Horsey Therapist

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ohio with Leslie Desmond and friends

It really was a time with friends! Old friends and new friends. Human friends and of course, horsey friends. The four legged type of horsey friends. I want to be clear because I often refer to my horse-loving friends as horsey friends. I suppose I could just call the four legged ones "horse friends."

OK, I was butterflies-in-the-belly nervous before going into the arena the first day. Those butterflies come active when I get carrying some expectation that I'm going to be judged and fail. When I don't really know with confidence what I'm supposed to do. Moments of self consciousness, which is different from self awareness. Excitement with worry, anticipation with fear. Uncertainty.

Oh my -- UNCERTAINTY! Butterflies and uncertainty! This is what horses feelwhen they are uncertain. Oh my heavens. I'm having a little epiphany as I write!

Harry Whitney talks a lot about how disturbing it is to a horse to feel uncertain. Better to feel certain when someone is being rough than to feel uncertain even when the handling is softer. Uncertainty is about not knowing what is expected and not knowing what the outcome will be. The close-to-the-horizon outcome, not even talking about the next-year or ten-years-from-now outcome. Oh my. My oh my. This has really gotten my mental wheels spinning.

We can develop empathy as adults. I am a living example of that. I won't say I had no empathy as a child, in fact I think I had a lot but without any support for that, no adults acknowledging and valuing that, it went dormant. And now it grows again thanks to my intense desire to have better relationships with horses and humans.

So empathy and uncertainty... Here I am intending to write about my time in Ohio, and bingo, stumble upon some deeper understanding of uncertainty, which then increases my empathy for horses. Phew.

So, do horses get butterflies in their bellies? I am certain they do!

I trust I'll write more about that later, but now I want to return my focus to Ohio.

Leslie offered us so much trust and respect, it was easy to be in the flow there. By 'in the flow' I refer to the space I was in while handling horses -- attentive, responsive, considerate, empathic, patient, just with that horse and nothing else in mind. There were a few times of amazing synchronicity. An example from the first day in the arena: I was with a little quarter horse who had let me know the day before that he's not fond of anyone touching his mouth or muzzle. That prior day he had accepted being bridled but wasn't really comfortable with any preliminary touching I tried in my attempt to see if he was ready for the bit.

That day in the arena this horse, in my opinion, felt good enough with me to say "no" to the bit. I listened and changed my plan. I had thought I would do a little ground work then bridle up and ride (he was already saddled). Not just yet, he says. So I spent about the entire time doing some approach and retreat, some asking and listening, around his head and mouth, interchanged with lots of other stuff -- touching legs, lifting feet, leading off while I was at his hip, lowering head. At one point I was tuned into this dear horse and listening to Leslie at the same time. She was simultaneously approaching bridling the horse she was handling and inadvertently offered some new ideas for me to try. I was very grateful for those moments when, even though she wasn't focussed on what I was doing, her demonstration provided direct help for handling my horse.

Now this getting ready for bridling experience felt good, until the next day when another student/colleague/assistant was handling this same quarter horse and appeared to have no trouble bridling him. As I wondered why so easy for her and so hard for me, I did question if her expectation, her certainty was clearer than mine. As I asked the horse if he was ready for the bit, did that question mark enable the "no"? If I had been clear that "I'm going to bridle you" or "you are going to take the bit", would it have happened? Was there value in what I did? Did what I did one day set it up so it was easier the next day for the other person to bridle him? Would it have been just as easy for her to bridle him that very day he refused/avoided taking the bit with me? In other words, was it my presentation that created the "no"?

Aside from the comraderie and laughter during meals and back at the hotel, most of the best moments were in the barn interacting with the horses' owners. I voiced my appreciation to them numerous times for letting us handle their horses. I wasn't sure it was something I'd have done myself! Their trust and openness with us grew in huge ways day by day. We had time to talk, time to demonstrate, time to ask questions and answer questions. The five of us students/colleagues/assistants each have something special to offer, offer to the horses and offer to the humans. Those horse owners could choose who to learn from and that could vary as they wanted. We had not only horse owners, but mothers and daughters of horse owners there, ready to help with the horses (feed, muck, groom, tack) and showing a growing interest in learning from us.

I do like teaching. Especially teaching an interested student. These folks fit the bill just fine!

