Confession Number Fifteen: My Final Confession

 

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An unexpected epiphany:

I am no longer The Novice Horsewoman.  Make no mistake, I am still very much a beginner with horses….but no longer a novice.

The past two and a half years have scorched and refined my very soul both in life and with horses.  Now, I take ownership of all I have learned and move on to the next steps in my horsey adventures. 🙂

The best horse people I’ve encountered, even those with decades of experience and expertise, are the first to tell me how they have SO much more to learn about horses.

Thus, I take on the mantle of “beginner” with humility.  It is already amazing to me to be at this point.

When my journey began in January of 2014, I started at “square one”, not knowing how horses were fed, watered, groomed, bathed, haltered, led by a lead rope or even how picking stalls/mucking was done.  It was somewhat like a child in pre-school 🙂

I devoured every bit of knowledge…then as now.

Plus, God saw fit to give me a “crash course in everything horse” The “course ” started when a few weeks after meeting and leasing the glorious mare, Serenity, she sustained a severe wound that required daily care and attention.  Her wonderful human, a single mom, was working three jobs, juggling them with the needs of a five year old son

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My first horse kiss😊

So, novice though I was, I took over Serenity’s daily care and learned “on the job”.

Serenity was a marvelous teacher….as was her vet, who, when the time came, gave me the task (and honor) of removing Serenity’s last bandage all alone and all by myself.

Those days with Serenity, quietly hanging out with her during her stall rest, grooming her, massaging her, administering her meds, hand grazing and hand walking her, are forever in my memory as some of the sweetest days I’d ever experienced.

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The glorious mare, Serenity, and I share precious moments❤️

Then, for a time, Serenity was “lost” to me.

So I turned once again to a dream of horse rescue; but wiser heads prevailed, and I was introduced to my incorrigible gelding, Spirit.  Had the “wiser heads” been more forthcoming, they would NEVER have recommended that a greenhorn like myself, take on a three year old gelding…. and an Appaloosa at that!

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Appys can be looney-toons sometimes! 🙂

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Mr. Big Boy Pants!

But, again, God had His plans.  I was thrown, feet first, into the waters of dealing with a brilliant, humorous, virtually untrained, greener-than-green little boy horse.  The learning process with my beloved boy is still underway in ever-changing  high gear…but dealing with a virtual baby, while knowing nothing, advanced my novice-hood at lightning speeds.

And yes, green on green DOES equal black and blue (as experienced horse folk are fond of saying) Yet, my noble-hearted little Appy never once let me fall off of him, even in the midst of his worst bolting off at a full out run, with me on his back!

My black and blues were mostly broken pinky toes and nipped-arm bruises.  Nothing a little Arnica and ice couldn’t take care of 🙂

At practically the same time as Spirit came into my life, the beautiful and wondrous mare, Baby Doe, found her way to me as well. Who could have guessed that this exquisitely bred horse, who, nonetheless turned out to be unusable for the designs traders and trainers had on her, would ever be mine?

Yet again,the hand of God, weaving His enigmatic web, allowed me to honor her whispered plea to me, “Please, I don’t WANT to be a show horse.”

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Horse whispers to human…

Through my time with her I’ve learned massive amounts about colic, navicular disease and horsey “boos boos” (both small and humongous) that seemed to appear on her fragile being on a WAY too regular basis.

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Colic never gets easier…

 

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Baby Doe’s boo boo from last October is STILL in the process of healing…

During this time I learned to manage a barn with all the trials and errors that my barn buddy, Phyllis, and I encountered, as life gave us the opportunity to be solely responsible for the barn, our horses and others’ boarded horses for many months.

I also learned about the various quirky folk one encounters in the horse world…and, eventually, how to deal with them.  This process is still ongoing.  I thought I had encountered, shall we say, “unique” individuals during my opera career, but the horse world matches the high level of “uniqueness” quirk by quirk 🙂

Ultimately, I found my beloved Wyoming ranch and was filled with joy, trepidation and overwhelm as I moved my horses across country to a completely different climate, lifestyle and horse knowledge.

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My glorious Wyoming!

Shortly after arriving in Wyoming, beyond all hope, Serenity’s human asked me to take Serenity to be mine!

Serenity joined us in Wyoming…on my birthday!

Then there were Three…:)

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Through events beyond my control, I was left completely alone on my 80 acres of ranch to care for my Three Beloveds, with some help from local young people.

My “crash course in horse” escalated to an entirely new level.  A level that was light years beyond what I had yet experienced.  I also experienced an aloneness in the vastness of the Wyoming landscape that shook me to my roots.

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We Three Horses From Florida Are…. Brrrr…..

My Three became my only teachers during that time. (As well as did my darling cats) And, oh, how they taught!

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During all this, my beloved cat, Hercules, was dying of lymphoma. He taught me how to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances…

I also learned that, no matter what I may want or plan, God usually has other ideas, and I was once again humbled and brought to my knees as I came to the realization that I, alone, could not give my horses what they, at that time, desperately needed.

So we packed up and moved temporarily back to Florida.

