENS

A rider lost her life on Saturday while competing at the Upper Levels of the sport I love so much.  She did not start her day thinking that it would be her last.  And, I'm sure that her friends and fellow competitors did not think for a moment that she would not return.  The volunteer that checked her bit, the warm-up steward or the starter counting her down all wished her a good ride and expecting the very same thing.
Those ears...

Sometimes, it just happens.

And one rainy morning, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, I came up to the accident that caused our delay.  My timing was "impeccable" for the rescue team carried from, the little Corolla, a body bag.  It was the first time I ever saw something so final.  Later that evening, I read in the newspaper that a 26 year old girl never made it to work that morning.  Her tire blew and her car spun off the road into a guard rail.  She did not start her day thinking this was going to be her last.

Sometimes, it just happens.

What if?  What if that rider pulled her horse out of the stall with a nasty cut that morning?  Would it have saved her life?  What if she threw her leg over the back of a western pleasure horse, would she be home that evening kissing her daughter good night?

Folks that I know who walked that course did not feel that that particular fence was tricky, set in a way to confuse the horse/rider or offered a question so technical that it would prove to be fateful. Yet, in this case, the horse hooked a leg and tumbled over and onto its rider.  No one knows for sure...

Sometimes, it just happens.

My heart is so heavy for the loss of this beautiful young rider and mother.  The stories surfacing from her friends, associates and riders are of a person with a good, loving heart.  No, this shouldn't happen to anyone but it does.  Just like that young girl who never made it to work that day, this shouldn't happen.

But it does...

Equestrian activities are dangerous and there is an element of risk every time we ride.  Horses are unpredictable.  Years ago there was a rider at an event that left the door open to her horse's stall and she threw herself in front of her escaping precious pony and died from the blow to her head.

Sometimes, it just happens.

So much is being done to make Eventing safer.  There has been constructive talk and plans to do more and there have been the haters.  Much of the hateful commentary are from folks who are not keeping close to all that is being done - research on cardio-vascular events, frangible pins, course design.  And, the improvements are there and will continue to improve because we want to do what we can to prevent injury and death.

Yet, sometimes, it just happens.

In no way am I minimizing this life lost so young.  It is heartbreaking.  And in no way am I saying that all is good and doing nothing is the right thing.  What I am saying is that sometimes, it just happens.  Sometimes, you bow your head and you pray for the living and the ones that have to go on.

And sometimes you have to truly be thankful for your own life and know, that today is the day to live life well.  This is your moment for it is all you have... Live it well...

I will donate to her child's college fund and I will match my donation and send it to the USEA's safety and research arm.  And if you feel so inclined, the links are below:

Millie's College Fund

USEA Rules and Safety

Thursday, March 24, 2016

RUSH

Remember those college days and partying during Fraternity RUSH season?  It was a non-stop party-hardy weekend of long nights, groggy mornings, throwing books around while "studying" and then getting ready to do it all again!
Another night at the gym!

Well, this post is not about that kind of Rush.  It's about the kind of rush that keeps one from feeling the other kind of rush, that kind of rush that makes one feel full of life and eager to do it all again.

New job, long commute, going back to school, homework... You see, I add to my life, pushing all the bits around and squeezing all this newness in while juggling to keep all the wonderful old things going strong.  It works for the most part because all the "free-time" is pushed aside to allow for all the newness to become old.  One might use the term Coping to define what is this juggling act called life has become.

Her Greyness is coming along nicely.  I am finally getting decent 20 meter circles at a canter and more frequently she can be asked to move between compressed (note no mention of collection) and lengthening with losing balance.  I smile more than sigh in frustration at my lack of skill working with a green horse.

Da Boyz are happy and are enjoying their short but active runs before dawn.  They are healthy, well fed and loved.  I smile and cuddle in moments of peace.

Moments squeezed between the rush of life and the rush of new things.  More moments are spent rushing to be sure that everything gets done and all is well in everyone's life.