We all took turns at the information booth as well. Talking about the books, CDs, and DVDs available for sale, talking about Horsemanship Through Feel, listening to some amazing stories -- these were special moments -- of how folks were touched by watching Leslie's demos. Most had heard of her and/or read True Horsemanship Through Feel, but few had seen her in person before.

It was an honor to be part of that weekend. It boosted my confidence, to have survived the public exposure and to have thrived through the interactions with horses and their owners. Thank you, Leslie, for offering me this horsemanship opportunity.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Homes, horses, hopes

We are BUSY!

Getting one house ready to put on the market (RNB has lived here 10 years, me 3 years). Getting another house ready to live in. Hmmm, we may well get this first house sold before the next house is actually ready to live in. But that's ok, we'll work around a little inconvenience like that!

I'm pretty pleased with the flexibility and adaptability that I've cultivated. Makes living life a less stressful series of events. Oh heck, it makes life fun!

Last week's excitement at the new house was seeing the shell with one window hole cut. Stressed skin panels on walls and roof, so the workers needed some light inside. It really gives definition to the place, enough so that we made some decisions that mean major changes about interior walls in the kitchen/dining/hall areas. Exciting and it means revamping the kitchen cupboard plans. That is my afternoon appointment today.

My time with the horses has primarily been maintenance time: feed, feet, dragging the paddocks, and the shedding blade of course. I discovered through increased awareness this year, that Kacee's winter coat is the softest, silkiest of them all. Next year, assuming she is alive and well come shedding time, I intend to shed her out on a clean surface so I can collect her hair and do something with the lovely stuff!

Sofia continues to improve though I see her having normal bursts of excitement and motion that seem to leave her a bit more lame afterwards. I still have her and Bo fenced separate from the others, knowing this arrangement limits how much she has to move in order to avoid teeth and hooves of other horses. There continue to be scuffles between the boys defending their rights over the girls. But not with a large empty corridor of space between the two groups right now.

I had a surprisingly wonderful trail ride on Rusty this past week. I invited RNB to join me for a ride so off we went, he on Prince who hadn't been out for about 6 months, and me on Rusty who hadn't been out for at least 2 but maybe lots more months. Rusty was soooooo pleased to be doing something, especially to be doing something outside the ring. He is not one who likes repeating and schooling and all that. He will briefly complain then go along with my plans, but loses his sense of joy and excitement. His joy and excitement were there with us on the trail ride!

Actually, we didn't just saddle up and head off. RNB needed to spend some time with the bridling activities -- he's learning and developing patience, successfully, too! -- so while that was going on I rode in the ring primarily to soothe my little anxieties about the occaisonal gap between what I ask and what Rusty answers. That went well after a couple of disagreements about the meaning of left and right, and set me up to feel confident about going out of the ring where the great open spaces might bring up more energy than I'd like to ride.

I've done some teaching again. The winter was sparse for teaching. Perhaps when we move and I can use the indoor -- errr, my indoor! For some reason I am uncomfortable claiming ownership for that building, that incredible asset of a horsey space. I'll have to change something inside me to allow for pride and ease identifying as the owner and user of the indoor.

Anyway, teaching in Maine, teaching in Ohio, teaching in Vermont. It feels good, not only because I'm teaching within my level of competence and confidence, but also because it's harmonious with my passion and my personal hopes to live an integrated live, and there is evidence of good changes for the horses and their people. I hope to teach more. It's a good balance, too, for the work here at home that is emotionally demanding, that of sorting through belongings and making decisions to keep, toss, recycle/reuse/give away.

I still have many little thises and thats from my mother's home. Many are in boxes that occasionally I have opened, looked through, and closed up again. The items that I've unpacked and used or displayed are clearly the ones I value more, for their aesthetics and/or functionality. I hope to be ready to let go of the other stuff, find new homes for items that could be useful, trust that others can use them even if they didn't know my mother and therefore have no emotional attachment to the specific items.

RNB has many more things than I do, however it is much easier for him to make the keep or let go decisions I tend to avoid. Ah, another opportunity to improve my comfort with making decisions!

Other hopes? Ride more; put more effort into decluttering when I have an hour or two of "free" time; advertise and otherwise draw more teaching opportunities; decrease the amount of time I spend procrastinating completing paperwork projects (bills, lesson plans, snail mail correspondence); ride more; write more; let go with clarity and graciousness; ride more...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sofia update

Sofia is doing better.