Florida: where Baby Doe’s navicular pain (sometimes agonizing pain) could be more aggressively managed, where the mystery of Serenity’s lameness could be solved and where my boy, Spirit, could have uninterrupted and necessary ongoing training with a kind and very knowledgeable trainer.

And, much to my surprise, during this time in Florida, the calling that had come to me almost four years ago began to crystallize into shapes that I had only glimpsed at previously.

So, as I end this stage of my horse education, I will travel back and forth to Wyoming and keep developing my land and honoring my stewardship of it.  The Three will stay in Florida until next Spring.

I will, openly and humbly, learn more about and practice the special gifts of energy work horse healing and communication that I had previously suspected were mine, but that are now being called into usage.

The Novice Horsewoman may just show up in book form in the future.  The “Beginner Horse Woman” may indeed start sharing this next part of the journey upon which she is NOW embarking with open heart and gratitude…

A wonderful author, in helping me conceive of an ending to a potential “Novice Horsewoman” book, gave me the idea of passing the novice torch onto another novice horsewoman, when my own novice-hood came to an end.

But now I see that, actually, I will be passing on this torch to YOU who are Courageous, YOU who are willing to Learn,  who are willing to Fail as well as Succeed, who are willing to let yourselves look like Fools and…. those of you who are willing to have your Hearts broken….freeing  them to soar to unimaginable heights!

Yes, to you, Brave Ones, I pass this torch!

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Blessed Wyoming!

Confession Number Fourteen: “Happiness Comes In On Tiptoe…It’s A Quiet Thing”

 

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Unexpected Tender Mercies:

There is a simple, exquisite song from the musical Flora the Red Menace by John Kander and Fred Ebb , “It’s A Quiet Thing”, that speaks of dreams coming true; but instead of drumrolls, bells and fireworks…”happiness comes in on tiptoe”, taking one by surprise.

I have been having such moments with my horses.  This novice horsewoman is finding tender, small moments with her horses that she couldn’t have known were possible.

But they are indeed small moments.  Tender mercies.  Quiet things.

Happiness walks in on tiptoe when my irrepressible gelding, Spirit, and I find games that we like to play together.  They are simple, silly games.  He knows them, knows the rules and initiates them.

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One of our silly games came about because, though getting infinitely better, he might still bolt when he gets playful and sassy.  Thus, although I will graze the mares outside their paddocks, my concern that he could hurt himself or others if he should bolt out of my hands when outside his paddock, limits my hand grazing him.

One day I sat just outside his wooden fence and just started picking grass and offering it to him by hand.

Oh how he loved that!  I would find succulent roots, delicious blades of fresh green and un-nameable types of grass with which to tempt him.  But the rule is, he may not get the grass by being above me over the fence.  ( I don’t want to do anything that might encourage his dominating tendencies.)  He has to come down to the first or second board up from the ground to get his grass.

(Have I mentioned that he has plenty of lush, delicious grass to graze right there inside his paddock?)

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He’ll certainly try to get it from above, by being irresistible and flirty.  But I sit firm. And then he bends down and gets his yummies just the way we agreed upon 🙂

So when I’m walking by or coming to greet him and he assumes the “this-is-where- I-need-to-be-to-have-her-hand-feed-me-grass position” with his head reaching just above the bottom board and his dear lips protruding out to say, “Let’s play”, the happy tenderness that fills my heart is as big as the sky. ❤

Another silly game we play is “Drink Water Out Of The Plastic Water Bottle That Mom Always Carries With Her”.  He is hilarious.  Most of it spills right out of his mouth.  But he knows it makes me laugh and laugh when he does it.   Over and over, he invites me to play this goofy game.

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Ah yes, a quiet thing, a small thing, a tender thing.

Baby Doe is another story.  Our happiness and quiet thing happens when I sit under a tree in her paddock.  She may be eating hay or grazing around, sort of ignoring me. But then, being a horse, she must check out what I am doing there.

In the past, when she would come over, I would usually get up from my cross-legged seated position into a squat or on my knees, in case I need to get out of harm’s way from an accidental kick or stomp.

Just recently, I’ve dared to remain seated cross-legged.  I look in her eyes and at her body language and I know I’m safe. (Granted, I’m also on the look out for a bee that might sting her or something that might make her startle, thus finding myself on the wrong end of a hoof.)

But this most recent time, she came to me softly and slowly.  I just sat.  I released fear.  She came closer and put her muzzle in my hands and just stood there.  We just looked at each other for many minutes as I had her sweet lips in my hands and felt her warm, moist breath.

It was a quiet thing. A tender thing.  A thing that filled me with more love than I ever dreamed I was capable of feeling.  A thing that filled me with awe.

We also like to take walks together in her paddock.  Totally at liberty. No halter, no rope.  We just stroll together.  If I stop, she stops.  We check things out.

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Last time, there was a tiny bunny in a little hollow in the back of her paddock.  As we stopped to check him out, he just looked up at us and didn’t budge.  Often, when we are quiet together, there forms a gathering of bunnies, squirrels, blue jays and sometimes a crow or two. I feel like Snow White when we get that kind of animal gathering on our walks!:)

No bells, no trumpets. It’s a quiet thing.