Did they get enough exercise?  Is there a stiffness in her hind end?  Did I loosen her body up enough?  Did Da Boyz get enough mental stimulation?  When should I fit in ear cleaning and clipping toes? Squeezing moments to make it all ok.

It occurred to me that maybe I need to add a bit of a pause between the rush of life.  What would that feel like? What if I treasured the moment as if there will be no moments after that one?  What if this moment was the best moment ever?  Would I even know?

Definitely pausing!
The Buddhist call it, The Sacred Pause*.  Stopping the Rush, pausing to empty the cup that is overflowing, breathing in life and then allowing the cup to fill again.

Last night, while rushing into the barn to change into my riding clothes, thinking about what to have for dinner, wondering what I should wear to work tomorrow and hoping that the dogs had a late afternoon romp with the dog walker, I paused.

I breathed in the scent of a clean barn and sweet hay.  I paused and listened to the rustling of happy horses munching hay.  I paused and heard Her Greyness whinny for her person...

And, I smiled, time to enjoy my life.  Coping is just not good enough!

*Tara Brach - Sacred Pause

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

HEALTHY NAILS AND TEETH

As a therapist, my sister was taught to look at a patient's nails and teeth during their first consultation.  Healthy, well balanced folks generally have good oral health and clean, neat fingernails.  Self care IS a sign of good mental health.
Maisy looking quite healthy with the Happy Young Professional

Maisy's feet are well manicured and her shoes cost a mere $250 every 5-6 weeks.  Her dentist declared her teeth healthy, well cared for and in very good shape.  A chiropractor adjusts her working body and I love to groom her grey coat until it radiates a silvery shine.

Maisy is very healthy and well balanced from a Licensed Mental Health Provider's perspective.

If measured by the same criteria, I am not!

Oh, I score high in the oral health scale.  I thank genetics, regular brushing and fluoride treated water from my youth for that.  My nails?  Um, not so much!

 Did I mention I work in an office?
I was driving Ms Maisy (yes, I was) and happened to look down at my hands and... gasped.  My nail beds are cracked and dry and my nails are brittle and chipped.  I have become the dog/horse version of a Cat Lady.

What is it about us horse girls that focus so intently on the health of our partners and yet, can not seem to find the time to prioritize our health as critically?

Let's see how that really looks:
  • Best shoes and regular manicures - Maisy 
  • Anxiety reducing holistic supplements - Maisy
  • Body work designed to improve performance and reduce stress - Maisy
  •  Regular breaks from work to reduce stress - Maisy
  • A varied work schedule to keep life interesting - Maisy
  • Good dental care - Maisy and me
Hmmm, good dental care... that's it?  Ok, maybe I get better food choices.
Chandler won't take care of me...

Maybe I'm a little jealous that Maisy has a person dedicated to making sure that she receives the best care and provides the right atmosphere to help her feel good and perform at her best.  Maybe I am a little jealous...  Maybe I am.

And, sometimes when I look down on broken nails and dry cracked cuticles, I remember that Maisy's person is ME!   Maybe I should hire ME to take care of me just as well as I take care of Her Greyness....

HMMMMMM... what would that look like?



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

LIVING IN TIME

Used with permission
"Suzanne is returning to her lil' pinto pony and Da Boys filled with life... And, maybe looking for a hug! Thanks Kripalu!" Facebook status - March 1, 2015 2:05pm

"Suzanne is still feeling the love and making plans... A girl's gotta smile and have an adventure in the wings... Let's do that thang!" Facebook status - March 1, 2015 9:09pm

Two Facebook statuses... I just returned from a yoga and meditation retreat, one I do every time I'm either going through or preparing for a life event.  I was waiting for the written confirmation of a job offer I had verbally accepted, just two weeks away from Area 1's Opening Day and I was heading to  to a fabulous Showcation to be with family, play with my snowbird friends and cheer on riders tackling big jumps in central Florida.

Da Boyz keeping life real!
It was the highest of highs.  That weekend and that day.  It was the highest of highs.