And so am I.

I've been struggling with my self blame for her injury, and my slightly egotistical belief that I am the only one who can provide her adequate care. RNB and I had a long talk about this last night. I need to make a decision soon about proceeding with my long standing plan to go to Ohio and assist and be assisted by Leslie Desmond at the Equine Affaire, or stay home.

I'm proud to share that I am capable to offering RNB the trust he deserves when it comes to powers of observation and ability to follow specific directions for taking temp, mixing meds into palatable feed, noticing changes in her gait and her leg (heat, swelling, etc.), and soaking her foot.

So, as of this very moment, I may travel, I may stay home. I don't have to decide right now. I do have to run pick up more antibiotics as the vet and I decided taking a more cautious route is a good way to go, especially because Sofia was running a slight temperature for a few days.

Friends, a wee suggestion: take your horse's temperature now while she or he is healthy. Note the temp and the time of day, and you will have a baseline for the future when you suspect your horse may be ill. Under $10 for the thermometer and you probably have some vaseline sitting around to lubricate. If you are not comfortable standing at your horse's butt and lifting the tail and inserting glass into the anus, then give me a holler as there is some trust missing between you two, and that's the sort of challenge I like in my role as The Horsey Therapist.


[Note: I have been blogging about Sofia's injury on a farm blog I started. She stepped on a nail, puncturing her right hind foot in the collateral groove, and has been very lame since last Tuesday.]

Friday, April 06, 2007

Winter ramblings ...

It's April and it's winter. My mind reminds me that this cold spring balances the warm start of winter. Does the planet really work that way?

Meanwhile, the high needs farm activities had subsided. Had subsided. That changed Tuesday evening when I found Sofia 3-legged lame. Bummer! I brought her inside where I could see, and found a nail in her foot, embedded at the edge of her frog in the collateral groove. Right hind, outside edge of frog. It took pliers and the help of my strong husband to pull it out. Sofia did not wince for that, but has winced at weight bearing time ever since. I'm doing all the right things from getting the vet involved, soaking the foot, feeding Sofia antibiotics, taking her temp, letting her move as much as she wants (suddenly I'm grateful for the snow -- so much better than the mud for a situation like this)... The vet did want to cut up the puncture site and pare it out, leaving a drainage hole. I said 'no thank you' and we discussed my 'whys'. Once he looked at the hoof, he realized he couldn't tell where to pare anyway so it was a moot point.

Honestly? The one thing I could have done differently was to call a vet equipped with mobile x-ray machine to come take pictures before we removed the nail. I did not want to wait that long. I didn't even know how long "that long" would be, but I didn't want to wait.

So far so good, meaning she's starting to bear a teensy bit of weight on that foot, is eating well, temp still within normal, and minimal stocking up has just started in the ankle. She goes out and rolls and lies down. She won't lie down in the stall.

Let's see, sick turkey, bottle baby lamb, injured ewe, and now Sofia. A varied bunch of stall uses!

It takes a lot of time to tend to a sick animal. I cried a lot that first night, feeling frightened that she'll never fully recover, and mad at myself for being a lousy horse keeper, unable to prevent this, and feeling bad that she was in pain and helpless to do anything about it. So many of our man made contributions to this earth are hazardous to animals!

So, I've not been riding. The weather has been miserably cold, windy, snowy. The arena was just getting dry and ground losing all the frost when winter was resurrected. Bleh.

Well, I should not say I've not been riding. I rode today. A little mare for sale who may become part of the herd at High Horses Therapeutic Riding Program. We'll see. She was 80% great, 16% very workable/teachable, and 4% potential real problem. For a horse, those are pretty good ratios!

Communicating online has become a challenge. I generally read and write to several Yahoo lists each day. For some unknown reason, what I send out does not get to its destination. So I am writing much less. Even here I've been writing much less.

Gosh, I have traveled though, and will do some more. I went to Maine to teach and visit. That was fun and satisfying. Soon I'm heading for Ohio for a few days of horse related activity. RNB and I have been dancing and that is reliably fun.

Keeping two horses stalled is work! As soon as RNB comes home, I'll reassemble the wheelbarrow with its repaired tire and clean stalls. Woo-eee!