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And then there’s the glorious mare, Serenity.  With her, the quiet is profound.  The gentleness of her being almost unfathomable.  Her soft eyes and nose are so tender.  Her love and her acceptance of my love so generously given.

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When I’m grooming her and brushing out her tail, which is her favorite thing, she just cocks a back hoof, licks and chews and sighs.

 

When she chooses to be in her stall, I’ll come and sit on the stoop of it and lean against the door jam.  She will start breathing heavy and slow and doze off.  Before I know it, in the peace of afternoon warmth and her rhythmic breath, I’m dozing too.April 2016 Horses 25

“Happiness comes in on tiptoe.  Well, what do you know….It’s a quiet thing. A very quiet thing”.

 

 

 

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Confession Number Thirteen: The Novice Is Taking It To Another Level

March 23 (2)An Unexpected Shift:

Although I will be a Student of Horse the rest of my days, I feel something in my novice horsemanship changing.  It is somewhat intangible. Writing about it will be very challenging because much of this shift is in the realm of the unseen, the realm of intuition and spirit.  However, the manifestations in the physical world that I will describe may help illustrate the strong yet gossamer thread of complete confidence in the world of the spirit that is becoming a constant in my life with horses and in general.

On a practical level, having had the “crash course in horse” experience the past few years, I am now in a place of understanding; I’ve been exposed to so many elements of horse handling, horse health, horse training, horse care and many different horses, themselves.  This has enabled me to make informed decisions on my own, without needing to believe and trust that every opinion, or what folks claim is horse gospel truth, is actually true.

What is true is that there is no complete “right” when being with horses.  They are all so different; with such different backgrounds, personalities and temperaments that it would be akin to thinking “one size fits all” when it comes to humans.  There are, however, many “wrongs” in the world of horse.  And, then there are simply the grey areas…

Interestingly, however, in this time of “the sleeping bear”, this time of peace, this time of having time in my life, I am finding a new level, a “something else” as I am with, not only my horses, but any horse.

A big part of this this “new level” is occurring because I am spending so much time just being with my horses.

I am resisting the ever-present temptation to bathe them (their favorite thing being to get damp in a bit of drizzling rain, then pick the dirtiest dirt in the paddock and have a marvelous, groaning-with-pleasure roll in it), obsessively fly spray them (organic, of course!) in the Florida bug-ridden tropical weather, love on them, give out way too many treats…all the fun but busy things we humans enjoy with our horses…and instead… just sit there under a tree in the paddock.  They might come over and sniff me a bit or ignore me totally but there we are…together.  I don’t “do” anything.  I don’t even pray, do energy work or send mental or verbal messages to them.

I just… sit.

Don’t get me wrong,  I DO groom them, pick hooves, brush out manes and tails and observe their training and care, as any horse caretaker must do, but not as the heretofore primary agenda when I am with them. 🙂

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I do admit to needing to kiss Spirit’s cute nose sometimes, before I settle myself down…

 

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Sweet Serenity, so quiet and kind, with just a touch of sassy.  Sometimes I sit and look into her eyes and she stares right back, her lips trembling with relaxation.

 

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Sometimes, Baby Doe communicates very strongly that I must scratch her rear end…for hours, actually.  I don’t mind one bit!

I AM doing as many of these things as possible “at liberty”…no halter, no lead rope. Admittedly, with my beloved gelding, the irrepressible Spirit, halter and rope are still necessary for grooming, at least … still,  the kind trainer is slowly accomplishing many things with him at liberty!

The other thing I’m starting to observe is that my communication with my three is becoming more of a two-way street.  I use more body language and respond more in the moment without considering the horse-world-approved right and wrong ways to communicate with a horse. And my sweet horses are clearer, whether with body language or actual mental pictures/words, in what they are trying to tell me.

In past blogs, I related the two times I heard actual sentences from my horses, upon which I acted and achieved the desired results.  The first time was when Serenity instructed me how to disguise her antibiotic medication so that she would actually take it easily instead of the ongoing struggle we had been having.  The second time was when Baby Doe whispered to me that she did NOT want to be a show horse. This led to my actively pursuing having her become mine, aided by the un-showhorse-worthy hitch in her gait (which later turned out to be navicular disease).  Had I not “heard”  her say this, I don’t know, at that time, if I would have had the courage and wherewithal to fight for her the way I did, and she could easily have ended up in cruel hands or put down.

I do still hear certain phrases, instructions and even their individual private names for me (too precious and sacred to share) but, at this writing, I have not yet been able to put these into categories that can be comprehended.  These communications are coming, albeit somewhat disjointedly, due to my own “head-deafness” (this is how I describe my human-ness to them while asking them to be really persistent and clear with me 🙂

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Spirit is not sure whether he’ll acknowledge my presence 🙂

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He decides he will!

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We take a little walk together 🙂

They patiently spell certain things out as though teaching me “A: an Apple, B: a Boy, C: a Cat”.