Forty-eight hours later, Sugar would be euthanized and I would read an email telling me that the job offer was being rescinded due to a corporate restructuring.  It wasn't the best day.  Actually, it was kind of an awful day.

So, this post is about living.

A Wise Man (also a pretty decent plumber) told me that "you have to have some distance to understand the "why" in life.  You see, as a plumber when I lay a pipe, I have to step way back away from that pipe to see if its straight.  And, when I give it some space, there is an understanding on what I need to do next.  And that comes from having the distance."

Sometimes, you just have to have faith and believe that everything will be ok.  And, then allow the love of good friends (and maybe a cuddly hound and an eager, helpful Lab) carry you when the ache feels so raw that you can not believe you won't hurt any more.

The Kissable Nose
There is this energy that we all possess and, I think its called hope or maybe, dreams.  It is an energy that is always there even if it's a flicker easily pushed around by fear.  It grows strong when you reach out to friends and you accept the loving energy surrounding you.  It is within you.  And, you gotta look, really look, for the goodness in a life that seems in holding pattern. 

And then time passes, friends are still fabulous and they still listen to my stories.  (Heck, eventers will tell you the same story of an event that happened three years ago and we all still listen.)  And, the good ones don't judge.

One year later you're still cuddling with the hound and the lab is still raiding your laundry to bring you dirty socks.  And, one year later, you're kind of bitching about your long commute to the wonderful, even better, job that you started in January. 

Looking forward to the summer
And, one year later, you groomed your fancy, sweet and spook free grey pony dreaming of the summer's events and, yet whining just a little bit because your ride wasn't as light, as round or as easy as the one you had last week.


"Suzanne is is focusing on the feel of a clean horse, the smell of rich alfalfa hay and the nicker of a happy horse... 'cause the ride was... um... sigh..."  Facebook status- February 29, 2016 9:31pm

And, you smile...  one year later... Life is different and it is soooo good!  Thanks for being there on this crazy ride called living.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

COUNTING DAYS AND LIVING LIFE!

Tomorrow is February 29th, also known as Sadie Hawkin's day.   If I'm not at my desk or somewhat unavailable, you might find me chasing down the love of my life and asking for his hand in marriage!  {{{And no, Bestest Eventing Buddy, we are not talking about Chandler Bing!}}}

Da Boyz - Da lufs of my life!

It is also another day wedged between the days that changed my life.  You see, I still mourn the loss of my beautiful, yet wild, lil' pinto pony.  It will be one year on Thursday, March 3rd and I can still tear up and want to bawl at having to make the decision to mercifully end her life.  (For those of you new to the blog, here's the link)

I felt so powerful on her!

I also want to scream at my still tearful self to "Stop!  Get Over It!   Move on! Enough already!"  (And, I'm sure some of you want to do the same... ;) 

Sugar was just a horse.  And, all living beings must leave the earth.  Sugar was just a horse... 

Yes, she was that and she was also a friend and a dream.

A loving gift from a FRIEND
Facebook is an amazing tool - a place to connect, a vehicle to cheer folks on and a wonderful place to share experiences, pictures and life.  I've been loving the Memories app.  Every morning it shares memories of things done and posted that day in Facebook years past.  It is also reminding me of all the life and adventures we shared over eight FB years.

Grief eases over time and I believe that one day, Sugar will be just my "last" horse.  I will smile with deep warmth when those memories come again but there will be more memories and pictures of Maisy and I doing the things we love so much.  Yet, I want to cling to the memory of her twitching spotted nose and the gentle soul she was when greeted by children and fearful adults.

During chemo at our first show
 Ok, some of you might point to all those past writings of me trying to conceal my inner alpha mare as I watched that beautiful white bottom galloping away at the 13th or 14th obstacle on a 16 fence cross country course.  And, you may want to remind me that this beautiful being would lure me into believing that today was the day we'd break 30 after an amazing dressage warmup and then manage to spook and spin periodically throughout the Novice B test.  