One example of this would be the time I was hand grazing Serenity just outside Baby Doe’s paddock.  Baby Doe allowed this to go on for a bit and then began plucking at the halter hanging on the nearby gatepost.  I continued to blissfully graze Serenity.  Baby Doe then picked up the halter in her teeth and flung it to the ground outside the gate.  Me: still blissfully grazing Serenity.  Finally, Baby Doe grabbed the gate chain in her teeth and violently shook it.  Me:  “Oh gee, did you want to be grazed now, Baby Doe?”

I put Serenity back in her paddock, picked up the flung-to-the-ground halter and approached Baby Doe.  Normally a bit hard to catch, Baby Doe thrust her head in the halter, gave me about 1 second to clip on the lead rope, another second to open the gate, and with a flounce of her golden mane, stepped out to where the “grass is greener” (naturally OUTSIDE the grassy paddock she is in) and began chomping grass as though she had been starved for 6 months!  Yeah, it was elementary, and I eventually “got it” :).

That is a very basic example of the “conversations” we’re having these days…there are now multitudes of these “conversations” on escalating levels.

But recently a more advanced communication happened, one that I am just now beginning to process.

My three have become quite the tiny herd and upon coming here, their beautiful herd-ish-ness though still exquisite, is, sometimes, impractical for our more “civilized surroundings”.  I LOVE their bond and would protect it with my very being, BUT we do need to calm some of the anxiety that is occurring when one of them is out of sight of the others.  When I say out of sight, I mean perhaps a hundred feet away, around a corner.

The wonderful, kind trainer is working to calm their anxiety.  It is a slow, patient work-in-progress.

Thus,  when the farrier had Spirit under the overhang of the main barn while doing his hooves and Baby Doe was in her back paddock, all training of the easing of the separation anxiety went completely out the window and Baby Doe began hysterically running and whinnying for him.

His front legs were somewhat visible, but his whole body wasn’t.  I went to her and the proffered hay-as-a-distraction did absolutely nothing to calm her.

I grabbed her halter, into which she again shoved her head, then clipped her lead rope on and intended to take her into the neighboring paddock which, at the outside boundary, was only about 25 feet from where Spirit was standing.  She was so overly excited, I was concerned about leading her directly to him outside of the fencing, knowing she could potentially bolt. I couldn’t let her continue to scream in anxiety because this can lead to ulcers and she had just come through a colic the night before (a VERY long night…).

As we entered the neighboring paddock, it became clear that her anxiety was not lessening in the slightest.  Still, I led her to the fence nearest  to where he was standing.  She was still screaming and pulling.

I knew I had to release the lead rope and just let her go, or I could be dragged and perhaps stomped upon.  She was totally hysterical.

I also knew that when I released the lead rope, I had to find safety in seconds and strategized the spot.  Then came the moment.  I reached up to unclip the rope. Time stopped.

Although frantic in her anxious hysteria, she actually looked down at me. I looked up at her.  In that nano-second, we communicated non-verbally.  She conveyed, in that nano-second, that she was not going to hurt me, no matter what.

I trusted that.

I let go.

She ran in a frenzy. I hopped up on the fence.  She ran close to me but not at me.  I felt calm, made “shhh-ing” sounds to her and didn’t fear her in the least. I just hoped to calm her.

While this was going on, the farrier, in his amazing wisdom, brought his tools and the much-missed gelding, Spirit, down to the fence where she was.  Baby Doe immediately calmed. I hopped down off the fence on the other side and then saw the pale faces of the onlookers.

I guess they thought I was crazy, in danger of being trampled and probably was doing a dunder-headed thing when I handled her the way I did.

But I KNEW.  And Baby Doe knew.

In that split second, all the time we’ve spent bonding, having our disagreements, learning from each other, angering each other and loving each other, came together… in that vital split second of communication…as time stood still.

As I move into this new phase, as is common in life, all sorts of people, books and videos are suddenly making themselves known to me that support, explain and teach the new level that I am experiencing.  It is as though a completely new universe of possibility is opening up to me in my relationship with horses.

I had been dismissed, ignored and contradicted so often in the past when I would express my intuitions and knowing-nesses, that I can hardly  believe that I am going down a path now that many have traveled before me!

But, mainly, it’s the horses.  They are the ones patiently teaching.  They are the ones who remain steadfast until humans “wake up” to the oneness of all things in the universe.  They are the ones who don’t need us…but know that we need them.  We need them very much to help us evolve into our better selves.

Liz Mitten Ryan states this so beautifully in her book, The Truth According To Horses (Prima Publishing, 2008):

(The following is a communication of thought information given to her by her herd…)

“Dogs, cats and horses have been your closest companions through the ages. Think of the attributes that are ours.

Dogs are loyal.  They love unconditionally….They surround you with care, with adoration, and they guard you against your greatest fears.

Then there are cats. They show you how to be free. They reward you with their approval when you make the right decision and they will call you on your shortcomings….Life is an adventure for a cat and they will show you how to participate.

Horses are for a … few who have committed to a complete immersion in the life experience.  They are the big commitment most people are afraid to make and will test and try your resolve to grow in spirit more than any other species….

We can give you the peak experience.  Wisdom, Truth, Joy, Freedom, Abundance and Love.

Is there anything else you are looking for?  We will challenge you to become the most you can possibly be.  We are at your disposal. Come when you want to spend time with us and commit to the level you want to grow. We have no parameters. You are the ones who set the limits, the time, space and dimension…

We are limitless beings in a limitless Universe. Come and commune with us and let us show you how to be the best you can be.”

Yes, yes and yes!

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Confession Number Twelve: The Bear Is Sleeping…For Now…

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An Unexpected Peace:

“It was then that Tristan came into the quiet part of his life.  The bear inside him was sleeping.  It is hard to tell of happiness.  Time goes by and we feel safe too soon.”  – One Stab (Legends of the Fall)

For better or for worse, I have, for many years, been fascinated with the movie, Legends of the Fall.  This movie has irresistible sweeping landscapes, sweeping music and sweeping passions.  The story takes the viewer beyond the internal “…and they lived happily ever after…”,  and shows what happens to the characters in the “ever after”.  It reflects the way real life ebbs and flows, albeit with far more dramatic storylines.

More dramatic than my life storylines, at least :).However, I do relate to the concept of the sleeping bear. Ah yes, the bear of hope, anxiety, yearning, fulfilling potential, being driven and my pesky inner “demons” that need healing.

I am in one of those times right now.  The bear inside me is sleeping and I am enjoying a wonderful period of rest, renewal, release and regrouping. (Yep, the truly essential 4 Rs)

By making the difficult decision to bring myself and my three horses back to Florida for a time, I have been shown very clearly that there were underlying issues that needed to be addressed beyond my own exhaustion and stresses.

First of all, my horses.  My horses are very content not to be constantly blanketed and un-blanketed!

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Serenity, in particular, is enjoying the balmy, breezy warmth of Florida

They are enjoying respite from the challenging winds of Wyoming.  They are very peaceful at the beautiful barn I’ve found for them.  Even finding that barn was a miracle.

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I had been making making inquiries about boarding barns in South Florida on a  barn-resource website, and this particular barn owner was the first to reply.  It was the first barn I visited when I got here for “reconnaissance”.  The beauty and peaceful energy, seemingly coming up from the land itself, were all I needed to know.  Although I visited a couple of other barns after this one, there was simply no comparison.  The barn decision was easy and has turned out to be better than expected.

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Spirit and a masked Baby Doe (protecting her eyes from the sun) who had recently had a lovely roll in the dirt 😉

Second of all, I was able to get a farrier to see my three within a few days of arriving.  He’s been with this barn for 20 years.  He actually looked at the x-rays of Baby Doe’s navicular arthritis and spent a long time pointing out things in the images that no one had showed me before.  He has made a plan of action for her best pain management and to help her be a sound as possible. Yes, he’s actually a farrier who “shows up” on many different levels!

He then recommended a trainer that he and the barn owner have known for many years.  I had  already begun interviewing trainers but my “spidey sense” was sending red flags of “No”.

This trainer was open and listened to what I was hoping for for my three.  Each of them has a different personality, background and issues.  She heard that.  As we’ve begun work with them, I see more and more that she really does “get” that each of them is on a different path.  As for my own training 🙂 well, she sees to it that I’m understanding what she’s doing and gives tips and instructions on how I can also do these techniques…in time…

She also made me aware of a new treatment for navicular disease and I’m having the new vet, who understands navicular, out to the barn to implement this treatment this week!  Oh, to see Baby Doe out of pain…!

Then there’s getting back to my riding training…in time…

That’s another huge part of my sleeping bear.  I am consciously choosing to only do one thing at a time…I am resisting the ever-present pressure to take on more than I can handle.  I am taking care of my slightly fragile psyche right now. (By the way, in my way of thinking, it takes a lot of strength to let oneself feel fragile…)

I am also giving myself the gift of time….time to grieve Hercules’ death; time to grieve the loss of some of my dearest, most private hopes; time to sit on my balcony and just watch palm fronds blowing as the sun sets; time to sit in the pasture where my horses peacefully graze and allow my inner time clock to meld with their time clocks.

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Spirit and I having a “discussion”…while Serenity occupies herself in another direction 🙂

Their clocks move very slowly… I watch each move, each ear flick, each eye expression change.  I watch how they’re chewing their grass or hay.  I watch each interaction in the wordless dance they weave together.

I am also giving myself permission not to know. Not to know what’s next.  Not to know when I need to do the next thing for the ranch.  Not to know who is going to be part of my life there, whether as staff or visiting friends.  I really don’t know.  And, surprisingly, I don’t care that I don’t know.

I am enjoying things that I had not given myself permission to enjoy for a couple of years now.  Yes, indeed!  Things such as shopping, not for tack, but for sparkly high heeled sandals.  Things such as actually putting on a cute outfit for the day; something other than jeans, boots and a cotton shirt, since my days, before this respite, had always ended up at the barn, and any clothing gets muddy, torn and faded with barn work 🙂 Things such as taking naps, reading good books and seeing friends I hadn’t had time to see in the past while.