That nose!
And, there are some of you who might want to tell me that Maisy is absolutely an awesome horse.  And then remind me that she is green but game with lovely gaits and a willing, non-spooky nature.  While you're talking, you note that she whinnies eagerly when she hears me say Hi as I enter the barn.  Get over it, you whisper...  Sugar was just a horse.

And, I will ask you to understand, truly understand, that my love for Sugar and the occasions of sadness for my loss does not limit my ability to love and nurture again.  Time heals the loss yet, love is infinite.  Don't ask anyone to rush the process, it will come!  And, try not to judge for yourself how long it should take.  It will come...

I love Sugar and yes, I love Maisy.  And, what the heck, let's add Da Boyz in that overflowing bucket of love.  It is there and you know what?  All you folks...  Facebook, Blog Buddies and Readers...  you are with me in that bucket of love and, I thank you!



Thursday, February 18, 2016

GETTING UP, SHAKING OFF AND CONTINUING ON!

There is this quote attributed to Nelson Mandela that goes something like this; Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

Our lovely new indoor

Bravery comes in so many packages and I bet, most people can't or don't even acknowledge how many brave things they accomplish in their lifetime.  We, human folk, tend to downplay our successes and focus on our hardships and failures. And, sometimes it's easier to quit than to go on.  Oh, and quitting is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it's done consciously.

Not a good morning
Why am I so caught up with this thought of bravery?  Hmmm, is this just one of those posts were it appears to be about someone else but is cleverly disguised to tell you how awesome I am?  Is this where I tell you that I fell off Maisy while jumping and "bravely" climbed back on?  {{{Um, no!  I actually cried like a baby in a humiliating ball of anxiety/shame-filled self-derision.  But, maybe that's for another post.}}}

Read Non Judgement Day


One year ago this week, our indoor collapsed.  For non-horsey folk, it may not have been some earth shattering or devastating tragedy.  "Heck, aren't horse people rich?  Isn't some kind of First World Issue?  Surely, insurance will pay for everything.  Heck, it was just an indoor."

Ok, some of that is true.  But what was also true was that it was part of a small family farm's livelihood and all of their dreams were sitting crushed under a ton of snow and ice.  And, for those of us boarding there, it felt like a death.  We did not know what to do or what to say as we mingled numbly about.  I wrote this blog about how devastating last winter was to barn owners in Massachusetts (Non Judgement Day).  I encourage you to read it.

Still miss her
Today, I honor our Barn Owners and all the other Barn Owners that faced the unknown, got up, shook off the tons of snow, and continued on!

Think about being a business owner who just had a devastating natural disaster, your insurance company tells you that there is no compensation for your loss and your customers are looking like deer in headlights wondering what to do next. They want answers to calm their fears and, you remain strong when you just want to cry.

And, we are getting there!
Courage.  Sometimes you just do the next right thing.  It was an awful winter.  Two weeks later Sugar was euthanized after her pasture accident and, the Barn Owners showed up to support and console.  And, a week later another horse was euthanized due to a spinal tumor and they showed up to support and console.

Courage.  Choosing to obtain financing and rebuild couldn't have been an easy decision but they did the work and with the support of some brilliant boarders and friends, they made it happen.

One year and everything changes.  We have this incredibly beautiful new indoor with spectacular footing.  The barn is full again.  And we smile!

You know, fear is a part of life.  Sometimes I'm afraid that my outfit for work isn't quite right. I can deal with that bit of fear bravely.  What is courageous is not knowing the outcome, showing up anyway and doing the next right thing.  Today, I am so lucky to be a part of the Country Barn...  I honor you!

Monday, January 25, 2016

YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE A NATURAL WOMAN!

"Contempt prior to examination is an intellectual vice, from which the greatest faculties of mind are not free.” William Paley in Evidences of Christianity*

Let me say one thing, up front... I hate to be wrong.  Yeah, that's right!  It is one of my vices.  You see,  although much improved, I still try to be right...  I am just less obnoxious on the "I told you so's!"  And at the risk of... um... disturbing some peace, let me ramble on.
Young Eager Teen

Let's talk Natural Horsemanship or what I like to call "Middle Aged Women Getting Ready to Ride Eventually Techniques".  I could go on and on listing my... um... not so quiet opinions of the carrot stick, the waving arms in the air, round pens, joining-up, parelli methods, etc.  Really when I see these folk "bonding" with their horses, I just want to scream...  Get on and Ride!  

Not liking it doesn't mean
stop...  Pressure
releases with acceptance

I am here to confess that I have been humbled...  really, truly humbled.  The Country Barn hosted a Ground Work Clinic (note - not designated as a Natural Horsemanship clinic - maybe I can still judge) on Sunday.  I signed up because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and maybe get a tip or two to help get Maisy to focus (on me) without being too harsh.

I came to the first session (we were in the second) after helping a friend load her horse.  From the moment the Instructor, Susan Rainville, touched the rope halter, I was hooked.  She did not talk about magically and mystically bonding with your horse.  She didn't preach the ways horses acted in the wild and she did not ask us to buy fancy supplies to enhance our experience.

"You want me to do what?"

She said, these are the things that will both help your horse on the ground and in the saddle and that the basic movements are the lateral moves that strengthen and supple your horse.  Think of it as yoga.  And, that these practices can be done as a warm up to your regular ride and on the days that you have no time but need to work the horse.  

It was like magic!  Something simple, something that can improve my riding and Maisy's body and something that can be done easily.  Can I hear a HALLELUJAH?!!!!

The Barn's rope halter
The revelations just kept coming with each horse.  And, each horse that participated exhibited a different learning capacity.  We had the Young Eager Teen, the Sensitive Alpha Mare, the Rebellious Biker Boy, the Unruffled Cool Guy, Ms-I-Got-it, Maisy and Mr Distraction.   Every horse, every owner had a way of learning and the work was adapted for both the body and the mind. 

Maisy needed bending and suppleness (yoga) while understanding that the handler is the most important thing in the ring.  I need to learn how to coordinate the rope, whip, my hands and feet without cursing in frustration.  The Instructor demonstrated how I can help lift her front end and achieve lightness while asking for the bending that will strengthen her weak side.

When it worked, the results were amazing.  Her Greyness lifted her front end, eagerly crossed her hind legs while her attention stayed fixed on me.  I, on the other hand, struggled for that beautiful fluid motion of coordinated body parts.  Hmmm...  I think I see something here.... hmmmm!

And, so today I ordered a sweet, soft, fancy rope halter and rope.  You know, this being wrong feels so right!

Friday, January 22, 2016

WINTER WORKOUTS

“Should you find a wise critic to point out your faults, follow him as you would a guide to hidden treasure.” Buddha (really, it is a Buddha quote, no fooling!)

Once again I found myself at another, "Give-Peace-a-Chance-Breathe-Deeply-Envision-a-Perfect-Ride" sports psychology seminar focused on Anxiety in the Rider.  Yes, horse related practices once again... 
Always good to look at things again!
I signed up to support the New Barn Girl 'cause I've been to every training, every seminar, therapists, energy healers and I know how to do TFT/EFT, meditate, take rescue remedy...  I'm all set with the Anxiety issue... no need to go for me....  All set!  
 Then, at my last jumping lesson, I looked at my ever-patient Eventing Trainer and said, "Um, I guess I need the clinic for me... huh?!"  She just shook her head and said, "You really need to ask?"  Sigh...

Anxiety happens...  And, it happens to everyone...  And, it can be good if appropriately evaluated, and embraced.  It can stimulate, protect and yes, paralyze.  You just gotta figure out how to deal with it and how to make it work for you.


So, she gave us an Anxiety Scale for Training (doubt that is what she called it).  If you are always working in the 1-4 range, there is no growth/training - you are basically status quo.  Training takes place in the 5-7 range - there is stress but you (horse and human) are open and able to learn/improve.  

If you hit an 8 - 9, your body reacts and your brain begins to work on survival mode - Training/learning does not happen.  If you hit a 10, you are in survival mode and reactions are most likely instinctive.