The horses are just fine. More than fine.  They are getting what they need.

Ah yes, the bear is sleeping. But time will go by.  I may indeed be feeling too safe, too soon.

I accept that.  For now, however, this is good.  This is very good.

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Confession Number Eleven: “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues”

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An Unexpected Decision:

It has felt like I’ve been seeing things from the wrong end of the telescope for quite some time now.  I’ve begun not to recognize myself.  Normally, no matter how sad or stressed or grief-stricken I am, there is always this well-spring of joy deep inside me that bubbles up and eventually washes away the sorrow.

This time is different somehow…

The duties, expectations and pressure of getting this little ranch up and running all by myself have been somewhat inexorable.  I’ve enjoyed much of it and I have wonderful, talented and integrous people working for me.  The land is truly God’s country.  The horses are happy.

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Morning antics behind the barn 🙂

Yet, for the past three months, I’ve awoken each morning without my usual excitement to greet the day.  Instead, I’ve been waking up with an anxiety that recently has turned into what I imagine panic attacks to be.  Usually, going out to the barn to do the morning feed, even in subzero weather, has helped to calm down the panic attack symptoms. But not by much.

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Subzero Feedings…such beauty!

Then, since the diagnosis of my beloved cat, Hercules’ lymphoma and the aggressively growing mass in his abdomen a couple of months ago, I’ve had the constant pressure of unshed tears behind my eyes 24/7.  Oh, I’ve shed many MANY tears in private, but in order to do the work at the ranch, with folks around, there were many hours I couldn’t let them fall.  Any potentially joyful moments, instead of transcending the worries I was having, have fallen with a thud on my spirit.

I’ve needed to continually give myself pep talks that I’m doing right by my horses and that they’re okay if, for instance, the farrier flakes out on me, the temperature drops to zero in the middle of the night and I hadn’t blanketed them, if I don’t clean their hooves regularly, if, if, if….

Eventually, I found I’d stopped wanting to do anything and had just been “powering through” the hours in the day.

Then came help, in the form of a couple of dear friends, who were very vocal about my state of mind, “Christine, who the heck are you”?, “We don’t recognize this Christine”.  “You’re vibrating at too low a level for you”.  “What are you trying to prove”?

And the most eye-opening of all, “Did it occur to you that you weren’t meant to run this ranch all by yourself?  Maybe what God has planned was that you get the land, the place and the home ready.  Ready for the people and animals that are to come.  Now it’s all just about done.  Others can finish it up.  Why don’t you take a breather”?

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My home, before ANY improvements. But with that sun behind it…what’s to improve?

I thought long and hard about all this input. And here’s what I realized.

The pressures and grief about my cat and other personal losses  had put me into a “dark night of the soul” which was actually a profound blessing.  It was while wandering in this dark landscape of spirit that I realized I was tapping into areas of my being that were not yet healed.  Areas I hadn’t been able to access until now.

This healing is not a cathartic “one and done” type of process.  Instead it feels somewhat like the aftermath of food poisoning when the poison is out but one’s whole body is aching, cramping and sore.  My soul is aching, cramping and sore right now.  It will take as long as it takes…

So in order to take this “breather” (since, indeed, I’ve prepared this place and it’s ready!) I’m going to take the three darling horses and we’re going to rest in Florida until Spring.  I found a beautiful farm where I can board them and where they can be turned out in a spacious pasture just as they are here.  Their stalls are together and they can come and go into their stalls at night, as they please, just as they do here.

The grounds are beautiful.  The people are kind.  I will be visiting my sweetheart horses all the time but, for these months, they will be full-boarded.  In the meantime, I will get myself back to myself but, hopefully, stronger and more healed.  I will ponder the miracles that, even as I write, are pouring down upon me…as though God and the angels are trying to wake me back up to live in the joy that is normally mine!

And I will incorporate the lessons taught to me by Hercules, the cat and by my three horses.

As Hercules’ illness progressed, I observed him being slightly confused by his ever-changing condition BUT always finding a way to roll with it.  He adapted over and over again.  He showed me that one can adapt to just about anything.  It just feels different.

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Hercules in healthier, sassier times ❤

Baby Doe, my paint mare, has taught me to express myself honestly or just not bother expressing myself at all!  🙂  When I come to her with, either a hidden agenda for what I want to accomplish with her or with trying to hide what I’m feeling, she bites the air and throws her head and wants NONE OF IT.  But if I just talk to her with my voice and heart being in complete authenticity, she’s right there with me.

Spirit, my gelding, has taught me to find the fun in everything and anything, even if it’s just finding a huge stick in the pasture and carrying it up to me in his mouth.  He has also taught me that it’s okay to be very strict with him, albeit with tons of kindness and love, but to not cave in to him when he challenges me.

Serenity, my other mare, likes to take a nap in her stall after evening feed.  When I come down to the barn to let them out, there she is, lying down,  sleeping with her eyes open in a trance, her breath soft and slow.  I sit next to her, pet her and breath with her.  She has taught me by communicating these words, in thought, “Just rest, child.  Rest, next to me. See how lovely it is”?