 The goal should be to ride more often in the 5-7 range and if you hit an 8, back off - rinse and repeat.  Oh, she did say that riding in the comfort zone is fine, just be aware of it and what it is.
Looking bold but not so much!
So Ms Maisy, let me introduce you to Winter Work.  You see, my love, left to our own devices, we've been in the comfort zone rarely kicking it up to a 5.  Our Trainers have been good enough to push into the 5-7 range but, really... how often is that?  I believe that we've, kind of, settled into the riding version of a big comfy couch clutching a glass of warm milk and watching re-runs on Netflix.  

So Ms Maisy, our comfort level is set at a 7.  I promise you that we will back it down if you're stress level kicks into an 8 due to the high winds and pelting debris against the indoor wall or if all your friends leave the indoor at once.  Yes, we will push ourselves out of lethargy while being clear that our plan can be changed where appropriate.  But, Ms Maisy... think 7!

 And, maybe, the next time we jump, we've conditioned our bodies/minds to want to be at a 7 and, crossing into an 8 will be a mildly uncomfortable memory...  Wouldn't that be nice?!

Friday, January 1, 2016

FIRST DAY WANDERINGS

Holiday Bonnets are a must!
It was supposed to be a post about two horse girls romping around the state park celebrating the start of the New Year!  We had it planned out to a grand conclusion to the Holiday Season with each horse happily wearing their holiday attire... 

Alas, we got ice.  I mean we got ice, not soft cushiony snow in all its gorgeous whiteness... we got ice.  And, that gorgeous blue sky and winter sun?  Neither the Newbie Eventer or I actually ordered that day from the weather gods.  Instead, it was grey, cold with a raw moist wind.  It was not meant to be. 

I stayed in and nursed my cold while nesting just a little bit.  I'm sure Newbie Eventer braved the rawness of the day and perfected the 20 meter circle and the counter canter.  Sigh...

Here's a confession for you...  I don't do New Year's Resolutions.  Mostly, these are "things" that are announced that are the "things" one should be doing on a daily basis.  And, often, these "things" are unachievable because the "thing" is something set way too high.  I just don't believe in them. 

A Wise Woman once suggested that I should set an intention.  Something that I intended to do and intended to accomplish.  Hmmm  rather than resolve to do something, I could intend to do it.  Sounds so... well, achievable.  Like improving on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.  Set an intention... 

Well, I intend to keep improving my riding and relationship with Maisy.  And, I intend to have fun while jumping (not just afterwards).  And, of course, I intend to event this summer.  Seems easy and powerfully positive... but, not quite enough. 

The freedom gained by letting go!
You see what I really intend to do is to let go of worrying so much!  Think about a life where you aren't worried that if you don't clean your horse's feet every day, they'll abscess.  Think about how nice it will be to trust that making mistakes are a natural part of learning and that it won't ruin what has already been accomplished. 

And imagine a jumping lesson where you just be and not worried that everything will go wrong...  Imagine, if you lived a life where you could be alert and alive without the added anxiety of prevention... 

That same Wise Woman also said that in order to make a change, you had to first be aware of what needed to be changed and then accept how it manifests in your life.  Only when you've become aware and have some level of acceptance, can you take the actions needed to affect change.

I see the subtleties of my worry which is often cloaked in sound horsemanship or in good solid practices.  (Awareness)  I also know how those worries have both helped and hindered me (Acceptance).  This intention is directed at really taking action to change the way of thinking and acting...  There is a balance there and it will be my intention to find it and live in its core...


For now, as I ponder my intention.  Let me share my New Year's Eve Facebook status.  It said it all:

2015 was a year of huge changes, big decisions and heart moments... Life is to be lived and each of those things are just cobblestones on the path forward. Tonight, with a sniffling cold, I bathe myself in gratitude for the folks, critters and gifts in my life that make it so rich! Thanks to you all! And Happy New Year!!!

Wishing you all a Joyful and Worry-Free New Year!

{{{Note - not sure what I'll write about if I truly go worry-free... Oh My!}}}