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My three beloved, goofy, personality-filled teachers and companions!

I will miss Wyoming SO much in these next couple of months but it will be there strong and awe-inspiring, waiting for us to return.  We will return!

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My first glorious sunset at the ranch…way back in August.

 

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Confession Number Ten: I Am Very Bad At Grief

 

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The Wyoming Winter Sky Echoes The Sadness Within Me

An Unexpected Death Watch:

I tried, I really tried to make him well again!  I knew my boy cat, Hercules, wasn’t well.  He had dropped a lot of weight in a short period of time. His little spine felt like a dinosaur skeleton.  He was lethargic and vocally complaining a lot.

I took him to the wonderful vet, Dr. Brenda, and we did everything. Some things we did twice.  She was very accommodating, even though she knew by palpating the mass in his abdomen, looking at the x-rays and the blood tests, that, in all likelihood, he had lymphoma.  But she bore with me as I asked for yet another round of antibiotics, for more tests, for more ex-rays, ANYTHING to somehow make it not so.

Finally, this past Wednesday, we both realized she needed to open up his abdomen to see what this was, if it had spread, if it was removable.  She sent me on errands around town rather than have me drive back up to the ranch.  But in just a few minutes, by the time I had filled up my truck at the gas station, I had a call from her asking me to come immediately back to the vet’s office so I could see the mass for myself.

Most vets wouldn’t have invited the patient’s “mom” into the operating room, but Dr. Brenda had already observed my ability to watch surgical cutting, gore, and spewing blood when I remained present for Baby Doe’s leg “boo boo” surgery.  She knew I wouldn’t faint at the sight of Hercules’ open abdomen 😦

What I did see in my precious boy’s abdomen was the largest, ugliest, most grotesque, hateful mass imaginable.  It surrounded his intestines, it made viewing some of his other organs almost impossible.  For me, it was “hate at first sight”.  Dr. Brenda was right there with me, hating this hideous monster of a mass in my boy’s belly.

She gave me the choice whether to sew him back up and let him live out what was left to him or to give him the meds that would let him gently drift over the rainbow bridge.

After ascertaining the pain management options available to him, added to the fact that he had still been eating, drinking, trotting around with his tail straight up and cuddling with massive purring, I had her sew him back up.

Many might disagree with this decision, but as long as he wasn’t suffering in pain and he was still vibrant enough to get all the love and goodbyes that we all needed to give him, I would wait with him for when he decided it was time…

And so, now, it is just a matter of time.  At the first sign of no appetite, hiding out, and pain in his eyes, I WILL do what is necessary.

In the meantime, there is one room in which he likes to hang out by his water fountain.  I’ve been putting a blanket and pillow on the floor at night to sleep next to him for the few nights I probably have left with him.

My grief is almost unendurable.  He has been an amazing companion.

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Grief….pure grief….

I tell his story on my other website Christine Hendler’s Blog in a May 2014 post titled A Tail of Four Cats as well as a description of what I now realize was the beginning of his cancer in an October 2014 post titled Try To Remember The Kind Of September

In most of my posts, I try to find the lesson to be learned in the experiences I have.  In this experience, here’s what I’ve learned.

First Lesson:  My neighbor, who is a tough Wyoming cattle rancher, and who checks in on me regularly ( I think he can’t quite believe a petite, blond girlie girl is managing and living on 80 acres all by herself), actually reacted with kindness and complete understanding when he came by the other day and all I could do was sob (ugly sobbing, believe me!)  He actually praised my ability to let out my sorrow rather than hold it in.  Who knew that even the toughest cowboys “get it”.

Second Lesson: In horsemanship discussions, it is reiterated endlessly that one has to be the leader that one’s horse can trust. Being herd animals, horses look to the leader (whether horse or human) they can confidently follow.  For me, this has been an ongoing challenge in learning about “true” leadership.  I often berate myself and feel like I will never get to that point that is so prettily written about in the articles and books I read.

On the night I realized that Hercules is indeed dying of cancer, I was having a heck of a time removing the eye mask that Baby Doe must wear daily, since her light eyes could be severely damaged by the sun.

She was in one of her mare-ish Princess/Diva Doe moods and having none of it.  Finally, in my anguish, I said to her “Look, Baby Doe, Hercules is dying and I can’t handle you and your f—ing Diva ways tonight so f—ing let me get this f—ing thing off.”  At which point I broke down sobbing and couldn’t stop.  She slowly turned her head to look at me, took a step closer, bowed her head and touched my shoulder with her nose and invited me to get the mask off without any trouble whatsoever. (By the way, any horse person who tells you they’ve NEVER dropped the “F Bomb” with their horse is not exactly telling you the full story…:)

I learned that leadership equals honesty.  Horses never lie and one can never lie to a horse.  They know.  My anger and grief were my truth and she responded to that truth.

My worry about Hercules, the horses, the ranch and my loved ones, is so intense these days that my forehead needs botox! 🙂  But I still have tremendous faith in God.

I choose, now, to sit in a place of  love and gratitude for my beloved Hercules.  I choose, now,  to wait with him for the moment he tells me, “It’s time. I’m ready.”

I choose, now, that he and I will watch for death…together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confession Number Nine: Wyoming…Finally!

Wyoming Fall and Winter.JPG6An Unexpected Horse and An Unexpected Solitude:

It’s been quite a roller coaster ride!!! Glorious Wyoming, and the joy my horses are experiencing here, are the overriding impressions of almost three months of being in the sweet, grassy. soft, silent, prairie part of Wheatland, WY!!

Only now, given that the much-very- gloomily-predicted-by-locals Wyoming Winds are blowing, seemingly at gale force 😦 , silence is a precious commodity.

So much happened so very quickly upon arrival.  It is somewhat of a blur.

Two things stand out though.

About a week after I arrived, before all the horses got here, I received a message from the glorious mare Serenity’s human.  She, after much struggle, had realized that she needed to let Serenity go.  She explained that she needed to spend time with her son, her work and the cost and time of keeping a horse were getting way beyond her means.  She wondered if I would take her here in Wyoming.  Would I?????  We spoke at length and she convinced me this was what she truly wanted. Four days later, the glorious Serenity arrived here in Wyoming…

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Serenity arrives via Brook Ledge Horse Transport late on October 6!

…On the night of my birthday, October 6 🙂

I am still trying to fathom that after all the love I thought I’d lost and  the grieving I’d experienced, missing that little red mare so very much….she is here with ME.  She is mine!

I am inviting her human and her human’s son come visit her AND me in January.   I plan to continue to get them out here as much as possible.

For the past year or more, Serenity was virtually stall-bound with very little turn out, grazing or even being ridden.  When she first arrived here, she melded almost immediately into my little herd.  She ran for the sheer freedom and joy of it…

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Serenity runs for JOY!.

…and then huddled back in her stall. Which she did often.  I leave the stalls open for all the horses,except at grain time 🙂 so they can go in and out at will.  She chose mostly “in”.

Now, at the two month point, she chooses mostly “out” and grazes, wanders and runs.

Her mane and tail, which had almost been lost, due to stress, are growing back in.  Her eye is softening, losing the white sclera look of anxiety a horse can exhibit. I can “see” the smile on her face when she’s being brushed.

And when her breakfast and dinner are being served, she lifts up her sweet left front leg, curling it under her in excitement as she nickers for faster service! 🙂

This beautiful, kind mare who taught me how to be an improving human two years ago (See my second post on this site, Three Essential Lessons On How To Be An Improving Human; Taught To Me By Serenity, The Horse) is now having the horsey time of her life.

I am honored and privileged to provide it for her.

Enter the next piece of the story, the unexpected solitude.  Due to a series of events too difficult to speak of here, I’ve ended up in the “middle of somewhere” on eighty acres of ranch, alone with three horses and two cats!

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Spirit and Baby Doe “high tail” it to the pasture

I’ve had to re-organize my priorities, my thoughts and my direction.  It’s funny how life prepares one for the future, when one has NO IDEA what that future will bring!  The Third Confession on this site, Revealing The Dirty Little Secrets That Happen At Barns, tells the story of how I received a crash course in barn management with my barn buddy, Felice.  It tells of all our “I Love Lucy” moments, our mistakes and our triumphs.  Thank Goodness!

Because here I am, managing a barn, all by myself.  Somehow I just know what to do and how to organize it.  Those previous months truly paid off!

I have also been blessed beyond belief with a network of support that appeared almost immediately after I found myself alone here.  I now have a young woman ranch-handing for me, a young man (the son of my hay guy) as backup hand, a lovely woman who manages a lot of my household things like cleaning, a retired sheriff/contractor who has built my fences, my round pen, has hired others to build my pole barn and level my arena and good neighbors who stop by and check in with me, just to see if they can be of help.

They have been. Even if just to give sound advice on winter feeding and blanketing of Florida horses in their first Wyoming winter!

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Not even the “bleak mid-winter” yet 😦

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Someone LOVES rolling in the snow!

I am also blessed with a knowledgeable, kind vet and a wonderful farrier!  Every horse person knows just how precious those two roles are.  Now if I can just find the right horsey dentist…:)

I have supportive friends who call, text regularly with encouragement plus offer solid shoulders to cry on and others who send little care packages of love.

But the solitude is still intense.

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Stark beauty

The loneliness takes my breath away at times.

I know God is preparing me for something profound as I am caused to go even more deeply inside my soul, to learn more of who I truly am and what I’m truly made of.

I’m never entirely alone, of course, with three very personality-filled horses, two dear cat companions, the sunrises, the sunsets and oh, those Wyoming stars!

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Just before sunrise at feeding time.

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Each sunset more glorious than the previous ones.

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How can ANYONE be lonely when drinking wine with two superb equines?

Life continues to teach me to “expect the unexpected”!

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The unexpected bluffs just atound the corner from me…lonely beauty!